Ausflüge pt. 3: My Arctic escape

It all started a year ago when I was still living in Barcelona, so there’s not much connection to my everyday Berlin reality within this odd-ball post, except from that I did wanted to escape badly the heat wave in Europe. Around the time I visited Iceland in June 2014, my Danish colleague told me about spending last Christmas time even more drastically North: on Svalbard. Since then, my wandering soul stayed uneasy and there was no turning back for me: I knew I had to go to the Northernmost settlement in the world, sooner or later. I started studying about Svalbard, and looking for the best opportunity to go there as a tourist. Pardon me, a traveller. Being a tourist on Svalbard means something very disrespected and stupid.
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I read about moving to and around the island, paying attention to the safety regulations, and protection against the polar bears. Though polar bears are considered endangered species, they are actually quite often seen on Svalbard, so it’s better to walk protected with a riffle (asking the governor for a renting licence prior to your visit). Or with a guide. Or with a newly acquired friend in town who owns a riffle, there are plenty of options to organize your activities there actually. Bearing in mind that the mighty nature is always the most important governor of the island!
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Although Svalbard is still a very remote and wild place to go, I have to say it’s pretty well-connected now with the rest of Europe. In the summer time there are about 2 daily flights directly connecting the airport in Longyearbyen with Oslo, in the winter time there’s a daily flight from Tromso in the northern Norway. Longyearbyen, currently the largest town in the archipelago of Svalbard, on its largest island – Spitzbergen offers a wide range of hostels and hotels – from sharing a dorm with some other adventurers in a former coal miners’ lodge to 5-star hotels, like Radisson Blue or Mary Ann’s Polarrigg Hotel (with a very quirky look). So all in all, to go to the Northern tip of the world from my flat in Berlin took me maybe 7 hours in total. Quite surreal, isn’t it?
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While the heat was treating the continent quite cruelly last week, I spent some lovely Arctic summer days: hiking on the Spitzbergen’s mountain ranges, sailing and kayaking around the fjords and Russian settlements, birdwatching or exploring the abandoned buildings on my own.
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It’s not a trip for everyone. The place is pretty different to anything you’ve seen so far, and the conditions on the sea/in the mountains can get quite hostile. You have to respect the local customs and the nature, trying best to behave like an invisible tourist, which is often repeated in the informational brochures. The alcohol is very cheap as for the island being a tax-free zone, but in order to prevent tourists behaving like jerks, you have to carry your boarding pass whenever you’re buying a booze, as the quantity of what you drink is noted, and eventually – counted. Well, not really – and for the intoxicated tourists there’s a unique cell prepared too by the local governor – and I’ll definitely write about it in my next post featuring the usual day in Longyearbyen. I’ve learn best that there is no such thing as crime out there, just plenty of tourists that can spoil last pieces of wilderness on Earth. So once again: thumbs up for travelling, not being a tourist.
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Hundstage – where to escape from heat in the heart of Berlin?

I learned this German expression after watching a controversial movie by Ulrich Seidl back in a day. ‘Dog days’ stand for unbearably hot summer days where the ‘dog’ star, Sirius, coincides with sunrise. I suspected the heat wave to hit only once (first weekend of July), but it seems it hit again and will stay with us for the next 10 days or so :). So let me share my 3 fave swimming pools & city beaches to escape from the heat.

Disclaimer: they can get crazily crowded during weekends (other 4 million people can really have the same idea!), or when extremely hot temperatures hit. If you decide to go there, better go first thing in the morning.

1. Badeschiff – a floating pool on the Spree river in between Treptower Park and Oberbaumbrücke within the Berlin Arena area. Entry as for 2015: 5 EUR, offers a nice bar, burger place and massages on the deck. Not so much healthy food options though. Swimming pool with a sunbathing decks, offering great views over the Spree is just worth the price of it all, even queuing to get into kaltes, klares Wasser.

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2. Haubentaucher – named after a lovely bird, this swimming pool is a surprise within the urban jungle of Urban Spree. It offers much more healthy cuisine, and the pool itself is pretty spacious. The only missing part is the smell of water, but it’s equally refreshing. Entry as for 2015: 3-4 EUR.

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3. Rampe – hidden in the bushes near Michaelbrücke, was a nice revellation to me on Sunday when temperature rose to 38 degrees and I was hopeless where to hide. I heard nice music and sneeked in, no entry fee was needed. Swimming pool was not as spectacular, but located in the nice shades of trees, and the beach had a typical seaside sand. There are various open air parties organized there on a regular basis, as I learned later, so depending on the line up, the entry fee can go up to 10 EUR.


Of course, if you are more determined, you can escape to the Baltic Sea coast, both on the German and Polish side. Or to catch a train and discover the beauty Beyond Berliner Ring.

Krake – it’s all about music, not names

I don’t go to festivals nowadays. Normally. I’ve been to ADE, Sonar, among other big ones and I enjoyed it a lot. Truth is that now I don’t have as much energy nor time to stay a couple of days partying 24/7. Also, within time they all got way more commercial, and as a consequence – super expensive. There are 3 local Berliner festivals though I can’t think of skipping: CTM, Krake and Atonal. Next week, the second one will take over the city (Friedrichshein, to be precise, or Urban Spree area):

I am looking forward to the amalgamate of art, sound and good ambience. One of my very promising dark techno sound evangelist & artist friends, Enclave, showed me last year’s edition from Suicide Circus and I was amazed. I really liked the anti-festival vybe, meaning that instead of pricey tickets and hype about first two or three big names listed, there will be a mix of more or less unknown, but ambitious rising hopes of the electronic music scene. Here’s a documentary showing bits and pieces of 2014 Krake edition together with the ideology behind the venue:

So: where, when, what? Next week, starting from Monday 3rd August till Sunday 9th, Urban Spree area (together with Kantine am Berghain and Suicide Circus) will be taken over by the art of techno. You can check the detailed programme here. I am so much looking forward to the Friday and Saturday nights, alongside with the art exhibition and 29th Nov films. There’s an ongoing discussion in Berlin about how the electronic scene could reinvent itself, and move away from the overtly mainstream trend, while coming back to its very own alternative roots. Not sure why, anytime I think about the dying scene, and techno being a superficial platform, I always feel like this humanoid from this brilliant videoclip.