Hafferoder Tragedy

A lesson in science: a sealed bottle of beer can be cooled to sub-zero temperatures without freezing thanks to the alcohol in the liquid and the pressure of the sealed container. However, as the beer becomes very cold the pressure inside the bottle increases. The minimum supported temperature of a bottle of beer is about -10 C. Last night it was -16 C outside:

Supercooled bottles of beer after a catastrophic container failure.

The bottles of Hafferoder on the balcony experienced catastrophic container failure. The rapid loss of pressure actually cooled the liquid beer even further. This plus the sub-zero supercooled state of the beer led to near-instantaneous phase change. Also I’m out two Euro’s worth of beer. Damnit.

Yesterday I walked from my place in Prenzlauer Burg through the Mitte district to the Brandenburg Gate. I remembered the Brandenburg Gate and the sights around it from a walking tour of Berlin I took when I was here for the interview at the end of September. It was 28 C then, unbearably warm. This time it was somewhere around -10 and I was bundled up in my full Canadian winter gear. Despite the weather the Brandenburger Tor reminded me again just where I was. Holy crap you guys I live in Berlin. How crazy is that?!

The sights in the area are still there. The Jewish Holocaust Memorial is a bit less overwhelming when it’s covered in ice and your attention is spent trying not to slide and fall into the corner of a concrete block instead of taking in the grandeur of the place. I’ll be sure to walk through again in the Spring. I can’t really describe the memorial so I’ll ask you to look at it from the air on Google Maps:

View Larger Map

The memorial is amazing in that it doesn’t have any statues, any plaques, or make any specific statements about the holocaust. Everyone who walks through it will have a slightly different interpretation, but will remember the experience. The first time I went through I was very moved.

Today I went to a flea market in Mauerpark. Incredible! There were many booths selling vinyl records. Prices were high but selection was great. Crates and crates of New Wave and Punk records; highly sought after LPs back in Calgary. There were also a lot of artists selling hipster clothing: trendy print t-shirts and handbags, psychedelically coloured knitted gloves and toques, and fashionable retro junk clothing from 20 to 40 years back.

What was really neat was the junk. A few large tents held discarded housewares from generations of German families. Bowls, dishes, plates, cutlery probably full of leaded paint scattered pell mell in bins, no prices on anything. Suitcases, chairs, furniture from the 50’s. Junk, perhaps, but most of it from the GDR with that futurist/communist style looking like it was taken from a supervillain’s spaceship.

There were also shoeboxes of fading black-and-white photos of long-dead families. At one booth one could purchase whole photo albums full of pictures.

There was a lot of old Camera gear but no Nikon or Canon stuff. Again, it’s all GDR stuff: a lot of Praktica.

The GDR imparts a lot of weirdness here. I don’t know much about the communist state but I’m eager to learn. Of course it was a bad time for a lot of people and most would like to forget about it, but in terms of art and product design it bred an alien style. It reminds me of the 1967-era architecture in Montreal but a lot more awkward and a bit more menacing.

Now I’m gonna get back to slogging through my first book in German, Der Goldene Kompass. It’s a translation of an English book and I’m sure you’ll figure out the real title if you squint a little. I am about three pages in and I have a very vague idea of what’s going on. I scribble down dozens of words and every few pages stop to look them up. Then, reread the pages find more words and repeat. I’m on page three but I’ve read the first three pages about three times now…