What remains of a Country

I grew up in East Germany – the former socialist part of the now re-united Germany. It was officially called the GDR (German Democratic Republic). Actually we East Germans called it DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik). I was 11 when the wall came down in 1989. I saw with my own eyes how a whole country transformed into another within a couple of years – or completely vanished in many ways.

Within a short amount of time the East German identity was turned into a West German one. The laws, money, health and school system, clothes, food and cars all were Westernised. Many factories and army barracks in the East were also closed as they were either too old to function effectively or they were just not needed any more.

In many cases no one wanted to buy the old buildings, because they were in too uncommercial areas or too expensive to modernise. And very often no one even had the money to knock them down. Hence they were just left behind – waiting for nature and vandalists to do the job. Now more than 20 years later you can drive through the country and discover amazing ruins – the last remains of a hole country.

A few weeks back on a holiday with my family in Prerow – a little resort at the Baltic Sea part of East Germany – I stumled across one of them. My father who used to be a soldier in the East German border patrol (Grenztruppen) recognised it instantly as a barrack from the NVA (Nationale Volksarmee = National People’s Army).

To my surprise I saw that it wasn’t locked off at all and easily accessible. As a true explorer and fan of old abandoned places it took me no second thoughts and just moments later I dived into this world of the past.

It was instantly visible that I was not the first one to enter this building after it had been left to rott. The place was in many parts completely vandalised. But if you saw past those shattered sinks, smashed windows and broken bunk beds you could imagine how once soldiers lived here day in day out during their army times in the Cold War and after.

From old paper cuts which were lying around and from my research afterwards I learned that the barrack was left in 1993. Which means the last 3 years of its use as army base was already in the re-united Germany – wich explains the traces of new Westernised products in some of the rooms.

During the 18 years since its closure the building had become the home of completely different occupants though. Many of the rooms and walls were covered with bird droppings. Swallows seemed to have found the ideal nisting grounds there. They had build their nests on top of the curtain rails or in the former soldiers wardrobes.

Me and my brother who also took out his camera – wondered around the place from the cellars to the roof top. It was for both us quite a surreal but also a bit sentimental experience – as we recognised things from when we were little. Of course we had never been in the East German army – thankfully there were no child soldiers in our country. ūüėČ But some things like the typical East German designs of the furniture or the wallpapers were still very familar to us.

 

As a true socialist my father actually refused to enter the place. He said it would still hurt him too much to see a part of a system that he believed in so destroyed.

I am curious to see what will happen to this building in the future. Will it be there forever until gravity will pull it apart or will it eventually be replaced by a hotel resort or super market? One does not know. But maybe, just maybe, these photos and our memories will be the last that remain from this part of East Germany.

The place was in a very desolate state. Clear signs of vandals in action everywhere.I was in the army myself – of course the Westernised army. But the bunk beds looked pretty much the same to me. I guess armies around the world are in many ways very similar.These stickers are clear traces from the times after the wall came down – I reckon from around 1991-93. They are stickers from the then very popular youth magazine Bravo. As kids we used to plaster those everywhere. Especially on our tape recorders and walkmen. I smiled when I saw them. Roxette used to be one of my favourite bands when I was 12 or so. Depeche Mode was my brother’s – clear more cool-points to him. There is also a sticker from Die Toten Hosen – one of Germany’s most popular bands.

If you have been following my blog for a bit then you probaly know that I love taking photos of Dead Umbrellas. I was quite surprised but nonetheless happy to find one here.This is one of the old newspapers that were lying around there. It is an article from the 26.September 1993. The sunday issue of Germany’s main tabloid wrote about the fact that 270.000 tons of perfectly fine bread was fed to pigs because of overproduction.I just loved how bizarre that place looked. Some rooms were totally crammed with rubble. And then some looked like they were set up for some form of experimentall bohemian theatre play.

This is an original East German fire extinguisher.

And this wardrobe here is original East too. The stamp on the label says it was made in the same year as I was born. 1978. It was produced in the VEB Möbel Kombinat Nord. VEB stands for Volkseigeiner Betrieb (People Owned Factory). I am almost certain that this is one of the factories that was either destroyed or is one of the ruins rotting away somewhere.

One could obviously argue with that.

This room looked like the swallows’ favourite. Everythings was covered with their droppings. I assume many swallows started their lives here.For this swallow life unfortuntely ended here as well.

Bird droppings everywhere.

This scene here is right underneath the roof. The sign (or what’s left of it) next to that chair says……well, I can only puzzle the words together badly as some of them are missing…but what it kind of says is: “For the reliable protection of the GDR. And for the well-being of the people”

This is in the basement of the building. The doors looked like they would belong to the detention cells. Obviously I have no clue why those mattresses have been put there. Who knows what kind of party someone had there once.This is or was the shower room. Probably since watching ‘Schindler’s List’ whenever I see these type of shower heads I get some kind of shivers.

This sticker clearly identifies that the wardrobe used to belong to the NVA – the army of the GDR.The design of the wallpapers really reminds me of being a child. I think my grandma used to have a very similar looking one.One my way out I came across this also abandoned nearby building. It looked like it was part of the garage for the army vehicles. Similar to the main building what will happen with it in the future is not certain. Only time will tell.

100.000 toothpicks and 35 years

One word: Gobsmacking.

What you see here is one man’s work of 35 years – and around 100.000 toothpicks crafted into one sculpture of San Francisco. Scott Weaver spent more than 3000 hours to assemble the toothpicks that his friends and family collected for him from around the world.

It is not the biggest sculpture made out of these tiny wooden sticks but it is probably the only one that comes with the inbuilt kinetic features. Weaver cleverly constructed little tours into the model on which he sends ping pong balls which pass by places and buildings that are all somehow connected to his life and the city. Watch the video! It’s magnificient.

I found the story here on www.thisiscolossal.com

Poster Tree Rings

This photo really shows you how much the Berlin postering culture was and is thriving. This is a part of one of the many lamp posts in the city centre that during the last 2 decades were used as home for hundreds of posters. Layer after layer after layer. Every one of them telling a story about Berlin’s culture. It is a bit like a tree and its tree rings from which you can read its life history.

A bit of Street Art (from Berlin)

I went home to Berlin a few weeks back. And although the city is getting cleaned up in many areas to make it all slick and sterile for the New Wannabe Berliners, I was happy to see that there is still a thriving culture of street art, stickering and postering.

And I think that won’t change until the Germans decided to install stupid CCTV-cameras in every bloody corner as they did here in the UK – were it is really hard to find good street art.

CCTV = Dead of Street Art.

 

Street Staines

Have you ever noticed how beautiful the staines are that were left behind from drink spills or from drunken people’s pukes? London’s pavements are full of them. I think some of them really have some abstract painting-like qualities.

100cameras – Give Photography!

100 cameras is a great new charitable project that aims to empower children in problematic communities around the world by teaching them photography. They then provide these groups with 100 donated cameras to take photos of their daily lives. 100camera then sells the childrens’ prints in special exhibitions and online. All the proceeds from those sales go back to these children. What a brilliant, brillant idea!!

Please support 100cameras!

http://www.100cameras.org/

This is what they say on their webpage:

We believe that children have the right to live free from oppression, violence and poverty. However, this is not the reality in many communities worldwide. According to UNICEF, 1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world), 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services, and 25,000 die each day due to poverty.

Even though this global problem will not be solved overnight or even in our lifetime, 100cameras is committed to reducing the oppression, decreasing the violence and breaking the cycles of poverty in the communities to which we are committed.

Through photography, 100cameras provides children with a creative platform to share their lives from their own perspective.

100cameras begins by identifying underserved communities locally and abroad that are home to orphans, at-risk children, children without rights and children who lack access to basic healthcare or education. After identifying these communities, 100cameras partners with organizations that are already providing sustainable solutions within their targeted area.  

The 100cameras staff then takes donated cameras to the project location in order to implement a photography course among the children.  The curriculum provides each child with a camera and includes a series of introductory lessons about basic camera fundamentals with a specific emphasis on documentation. Both the course and the resources give children the opportunity to express the realities of their every day through images. This partnership is empowering to both the children and communities involved. 


100cameras teaches a child how to capture and tell their story. This encourages a better self view, resulting in higher levels of confidence and ownership in their identity. Through their own photography, the children become self-advocators. Their pictures are the voices that speak awareness.


100cameras is committed to share their perspective with a global community. Upon completion of a project, 100cameras has the unique position to carry these photographs across borders to bridge communities together. Specifically, this is accomplished through online print sales, web campaigns and a series of photo exhibition events. When someone purchases one of the children’s photos, 100percent of that money is given back to the partner organization in that child’s community. 

100cameras has completed two projects thus far (Sudan and NYC) and plans to launch a third one in June 2011.