Tag Archives: Berlin

Unterweg Drawings Nr. 3 – January!

3am on the U7 by Suzanne Forbes Jan 30 2017This is one of those Berlin moments that kind of confused me.

It was a Saturday late fairly late, and this guy was eating a sandwich in a white Tyvek jumpsuit. Was he a homeless guy, with his possessions in his cart? His cart also contained folders of papers and cleaning products, maybe he works in the subway system?

I couldn’t tell. I snuck behind the elevator shaft and drew him through its glass walls. Then I finished it a month or two later with the new greyscale markers one of my beloved Friend-Muse-Patrons gave me for my 50th birthday!80s classics come around again by Suzanne Forbes Jan 25 2017

I saw this woman last week on the U-Bahn. Everything about her took me back to the 80s.

It was an older train, she was in the classic straphanger bookworm brace position, she was reading an 80s thriller and wearing the same kind of puffer coat my mom wore in the 80s. Puffer coats came back in style a couple years ago, and I am glad because they are so fun to draw.

December Unterwegs here.

November Unterwegs here.

Drawing Amanda Palmer in Berlin!

Amanda Palmer in my kitchen, by Suzanne Forbes Halloween 2016

Our longtime beloved FriendMusePatron Whitney was on tour this fall with her longtime friend Amanda Palmer.

On Halloween she and Amanda and baby Ash and the whole delightful entourage of cool people came to our house. I made this drawing of Amanda in the kitchen. Daria drew the same moment!

Amanda and I had only met once before, almost a decade ago, so we had some sad quiet time in my bedroom talking about our mutual friend Conor. Amanda’s blog still sends a reader almost every day to my post about how Conor lost his battle with depression and addiction.

I’m grateful that her fans are reading my message about how depression is a medical illness, not a failing of character.

While we talked baby Ash, a sweet-tempered and happy baby, crawled around the coverlet and peered at the cats. He has soulful, deep-set eyes. I love him.Amanda and Whitney practising Paperback Writer in Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Nov 1 2016

Then on the next day me and Daria got to go to the show and be backstage and draw and it was wonderful.

This is Whitney and Amanda practising “Paperback Writer” in the empty venue before the show. The show was at a legendary Berlin venue, Huxleys Neue Welt, and the acoustics were gorgeous. Their voices rose up pure and exquisite in the open space, and the piano was amazing.

When we came into the concert hall where Amanda was at the piano, she sang into the mike, “The artists have arrived!”. I would like to be introduced this way everywhere.

Amanda Palmer and Ash in the Green Room by Suzanne Forbes Nov 1 2016

Scotty the Blue Bunny in Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Nov 1 2016In the green room Ash was looked after by his nanny, who had been an on-point Eleven for Halloween, and old friends of Amanda’s who live in Berlin. His mother’s ear was always tuned to him, even as she got ready to perform.

Scotty the Blue Bunny, another Bay Area refugee now in Berlin, opened the show with his signature baton twirling. Amanda said she would like to be introduced this way everywhere she goes.

Amanda speaks fluent German, as you may or may not know, and fans were yelling “Your German is great!”

She spoke in German quite a bit and it went over gangbusters.

Here’s Amanda taking requests by writing them on her arm!

This is her traditional method of taking requests. The audience happily complied, yelling out song titles.Amanda Palmer taking requests in Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Nov 1 2016

And Amanda playing the ukulele. I fucking love when Amanda plays the ukulele!

Here’s Daria’s. It was so great, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be there and make these drawings. You can support both me and Amanda continuing to make exactly the art that feels most authentic to us on Patreon!

Amanda Palmer playing ukulele in Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Nov 1 2016

Amanda Palmer playing ukulele in Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Nov 1 2016

Amanda is in Melbourne right now, but in the US you can hear Whitney sing with group Midtown Social all over the Bay Area.

 

Drawing musicians is good medicine.

I love drawing musicians.

As a completely non-musical person, they are like sorcerers to me. They possess dynamic energy and their movements are both repetitive and startling. I drew this guy on the U both because I love banjos and because of his young-Frank-Zappa good looks! banjetar man november 2016 by Suzanne Forbes

These two guys performed at the delightful holiday party for the wonderful company my husband works for. It was at a totally wonderful, secret venue hidden behind a hof full of bins. I’ll get their names after the break, right now everyone is off for the holidays.aklamio-holiday-party-dec-13-by-suzanne-forbes

Unterweg drawings Nr 1

There is a bit of a thing among Berlin drawing folk, urban sketchers and life drawing people and so on, of “Unterweg” drawings.Fluffy boots by Suzanne Forbes Nov 28 2016They’re the drawings you make on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, bus or tram, as you’re underway.

I find that I’m using these opportunities to draw regular people going about their day as a place to practise techniques. I can drop on a half-finished drawing and decide to add dark values, or detail, or a second person, in the most relaxed and experimental way.Headphones guy by Suzanne Forbes Nov 28 2016

You get as far as you get with an unterweg, then the person you’re drawing gets off the train, or you do, or they notice you drawing and you have to stop. Often children gather to watch, and adults murmur, “Schon!”

It’s a wonderful way to pass the time, and try new things.

Moving to Berlin in 2017: Basic needs on arrival!

Scotty the Blue Bunny in Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Nov 1 2016

Scotty the Blue Bunny in Berlin by Suzanne Forbes Nov 1 2016

When you arrive here from the US, you will need money.

You may have gotten some euros in advance- that’s a good idea! Because we just had our first prospective relo whose credit union debit card does not work anywhere, at any bank or ATM, in Berlin. He sent us money via Paypal and i took out cash for him, but obviously that’s not optimal. You will want a way to access your bank account.

Step one: get a debit card from your bank that has a chip, and make sure it works. Because atms here are almost all chip-and-pin based.

So to withdraw money, you will most certainly need a chip-enabled card. You can use a standard American debit card or credit card that works on the Maestro/Cirrus credit card network to buy goods at large grocery stores like Kaiser, at hotels and a few touristy places. But practically no place here that you’ll encounter in your daily life takes American plastic. You need cash or a German bank account and German girokarte (debit card). BTW, they hate VISA also, Mastercard is preferred.

Ah yes, you have a pocket computer to tell you everything. But your pocket computer, it may not work here.

Arriving at the airport, you should have your travel instructions printed out on paper. In case your phone died inexplicably and your charger doesn’t work, inexplicably, or you lost the adaptor for the charger. Or your roaming plan isn’t enabled for some reason. Or the wifi at the airport isn’t working.

Networks and sim cards and all that are weird. There is plentiful free and unsecured wifi, but you will need a charged phone to hunt for it. Regarding power, it might be easier to order the wall plug charger or power supply for your computer/devices from Amazon in the US and bring it with you. Things like flat irons, ironing irons, and hair dryers you can buy cheaply at Rossman, the sundries/drugstore. Like ten euros and made to a far more robust standard than US ones.

Your laptop, if it’s fairly new, will work fine if you have an adaptor or power supply with an EU plug.

Modern computers are made to operate dual-current, as are modern phones. Check to be sure though, cause that German current in the wall will fry your stuff within an hour. As in, you may plug something in, see it turn on, think everything is fine, and find it burned out an hour later. Like my awesome new Halloween lights 🙁

For any important or valuable electrical thing that’s *not* a modern phone/computer, you’ll need a Step-Up/Step-Down transformer. Again, though they are heavy, you might want to buy one to bring along. You can buy one here at a store like MediaMarkt, but what if you arrive on some German holiday weekend when everything’s closed for five days? Or on a Sunday?

Stores aren’t open on Sunday, fool! And you can order it from Amazon.de, but they only deliver things sometimes. (See my post on Things I Hate About Germany for more on the unreliable postal systems).

Prescriptions for medicine: don’t bother to bring them!

Your US health insurance is worthless here. And you may not yet have secured one of the various European or UK insurances that are currently valid for Germany (constantly in flux, check Facebook). Those are really crisis coverage anyway.

So if you don’t have German health insurance, you can go to a doctor and for a like 35 euro visit they will write you what is called a “private” prescription. This is a prescription you can take to any Apoteke and use to get your medicine, which will be ridiculously, hilariously cheap even without insurance. You just hand the pharmacist your prescription and they hand you the box of meds- no waiting to “fill” it or count pills.

US doctors’ prescriptions are worthless here.

Also: there are Apotekes, where you get serious medicine, and there are drugstores like Rossman, where you get things like cough drops and makeup and toothpaste. Toothpaste and such is a little or a lot cheaper than in the US. Lots of medicines you can buy over the counter/off the shelf in the US you have to buy from a pharmacist (likely with face tats and earplugs) here. You just tell them your symptoms and they give you the right medicine. But that includes, huge surprise to Americans, ibuprofen. It comes in tiny packs of ten, costs a euro a pill, and they ask you if you familiar with this drug. So bring lots of Advil!

How do I go places?

I find it very helpful to think of Berlin within the RIng (equivalent to Manhattan and most of Brooklyn or the 7×7) as a clock face. The various transit vectors can be treated as clock hands. To use the transit system, you need a ticket, which is good for two hours in one direction. You MUST validate the ticket in the yellow validating machine next to the ticket sales machine before you start your trip. After two hours the ticket is just a piece of paper- it’s not reloadable.

Your ticket works interchangeably in the entire U-Bahn, S-Bahn, bus and tram systems; you only validate it once, at the beginning. There are also “kurzstrecke” tickets, cheaper tickets for a three-stop journey.

An easy way to start is to buy the 4-fahren deal, which is 4 tickets for 9 euros.

The subway, or U-Bahn, is a city-wide snarl of spiky vectors. It is open til midnight, which is to say the last train through each station leaves some time after midnight and generally before one. On Fridays and Saturdays it’s open all night. It runs both above and below ground. It is supported and interwoven with a kind of light rail system called the S-Bahn, which both runs through the city and forms the ring that defines the central city. The S-Bahn runs both above and below ground as well. Then there are buses, loads of nice clean constantly running buses, and in the East, the lovely clean speedy trams.

There are always at least two ways to get anywhere in Berlin, and often four or five.

Transit is fast and plentiful. Subways come every few minutes. There is an U-Bahn stop within a few blocks everywhere. In short, it is a real city, with real mass transit. And that includes taxis! You can hail a cab in many neighborhoods, just like you would in New York. Or you can grab one at the cab stand at the S-Bahn or a hotel. Or use some fucking app, I’m sure. If you call a cab on the phone, they have to come. And it’s fast.

If you flag a moving cab in the street, and you know you are going less than two kilometers, you can tell the driver you want a “kurzstrecke” or short trip. Then instead of running the meter, the driver drops the flag for a flat fee of five euros. It’s a great deal, especially since you only need to tip the common courtesy 10% or tip-the-change of Berlin. I like the cab drivers, though YMMV.

You can eat and drink whatever you want on the transit system, though technically it is forbidden, and get food from donuts to beer to noodles on the platforms. Speaking of food…

What can I eat?

By having our first vegan relo prospect we really experienced the difference between East and West Berlin. In the West, where we live, everything is easy and convenient and available for the lifestyle of a typical middle-class foodie urban American of the 1990s or Oughts. That is, you can get most kinds of food and excellent cheese at the supermarket, there are plenty of fancy shops for fancy European foods, teas, coffees, perfumes etc., and there are shopping malls that sell anything you would buy in the US.

There are nice organic grocery stores like Alnatura and BIO COMPANY everywhere of course, including West Berlin, but they are very expensive, almost ridiculously so compared to the discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl. And of course, all supermarkets are closed on Sunday, unless it is one of the designated Shopping Sundays! (There are actually also a couple supermarkets, at the big train stations, that are 24-7.)

At KaDeWe you can get pastries from the Berlin concession of the Parisian pâtisserie Lenôtre, and every other imaginable traditional European delicacy you’d get at Fauchon or Harrods. But not much vegan, let alone gluten-free or paleo. You have to go to the hip part of Schöneberg to get a green smoothie, an artisan chocolate with fennel pollen, or kale. And even at a trendy Charlottenburg juice bar like What do you fancy love?, the guacamole bagels had hidden cream cheese, unmentioned, on them.

If you are a person who wants to go out and get NY or San Francisco style trendy food, you had better land in the East.

In the Eastside neighborhoods that are full of expats, like Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain, you can get your third-wave coffee and your vegan cookie without much trouble. Same in Kreuzberg and, increasing daily, Neukölln. These neighborhoods also stay up later. But after midnight, if you want food you should have a plan. You will generally find only döner shops and spätis (like bodegas) open in most areas. Also, understand this: in much of Europe, closing times are not the sacred compact they are in the US. Restaurants close early, or aren’t open when the website says they are, or close because they ran out of something.

Don’t ever make a big plan around a destination restaurant meetup without someone who lives nearby walking over and actually checking they’re open. Our French bakery downstairs closes whenever they feel like it, at a different time every single day. And don’t run up on a place that’s closing and expect them to make an exception or help you at the last minute like one would in the US. They will laugh in your face. They’re not here for you!

Why are they so mean?!?

They’re not mean, they’re just not…wrapping everything in padding. The ameliorating, softening language of highly educated Americans is a huge time-waster to Germans. They simply don’t see a need to be anything but direct. Don’t waste their time with pleasantries and you will get along fine.

*why is there a drawing of a large gay man in a rather high quality blue latex bunny suit? Why, it’s Scotty the Blue Bunny introducing Amanda Palmer on Nov. 1 in Berlin!

Other posts in my “Moving to Berlin” series:

Happyfuntimes at the Foreigners’ Registration Bureau!

How to move to Berlin in 2016, Part 1.

Finding a flat in Berlin, in 2015.

How to move to Berlin in 2016 or 2017, part 2: Registration!

Mother, Maiden, Crone- the Ages of Woman at a Berlin bus stop.

mother-maiden-crone by Suzanne Forbes Sept 12 2016This is one of those lovely Berlin scenes I just got a quick look at.

Luckily, I had my mini sketchbook with me AND two of the women got on the bus with me, enabling me to get more details of their clothes. It was a Sunday afternoon in the West. The conked-out girl in the leather jacket was obviously walk-of-faming it back from a club night (in Berlin you wear sensible shoes to the club, not heels. I had to wake her up and tell her the bus was arriving, which she appreciated!).

I worked on the drawing over a couple of days and when I showed it to Daria she said it needed more space, the ladies needed to breathe.

She was absolutely right, of course. She also suggested I push the characters a little more- make the older German lady even more grouchy and vigilant, make the Muslim lady more clearly heading home to her family. So I photocopied it onto an A4 sheet and finished the details at the expanded size.sketches-wip-by-suzanne-forbes-sept-2016

I added a grocery bag beside the “Mother” lady, with a baguette to represent grain and Demeter.

I enhanced the frown of the “Crone”, who was really quite pissed off about the bus running late. And I added more leaves, to represent the cycle of life and Persephone.

sketches-wip-by-suzanne-forbes-sept-2016-When I copy an ink drawing I often take advantage of the opportunity to make any corrections with white-out tape, as you can see here. I redrew the Crone’s right hand so her fingers popped more against the black of the Maiden’s jacket.

I also used the white-out tape to eliminate the edges from the copying; the white line is where the drawing originally ended.

Sure, I could use Photoshop, but this is way faster than trying to launch any kind of photo-editing program on my poor little Chromebook!

A little old-time music, and Google Translate is in love with death.

suzanne forbes drawing 2015I made this drawing at the Barkin Kitchen Fish Fry, on a lovely deck overlooking the river in an area where artists have built their own apartment buildings.

These guys are The Curtis Tembeck Outlaw Party.

death machines - Edited

Also, Google Translate is scaring me tonight.

Instead of craigslist or regular eBay, most people here use eBay Kleinanzeigen to sell their stuff. It’s free local classifieds.

Because I am broke, insanely cheap, and still missing some 75% of the items one needs to run a household, I buy things there.

I just wanted a used food processor for 10 euros and a cheap dresser I could paint black.

grandma
Not anything to do with the founder of time.founder of time

yes chunksDisturbed, I went to another site and attempted to buy cat litter. (German cat litter SUCKS raw eggs.)

Look what you can get! Sure, we all know that’s what most canned cat food is, but do they have to be so blunt about it? They’re Germans, of course they do.cat sticks

If you think “Cat sticks” sounds like Pocky for cats, you are correct, and Morgan loves them.

 

I’ll leave you with this charming sentiment about cat litter: “What pleases the Stubentiger now?

what pleases the stubentiger now

Berlin is louche as fuck.

Original drawing by Suzanne Forbes June 2015Berlin is an amazing combination of good-citizen law-abidingness and cavalier scofflawry.

Obeying the law seems to be, iike many things in Germany, left to your good sense. You may have read that German people will shout at you if you cross the street on a red light; one phrase that they shout translates to “Think of the children (you monster)!”. It’s not actually so much about obeying the red light as setting a careful example to kids.

Besides, nobody in Berlin is in such a hurry that they really need to jaywalk.

The European sense that the law should be obeyed when appropriate and disregarded otherwise is particularly noticeable on the public transit system. Technically, it is illegal to eat, drink, drink alcohol or smoke on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses. Absolutely everyone ignores this.

Since you can get an espresso, a noodle stir-fry and a six-pack on the subway platform, it’s not difficult.Original drawing by Suzanne Forbes June 2015

(You can also get a pack of cigarettes, from an actual cigarette machine, but I haven’t seen anyone smoking on the transit system yet. )

You’ll be on the bus and someone will be eating a pastry; the person across from them will notice and remember that they have a sandwich in their bag. Pretty soon everyone is crunching away.

Here you see a picture of a girl cheerfully eating french fries- which you will note are SPECIFICALLY forbidden- while the ticket inspector gives her friend a ticket for riding without one, which everyone does all the time, of course. You can see my hand drawing the U-Bahn signs, which are hidden by the ticket inspector’s head.

I was waiting for her to offer him some fries, but she rudely did not.

I love all this lawlessness, of course. One of my patrons requested that I make some work about the similarity between Berlin now and New York in the 80s, so I drew this picture of me and my best friend Skenney and our friend Naomi on the subway in 1982 or ’83. We used frisbees as drink trays during our “Mobile Tequila Sunrise” phase; you can see Naomi is daintily adding the grenadine.NYC Subway early 80s Suzanne Forbes