Last year when I was living in Brussels, I was frequenting my absolute favourite flea market in the world Jeu de Balle, buying photographs and love letters and other trinkets. As usual, when the flea market is over, the vendors usually leave a whole trove of junk just lying on the cobblestone grounds that either they couldn’t sell, that broke, that was damaged, that got soaked from the rain, or that they just don’t want to transport back to their warehouses. The thing is, the street cleaners come in very quickly after the market is over to pick up all the trash and wash the square clean! So if you’re crafty, quick, and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can get your hands on some amazing antique and vintage gems.
Seeing as how I’m an excellent scavenger (and I don’t like paying for things), I would always scour the cobbles (and in between the cobbles!), go through the piles of trash, kick over soaked boxes and rifle through all the discarded remains for whatever meant something to me. From my scavenges, I have procured monochrome photographs from the 1920s, gold-rimmed picture frames, and these two letters written in German in 1946.
As you can see from the very top picture, the stamps were ripped from the envelopes (probably because 1946 stamps are worth a lot!) but I was more interested in the contents of the letters!
Luckily, the internet loves to help! I tweeted out for help in translating them, and a wonderful follower of mine from Berlin, who wants to be referenced here as Resa Lamego, offered to help! She was able to translate the letters very quickly because her English is amazing, and even though she was busy travelling down to Heidelberg, she still did a fabulous job.
The letters mostly just contain mundane minutiae of these women’s lives from 1946, nothing mind-blowing or tragic or epic, but the language employed is quite nice!
Here’s an excerpt from the 1st letter (edited for content… really just the most interesting parts!)
Malmö, the 28-08-1946
My dear Mady,
Thank you so much for your lovely letter! I’m glad to hear you are in Switzerland. It is wonderful that they all who have been/ used to be in Germany gain such a trip. From the photo I can tell that the nature must be very beautiful. I hope you are completely recovered/healthy when you travel back home! Do you really believe you will be able to come to Sweden? I would be so happy if it was possible. Then you must come to Malmö. As before I got the children from (..)? Now we got the Karl-Jo-Haus-School back. Last year sick children from France and Austria were living there […] One always needs to be with the children, one needs to help them to eat, to play and to bathe. […] It is very hard to write in German and I make many mistakes. I hope you are able to read it? I have never been very good in German but maybe it is harder than usual because I was reading in English the whole winter long. I received my major and can now be a teacher of English. Half of my summer months this year I spent in an international school in Helsingor and there English was the conversational speech. Now my head is full of English words and phrases. So now I need to practice in this letter otherwise I will forget my German and that can’t be!
My dearest regards,
And here’s an excerpt from the 2nd letter, unedited because the whole thing was totally cool.
My dear Mady,
Thank you so much for your letter! From the date I can tell that it has been already over a month before I received your letter. I can’t really understand why. Time has passed so quickly. Now you probably are back in Belgium? If so, I send this to your home. Have you recovered dear Mady? Oh, I hope you are from the bottom of my heart!
So, Mady, you think I am chubby/big? Oh well, that is possible. I love to eat and maybe I do it too much. The photo was from summer and then I am always bigger because then I don’t have my work. So I think now it’s better. One doesn’t like to be big!
I got from your letter that you are glad to be back in Belgium. Here in Sweden we have a saying: Foreign countries are good, but home is always the best. And I believe that is very true. I haven’t been to foreign countries, you know, except Denmark and Norway and that for us aren’t really foreign countries. For the next summer I hope I will be allowed to travel to England. I am supposed to have English classes with children, you know and of course it should be very good for me to spend a few months in England. That way one learns the language much better.
Dear Mady, you say that maybe you will come back to Sweden. How happy I should be if that was possible. Will you come alone or with other people? Oh, it would be wonderful to meet you again. Please Mady, if you can, so come, come! I am telling you my dearest welcome!
And now, Mady, to a quick ‘hear-you-again’, I hope!
My dearest regards!
P.S. May I also send my regards to your family?
Oh Anna-Kerstin, you sweet Danish-living-English-teaching friend! How wonderful and sweet you were to your friend Mady! And such a shame that someone saw fit to discard your beautiful letters into a trash heap in Brussels. So glad I recovered them and saved them!
As I wrote about for VICE, the main reason why personal items like this end up on the fleas is because the owner passed away and their family just wanted to liquidate all the belongings. Why? They probably weren’t on very good terms.
So Mady, I hope you had a good life. Your surviving family is shit.
To the flea markets!!
You guys know I’m a huge flea market nut. I’ve blogged about the stuff I’ve found before. But the flea markets I used to patron in Germany when I lived there (specifically Cologne and Berlin) all carried lots of Nazi junk, which for a Canadian, is not something you ever get used to seeing. In this piece, I talk about the disturbing nature of these pieces, and also how they have affected me.
I feel like our morbid interests aren’t inherently good or bad. It’s what we do with those interests that’s important … I think learning from this stuff is a positive thing.
Click here or on the above photo to read it.
I took all of the photographs featured in the piece. The one of the framed monochrome photographs on a mantle is actually in my bedroom. Those couples just look so happy!
Fanks for reading, munchkins.
By the time you read this, I will already be out gallivanting through New York City, Brooklyn and Queens, hunting Space Invaders, Banksys, Hanksys, Swoons, and many more of my favourite street artists. I am here for a month, housesitting in the Upper West Side. I end this year the way I began it: on my own terms, and travelling. I have never been more free.
And I win.
Enjoy some of my greatest goofy 2014 hits, in GIF form!
Rolling my eyes at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, leaving Germany for the last time.
Dancing on the streets of Bonn.
Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, built by… uh… Stalin.
The best Klezmer band in Brussels right outside my window!
(hit the volume button on the bottom right corner of the vid)
The Berlin eyes have it.
The ghosts in Shoreditch’s windows
Art imitates life imitates art.
Guns in Copenhagen are beating like hearts.
Brick Lane street art goes largely ignored. (It says, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”)
Where’s the Space Invader?
I like to call this one, “Ew, I smell that, was that you?”
I like to call this one, “Oh is that really what you’re wearing? How… brave…”
I like to call this one, “Is that a bee or a fly?”
I like to call this one, “I just had a small stroke.”
How I talk to Cats (part 1), filmed whilst housesitting in London.
How I talk to Cats (part 2), filmed whilst housesitting in Copenhagen
How I talk to Cats (part 3), filmed whilst housesitting in Enkhuizen (the Netherlands)
Now let us go out of 2014 with a bang, just like we did in Paris…
Goodbye 2014. I hope I never see you again.
I’m pretty ashamed. I have wandered up and down Skaltizer Strasse near Kottbusser Tor probably a bajillion times, but I only recently found these two C215 pieces there. What am I, blind?
And not too far from the last C215 piece I found…
They were only a few doors down from each other too.
Get it together Estima.
Check out my C215 category for more of his work that I’ve photographed around the world!
The last time I blogged about Mr Fahrenheit was in London, which is the only city I’ve ever found his work in, so I’m assuming he’s a Londoner. This past week, I found some of his stencils in the Friedrichschain area of Berlin, so looks like the man got himself a rail pass:)
Whenever I think of John Lennon, I also think of JFK and Indira Gandhi, who were also assassinated.
The lesson here, munchkins, is if you don’t want your children to be assassinated, don’t name them after an airport.
WOCKA WOCKA WOCKA.
Now I know what you’re thinking… Alice? Who the Fuck is Alice?
(see what I did there?)
(I’ll get my coat)
I’ve blogged Alice’s work before when I first found it in London, and now she has hit up Berlin. You cannot walk 5 metres along Skatlizer Strasse toward the Oberbaumbruecke without running into 20 Alice pieces!
This one was actually ON the Oberbaumbruecke!
Ah yes, this mirrors my life as of late. Oh dontcha just love those balmy Berlin nights…
Ahem… but enough about me… back to Alice!
“Der rote Engel” as they say. I found her one day, walking along Körtestraße in Kreuzberg, a street I had walked along many times before, but I had somehow missed her. Because I was looking down.
To find angels, you must always look heavenward.
She has the eyes of an angel. Look at the glistening glimmer.
I had never come across xi-Design before but I am now a fan.
Berlin is so hungover.
What a great night, and what a great time to be in Germany. Last night the Brandenburg Gate exploded in cheers, fireworks, chants, spotlights, and an outpouring of joy. The night sky burned brighter than the day.
How often does a gal get to be in Germany when Germany wins the World Cup? An epic experience indeed. Last night I was a witness to history.
Berlin is a place that, beyond all reason and dark history, resurrects one’s soul.
Now if you’ll excuse me, the sun is shining, and the city awaits this little Canadian lass.
I haven’t photographed a RAE since Brooklyn, I don’t think… no wait, I think I found one or two in London. But YAY! RAE was here in Berlin last week and I photographed his stuff mere days after he had erected it. GO ME!
In all honesty, I wasn’t looking for a RAE, we were just going for a stroll one night through Friedrichschain and found it by accident. Those are the best kinds of finds 🙂
Philip’s impressed. He insisted we snap this pic. Who am I to say no?
This ROA bird was in the RAW area of Berlin (near Revalerstrasse), and it looks really old, like his old style. I don’t know, but the fact that it’s still around is pretty sweet.
Maybe it was done hastily, and hence the kind of unrefined style?
Remember a few posts ago when I went hunting for the remnants of JR’s “Wrinkles of the City” from last year across Berlin? Here’s one that I missed, it’s at Warschauerstrasse, looking pretty worse for wear.
Here’s what it’s supposed to look like.
I’m just so impressed these pieces have withstood the elements and other graff artists!
Which I am.
Shhh, don’t tell.
Miss my plattenbau
I had to.
Check out my El Bocho category for more of his work that I’ve photographed around Germany!
The 48 hour Neukölln arts fest is very much like Nuit Blanche in Toronto, except it lasts for 48 hours, and it’s not in the freezing cold. Berlin has always been known for its arts scene, and for welcoming artists from all across Europe into their embrace, so this was a perfect way to induct me into the wonderful German hipster dudebro artistic experience.
Obvi, I adored it.
I got drunk on it.
I ate that shit up.
First we found these artists who gave us a tutorial on how to make street art stencils. Of course, I plopped down to make a masterpiece. *cough*
This was a guerilla poetry space, where thousands of newspaper headlines were chopped up for us, and we got to fashion poetry… like one would fashion an anonymous ransom note! Or like refrigerator magnet poetry. Or like found poetry.
And so on.
This was ours. “I think to be seduced is the right solution.”
This was someone elses. The wall behind it said “Courage is…” so this poem finishes the sentence with “…unlikely to result in vaginal dryness.”
I’ll get my coat.
Courage is… “What was going on in the East German sky without us.”
Chris, there’s a giant frog with a cell phone growing out of your back.
Then this tenor emerged from his balcony and sang Nessun Dorma to all of us down below. It was the crowning moment of the fest, for me.
There were 1000 origami cranes. There was a pillow fort where we affixed our adult dreams to. There were shopping carts woven into a circle. There were art-convenience-stores. There were angel-birds. There was sunshine. There was FIFA. There was dancing and music.
There was Berlin.
**Unless bearing my watermark, all pics are copyright Moneim Eltohami.
Kunsthaus Tacheles was a centre for artists, vandals, graffitists and other culture-jammers to gather in an old 1907 arcade that was partially demolished by the DDR, located near Oranienburger Strasse. It was officially closed down a couple years ago, and now it is completely blocked off and surrounded by fences, walls, hedges, and wire. There’s no way in. But on some of the walls that are still exposed, artists continue to tag.
Anyway, the other night I’m watching the object of my affection Benedict Cumberbitch … er.. batch.. Cumberbatch in the film The Fifth Estate, and I notice they filmed an entire section at Kunsthaus Tacheles before it closed down. They filmed inside and out. During the scene where they’re leaving, I noticed something that nearly made me spit out my tea.
And here’s the scene here:
HOW DID I MISS THIS WHEN I WAS WALKING BY?!
So I went back to try and find a way in, or maybe a ledge to perch from, or maybe just a gap in the wall so I could photograph it.
I went to every business surrounding the Kunsthaus and asked everyone if they had access to the fenced-off area, just so I could take a photo. No one could help.
Finally, I found a crack in the tarped-over fence big enough to shove my hand through. Camera firmly gripped in hand, I tried to snap as many pics as I could at such an awkward angle.
BUT I STILL NOW I HAVE SEEN WITH MY OWN EYES THE FLOWER CHUCKER!
Check out my Banksy category for more of his work that I’ve photographed around the world!
Germans, in general, are super tall (bless ’em). Everyone towers around me because I’m a bite-size pipsqueak. So I’m wondering if local artist Mij K Do is trying to comment on the height of Berliners with his super-long-legged subjects.
In my last Roa post, I spoke of how hard I had tried to find more Roa‘s around Berlin and was coming up empty every time. But then a buddy over at andBerlin.com let me know that the Roa rats on Schoenhauser Allee were still there, even though I had struggled in vain for an hour to find them previously. I tried a second time, and bam. Instant Roa-gratification.
Aw yeah, that’s the stuff.
Look at the detail from each spraycan stroke. I can’t even. I am out of evens.
Check out my Roa category for more of his work that I’ve photographed around the world!
Since posting my last piece on El Bocho, I have found so much more of his stuff! It’s so great to live in a city where not only is the artwork on every corner, but you can become familiar with the artists and grow to appreciate their body of work.
He’s gone and I’m still here.
Who rips apart an El Bocho?!! Sacrilege.
Check out my El Bocho category for more of his work that I’ve photographed across Germany!
FINALLY SOME ATTENTION!
WAR IS COMING!
I TELL YOU, IT’S COMING!
Don’t mind me…
A street art photographer-blogger like me always dreams of photographing the work of Os Gêmeos, and even though I have travelled the world over, I have never been fortunate enough to find the Brazillian brothers’ works! UNTIL NOW!
Os Gêmeos BABY!
This Moonman, located near Kottbusser Tor, is by Ash.
The Pink Man, near Oberbaumbrucke, is by BLU.
These two massive murals on Schlesische strasse are also by BLU.
I’m pretty sure this is by Miss Van. It was near the East Side Gallery.
Is that my beloved Vhils? Why yes it is!
My beloved C215 and his signature kitty-cat.
Is is a peace sign, a high-five, or a fuck you?
What we do know is that it’s by Case Maclaim
The last time I photographed Miss Me was in Montreal! Had no idea she’d been here!
It’s my beloved Jimmy C aka James Cochran!
Jimmy’s heart (obstructed by some idiot’s fat head).
And Jimmy’s lovely tribute to Anne Frank.
And my beloved Stik! (Yes they’re all my beloved…. WHAT OF IT?)
More Stik behind bars.
And Stik behind trees!
Ain’t that the fricken truth.
Bending Berlin Baby! And it’s a picture of Bender from Futurama! Space Invader has a version of this in Brussels, which I photographed last year, check it out! This is by street artist ambush and you should check out his website!
That’s good advice, you guys.
Well if it isn’t my old Cologne-pal Decycle. I photographed this exact same piece over in that forsaken city, but glad to see he’s taking up a much more civilized and cosmopolitain area.
Jessica Rabbit. “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”
Well, it doesn’t say much, but it’s to-the-point and I salute it for it.
I found this near Hermanstrasse in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin.
Last year, JR hit up Berlin for his project “The Wrinkles of the City” where he pasted his famous oversized portraits on some iconic architectural specimens found throughout the historic city. But unlike his Inside Out Project, these were portraits of the elderly, or at least, “more seasoned” people, in an effort to show the beauty that comes with age. I wasn’t able to come to Berlin last year, but I’m here now! Considering that street art usually has a very short shelf life, it was thrilling to find many of his works still visible and in great condition one full year later!
This was on the side of Ostbahnhof, across the street from the East Side Gallery.
This was also across the street from the East Side Gallery, but no one seemed to notice it. People were so consumed with taking assinine selfies next to the Berlin Wall, they didn’t bother to look around.
This beautiful find of Salvador Dali was up on Gustav Meyer Allee. I had to hop a fence or two to get these shots.
See the hand? If you have ever taken a photograph with JR, as I have, you know that this is his hand-thingie-sign-whatchamacallit. I got it wrong when I took my picture with him in London. Anyway, when I found this huge piece, as you can see, it was covered by construction.
This is what it’s supposed to look like when all of this scaffolding isn’t obstructing it… bastards.
This piece used to take up the entire side of this building. I guess it didn’t withstand the elements very well.
This was on the side of Soho House, on a huge East Berlin boulevard that seemed oppressive and deserted. But I love how the fernsehturm (tv tower) in the background gives the wheatpaste a dimension and depth… and also GRAVITAS (i think that word is kind of silly, but it fits in this instance)…. gravitas.
This was underneath a bridge, near Friedrichstraße station. This one survived the elements pretty well! Yay, bridge-protection!
Unfortunately, the rest of the JR pieces around the city were untraceable to me… I searched for many of them but came up empty handed. Either they’re gone from the elements, or I had the wrong location information. But I’m happy these lovely pieces have survived a year!
Check out my JR category and my Inside Out Project category for more of his works that I’ve photographed around the world!
Ah, my true Belgian love, Roa. I had read on the blogs that he had made an appearance in Berlin a few years ago, so I set out to find his works. This is the only one that remains… a huge mural near Kottbusser Tor. For those of you who don’t know Roa (and really, if you don’t know Roa, please take a few mins to check out my Roa category for a huge selection of his works that I’ve photographed around the world), his work explores the circle of life amongst animals. He likes to portray animals either in a state of feeding, a state of death, or a state of decay, but it’s never gross or obscene, it’s always a tribute to the beautiful circle of life. In addition, unlike some other street artists who rely on stencils or posters or tricks (nothing wrong with those by the way, I adore stencils and posters!), all of Roa’s pieces are done with just a spray can and a helluva lot of talent.
As you can see the animals are dead, and have been hung up to dry, much like they are in shop windows in Chinatown. So it might be safe to assume Roa is showing how these animals didn’t die of natural causes, they were killed for their meat. This is less circle-of-life, and more the gritty, cruel world of the meat industry.
Anyway, it’s a beautiful piece, and considering all of Roa’s other works in Berlin are gone (or at least, I have struggled in vain to find the rest and could not), this is definitely something that should be appreciated whilst it’s still there.