Backstage Berlin: Cultural exploits with EXCLUSIVE CAMEO by Sir Elton John

In order to justify this linguistically enriching but gratuitous trip to Berlin, I’ve been devouring culture like it’s going out of fashion. As I did the sightseeing thing last time I was here, I like to think my recent activities come under the heading of “cool stuff the locals do,” though I admit that this is an ambitious goal; your average Berliner is infinitely cooler than I could ever aspire to be. In spite of that, here’s a round-up of the latest in German entertainment, according to me

Note: I procrastinated until I had an excessive amount to write about again… oops! Fear not though, it’s at least 90% photos.


While I maintain a wary distance from the world of organised sport, when in Berlin you may as well do as the Romans. By which I mean, watch a brutal massacre for the entertainment of the people (sorry, Brazil.) I have faithfully watched the rest of the Germany matches, and I was genuinely pleased to see them win the world cup. However, I have a serious bone to pick with whoever thought it was a good idea to spontaneously add even more time to the standard 90 minutes, which is patently already far too much.
Here’s a picture of some happy Germans getting on the S-Bahn. You would not believe the noise of vuvuzelas/singing/car horns/fireworks on the way home from the match…


I went to a very modern, confusing, multimedia play in a combination of German and Russian last week. Sadly, my German isn’t quite fluent yet, and the surtitles were significantly behind the dialogue, so I can’t actually substantiate my guess that it was probably very good. Highlights included some really impressive live music from the actors, and various audience members inexplicably being given candyfloss.

Bars and clubs

“Clubs” is just a lie; I still haven’t experienced the infamous Berlin nightlife, as I’m currently incapable of staying awake past 11pm and I sort of loathe dancing.
We walked past some clubs in daylight, when people are supposed to be awake. Some of these places were still open when we walked past at around 11am, an example of sleep-deprivation so heinous I can barely contemplate it.
I’ve had more luck with bars, beer gardens and parks – one of my favourite features of this city is the ample supply of lovely places to sit and drink outside. See example below:

Fun for all the family

The most exciting day trip was undoubtedly our visit to Spreepark, an abandoned GDR themepark that’s been closed for business since 2001, and recently acquired a security guard. Naturally, this has made it all the more enticing for thrill-seekers, who creep in through various weak spots in the fence.
Even in daylight, there’s something decidedly creepy about the place, with its overgrown rollercoasters and falling-down buildings. Despite noisily freaking out and darting into hedges every time we heard footsteps (usually those of other explorers) we managed to get in and out of the park without being spotted and escorted out. This is clearly down to the Bond-worthy spy moves I’ve developed during Laser Tag sessions, ranging from inelegant crouch-running to peering conspicuously around corners.
Photos will describe the atmosphere much more effectively than I can, so here’s a selection of the 200-odd pictures I definitely don’t regret taking while we were in the park.
The not-so-impenetrable barrier.
Lots of creepy derelict buildings littered with the remnants of other people’s parties
The lake was covered with thousands of bright green frogs.
These creepy-ass swans were all over the place, looking at us with their terrifying dead eyes.

The main attraction – an abandoned rollercoaster.
Casual beehives – I guess that’s one way of deterring trespassers.
Dinosaurs. Natürlich.
After a couple of hours , we got cocky and had a picnic on a handy bench. Halfway through, we heard footsteps and hid behind said bench, at which point a guard and two civilians came round the corner. Luckily, the guard didn’t come close enough to see us, but his two friends couldn’t have missed us crouching in awkward silence, not even remotely concealed by the plant you can see in the above picture. Fortunately they kept their laughter silent and we got away unscathed.


The other big trip is my holiday-within-a-holiday to Dresden, with Susi. It’s a really beautiful town, populated by an alarming number of weeping angels statues; we also stayed in a hostel with the most spectacular breakfast buffet I’ve ever experienced, which was a source of unending joy and stomach ache to me. Here are a few pictures…
Breakfast: Round 1, before we got to the cake.
Cheeky panorama of the town at night
Various extremely baroque buildings
The view from the top of the Frauenkirche, which they finished rebuilding about a decade ago, after it was destroyed in the WWII bombings.
There were bubbles.
Lots of bubbles. We kept running into these street performers and being mesmerised.
We spent most of our time in the historical centre, but the Neustadt was also pretty cool and quirkily decorated.


I’ve been to a lot of these in both Berlin and Dresden. I’d recomment the Museum of Islamic Art, which is inside the very famous Pergamon museum and full of really intricate and beautiful things. The museum I was most fascinated by in Dresden was the Grünes Gewölbe (Green vault), which is quite literally a treasure trove. Anyone familiar with my Gollum-like tendencies will be able to picture me and Susi slowly swaying back in forth in front of the diamond case to “make them sparkle”. The thousands of priceless baubles also contained some unbelievably tacky creations, which were particularly amusing in conjunction with the very posh audioguide-man’s exclamations of wonder at their “sumptious beauty.”
Photography was forbidden, but here’s a picture of August the Strong, the magpie-king behind the Green Vault.

And finally: Music

Walking into the centre of Dresden on our first night, we could hear what sounded like someone blasting out golden oldies from their car radio. As we approached, it got louder and louder, and we began to run into groups of people looking as confused as us. It became clear that there was some kind of event going on, so we went to investigate. Never have I done a double take as big as when we turned the corner, only to see the one and only Elton John doing his thing in a sparkly sparkly jacket, on a humungous open-air stage. This surreal experience made for a pretty good evening – although there were barriers up, we could see and hear everything, and getting into a 70€ event for free is a pretty good deal in my book.
The man himself (from a distance)
Some of the more extreme strategies to get a good view.


And now I must leave you, because I’ve been sat alone in the dark writing this for far too long. The bonus pictures below are even more exciting than usual, as they are fancypants 3D photo spheres that I took in the Spreepark. Tschuss!

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