New Year’s Chungking Express

I ended up 2016 with reminiscing travel locations I managed to visit in the past 12 months, and I kicked off 2017 in one of the most crazy places: Hong Kong. I’ve dreaming about going there since I watched Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express, so it comes as no surprise that I stayed in a microscopic room for the first 3 nights at Chungking Mansions in Kowloon.

New Year’s Eve celebrations took place in Victoria’s Harbour – since I arrived there around 9 pm, I had no chance for a better view of the fireworks, but I was pretty impressed by the syncronised smartphone lights of people recording the show.

Afterwards, I stayed in the area of the Hong Kong Island called Causeway Bay renowned for its nightlife. And I fell in love with the skyline from the first sight. From above, from below, doesn’t matter from which perspective you look. As a comparison, I think that only the skyline of Nagasaki I visited in October last year can picture the sea, the mountains, the bay and the skyscrapers in such a harmony.

But Hong Kong is so much more than bars on the 144th floor, skylines and luxury stores: it’s a very strategic place on the map, and thus rich in its history. The influence of the British reign can be found in the presence of double-decker buses and trains, the language and the pace, and the city lives 24/7.

Although it is such a dynamic place (some saying New York City’s minute is Hong Kong’s second!), it does not lack amazing opportunities for hiking in the stunning nature sites. Victoria Peak and Dragon’s Back trails are definitely a must-do hikes with some of the most rewarding views in the world!

And Mid levels Escalator System – why would it be interesting? Apart from Kowloon, Midlevels is a part of Hong Kong featured heavily in ‘Chungking Express’. I tracked down all the places ‘starring’ the movie: the bar with Chef’s Salad is in reality a tobacco place, but the crowd on the escalators is equally crazy like in the movie. ‘Crowd management’ is actually very impressive in Hong Kong – lanes, overground pavements and escalator systems make walking around the city very convenient. Or even: possible, taking into consideration the number of residents and visitors, making one of the most crowded places in the world.

To relax and unwind (it was still crowded though, also with the cows!) I took a subway line to a green Lantau Island, where the famous Buddha sits on the top of the mountain. The journey paid off in the views, albeit the smog was quite thick on that day.

And the Star Ferry… The cheapest and the most romantic way to commute between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, offering the wind breeze and spectacular views for some 25 cents for a one-way ticket!

I know I will come back to Hong Kong at some point, but how will it look like the next time? During the time I stayed, I bumped into a ‘camping protest’ on one of the major streets of the Hong Kong Island. Movements such as the Umbrella Revolution show the democratic needs of the society.

Overwhelmed, enchanted after all that, we took a ferry to visit curious place called: Macau… And then, Taiwan!

 

Treasures of Thessaloniki

It’s June and the spirit of summer is definitely out there, everywhere, while some of you might be planning some shorter or longer excursions. Well, that’s not my case at all, since I’ve just started a new job and my mindset is almost fully focused on it. Since I will stay in Berlin for most of the summertime, I will only share my travel ideas or past experiences looking at my writing backlog and most importantly: sharing my pictures from the last couple of months.

This is why I would like to re-inaugurate a subsection of the Berlinering blog – within ‘Beyond Berliner Ring‘. I love travelling and Berliners do too, no matter how much they love their city. Convenient location within maximum 3 hours of flight from all the tips of the European continent, with 2 airports (and another infamous one being a special case of Berliner ‘Sagrada Familia’ construction type opening erm… soon) and similarly convenient trains, bus, motorways or even bikelanes (will be soon testing out the one connecting Polish border and the one leading to Copenhagen at some point, too!).

So put Thessaloniki first, as it was my Easter 2016 destination, which turned out to be discovering fantastic food, chic neighbourhoods and breathing the history at every corner.

I planned it equally active, so knowing that the city is great for long walks and hiking around its hills. I wasn’t disappointed and was pretty lucky with weather (since it can be still pretty rainy and cold around end of March/beginning of April).

The flights conveniently covered the period of all the Easter days, and in the city with so many interesting Orthodox Churches it was definitely interesting to see how is it celebrated, even for not particularly religious person like I am.

Generally pleasant weather accompanied me during the daily sightseeing – from the magnificent promenade to the Ano Poli and Ag. Pavlos hills, but I was also surprised how vibrant the city was night and day.

Located nearby the port, the best neighbourhood to taste local food is Ladadika, where I was going out to try delicious and original dishes for pretty affordable prices everyday.

Last but not least, the city didn’t feel too touristy (at least not at this point of the year), there were a lot of families and locals hanging around. The only one thing I regret is not having done the excursions to Chalkidiki and Meteora sanctuary which are still on my list and should definitely be for those visiting Thessaloniki. Καλησπέρα!

Sound Sculpture in Szczecin

Last month for me was exceptionally full of events in Berlin during the work week, and shorter or longer getaways during the weekends. Similarly like last year around springtime, I felt tempted to explore not only Berlin and Brandenburg, but also the coastline.

Triggered by the concert of one of my favourite Polish electronic music producers in the newly built Philharmonic Hall in Szczecin, together with my friend, we decided to spend a weekend in Szczecin, the biggest Polish city situated next to the North-Eastern frontier.

Typically people would go there on the way to some other locations: like for instance Polish seaside towns or even more popular summer festivals, like Plötzlich am Meer. The train ride to Szczecin would take us less than 2 hours and cost… less than 6 EUR, if you manage to find your ‘Berlin-Brandenburg-Ticket’ group, which is almost a ritual part of this route. Otherwise, if you don’t feel like socializing, you can stick to a special fare, individual ticket for 10 EUR.

Szczecin itself has its specific charm. On one hand, it’s probably one of the most spacious cities in terms of territory: situated by the bay, river and countless lakes, it is indeed huge. Given its difficult, war, post-war and heavily industrialised history, it also seems derelict or unproportionally uncrowded comparing to its size. This has a lot to do with the migrations to other bigger cities or neighbouring Germany. So obviously there are places one shouldn’t visit after the sun goes down.

However, there are some sparkles of creativity in reconstructing the city, and bringing more cultural events. The area surrounding the castle and the promenade is full of interesting street art and the city tries to attract different people by hosting cultural events such as Kontrapunkt, or at least inviting unusual artists like Skalpel for the electronic music showcases in the extraordinary set up in the Philharmonic, which is worth visiting itself.

I enjoyed this visit greatly, given that I was pointed many recommendations by my friends originating from Szczecin and the concert exceeded my expectations.

If you like history, scratching beyond the surface, and discovering the beauty in the atypically interesting architecture, yet you’re bold enough – visiting Szczecin sounds good in combining it with one of its cultural events.

 

 

Techno symphony for Berlin Metropolis

Berlin, the acclaimed city of music, film and creative industry in general, received a very special gift last week.On 8th March 2016, Jeff Mills presented the premiere of his soundtrack for the ‘Symphony of the Great City’ within the Cinemix series. I have to say, that I am still speechless after his performance in a small studio cinema in Hackescher Markt. I am far from being a psychofan, but sitting not even 2 m away from the turntables of the maestro made it for unforgettable experience.

While the original movie is interesting enough to watch anytime, falling under the cinematic Berlin to-dos, the special history and link between Jeff Mills, Underground Resistance, the industrial revolution, and finally the bridge of techno music for Detroit and Berlin, made the Cinemix premiere one of its kind. Legend of the early Tresor years captivated the mood, rhythm and musical landscape of the city, and I bet no one could rewrite the soundtrack better than he did, given his unique connection to Berlin.

Previously we could watch Jeff Mills’ Cinemix production of Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’, as below:

It is incredible, how relevant techno OST can be even after 90 years of the original movie premiere. During the screening of ‘The Symphony of the Great City’ I was stunned, how much the city changed, and at the same time, how much the energy remained the same. Alienation, industrialization, and on the other hand: consumption, excessive and extravagant social/night life describes the early years of 20th Century in Berlin much as the hype these days.

So in case you are curious to check the movie, here is the original footage of the Symphony of the Great City. I can only hope that Jeff Mills’ OST will become one of the most important, timeless masterpieces, universally defining Berlin as a cosmopolitan, dynamic and forward-thinking city.

This is my church

Kraftwerk stands for the ‘power station’ in German. And there are quite a few of them remaining in the centre of Berlin nowadays, including the overpraised Berghain. Its worship makes it for one of the strongest religious movements these days and it’s only a matter of time when the local authorities will start charging for the techno tax, in my humble opinion. But there is also an actual Kraftwerk in Mitte, used only for specific venues, such as The Long Now / Atonal or currently: CTM.

So while awaiting the Deep Web performance and Robert Henke’s concert, I decided to share the set of photos that comes from the 2015 edition of Berlin Atonal festival. During some five hot days in August last year, I was lucky to praise and dance to some amazing artists, such as Ugangan Methods (Ancient Methods + Regis), Shackleton, Alessandro Cortini, Kanding Ray, Varg, Shed, Samuel Kerridge, Lakker (who presented the amazing Tundra works), and many others. I remember the very powerful opening with the voices of the Chor der Kulturen der Welt in this mighty space, as well as the screening of ‘Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay’ by Amélie Ravalec and Travis Collins. 

The light and sound installations set up in the basements and various labyrynths of Kraftwerk were also ery hypnotizing, almost sleepwalking ambience. So after all, I wonder why isn’t it a spot for regular events? I guess the overwhelming size of it, and the magical atmosphere of it just doesn’t match a regular Klubnacht. I think though that if Berghain is a parochial church, Kraftwerk is the cathedral, following the sacred metaphore.

So, see you at the black (laser?) mass on Sunday!

Special thanks goes to: Aldona Weicher, the author of the featuring photo and lately my favourite profile cover. You captured me, the place and the closing moment perfectly!

A Dark History of Tresor

Sounds brought from Berlin has always inspired not only myself, but also klein aber fein electronic music groovement in my city of origin: Poznań. When I turned enough old to enter clubs in the early 2000s, my journey through the inspirational genres of house, techno and broken beats started and never really stopped, just the amount of time I put in the search for it, had to somehow decrease.

Back in a day the scene in Poznań seemed the most open-minded, at least comparing to other Polish cities. Shortly before the times of conservative backlash that obviously influenced the music scene too. I realized it is coming back to its interesting shape again nowadays, but all this would not happen if it wasn’t for the Tresor club and the influence of the capital city of techno nearby. And I am obviously not thinking about Warsaw.

So back when I was still considering my ‘career’ as a DJ, the natural consequence after getting to know where all the vinyl goodness had come from, was to step on the train and within 2,5 hours reach Kreuzberg to spend a couple of hours in the hottest vinyl stores at the time. Sometimes I was quite lucky to get a permission from my rather liberal parents to come back a few days later, so I could experience just a little bit of what now often is considered a history, like Tresor club, Maria am Ufer or Bar25.

This is where I discovered the sounds from another inspirational city: Detroit and fell in love forever with this crazy, dark deepness of the most organic of the electronic genres. Juan Atkins, Anonym Huisman, Jeff Mills, Theo Parrish and more recently: Fred P, Mike Huckaby are to be named as at least a few who shaped my taste for today. And the Detroit influence over Berlin deserves at least a separate entry!

So last Friday, 13th March 2015, Tresor celebrated its 24th birthday. The new location after re-visiting for a while now did not feel the same magic as the original one. Also, I am no longer such a reckless and restless clubbing aficionado. However, what should be said is that Tresor keeps on bringing deep and still interesting sounds to a wider audience in times when techno turns kind of mainstream and recognizable.

When writing about the history, it is also important to mention its impact on the current happenings. In my humble opinion, the dark and stark sound and vision of the technoworld can be represented by the 29th Nov movies channel with regular uploads of a very surprising content. I always discover the new artists while watching 29th Nov’s new productions. For instance, on a gloomy Sunday like today, these tracks can definitely reflect the bleak Berliner moods best Endlec – Darkness Approaches and Iñigo Kennedy – Plaintive.

Swimming in sound

Berlin is definitely a place for water-loving people. I wouldn’t notice it at the beginning when I relocated straight from the Barcelona’s peninsular neighbourhood Barceloneta to hipstery bezirk of Friedrichshein. But now it’s almost three months I’ve been living in Berlin and happily settled in a flat overlooking the river Spree that actually gave partial inspiration to this post.

Winter has not been too extreme so far, but as my thoughts look so much forward to the springtime, I’ve investigated about open air swimming pools, lakesides, etc. The offer looks indeed super-promising, from open air sites to boat rental.

However, lately I’ve visited a very special swimming pool, Stattbad Wedding. Built over 100 years ago, it had served as a public pool for a long while till in the new millenium was turned into the particular cultural centre. During the weekend, Stattbad hosts some of the best deep house and techno line-ups in town, under the labels of Grounded Theory or Stattnacht. Apart from the club scene, various concerts and foodie events also regularly take place.

So, despite the weather, awaiting the springrtime and real water pleasures, I truly recommend to immerse into the sounds of the city and swim along with the happy crowd!

Update: Unfortunately, after happy years of swimming in sound, Stattbad has been closed definitely given the vague decision and anonymous complaints from the neighbourhood in June 2015. Yet one place less on the Berlin’s most interesting guide to clubs…