BertaSite Bright Block

For a while I tried bouldering on a gorgeous strip of dressed stone wall in Iranische Str. The stink of piss in the corner, dog shit everywhere, occasional human shit and general skankiness triumphed over my desire to start climbing again, even with occasional visits to various Kletterhallen. Berlin, sandy, flat is not a city for climbers.

About a year ago I made a new effort, and discovered a whole bouldering hall had grown itself barely 15 minutes bike ride from the Uferhallen: Berta Block. I went there about once a week in spring last year, then again in December. That, and Jungfernheide around Flughafen Tegel (ok, and Friday’s market with fresh lamb and smoked fish) are big reasons for living in Wedding. Over the other side of town, south of the Spree in Kreuzberg, it’s a little slim on forests. Climbing though. another 15 minute bike ride and there’s Bright Site. I’ve been there a few times now, and seeing as I haven’t written on climbing in a long time, here we go.

There’s another climbing hall in Wedding, much closer, which I only went to twice, kinda unfriendly and charges for climbing by the hour (lol, whut? I know!), and the bouldering was uninspiring. Berta Block though, and this played a large part in getting me along in the first place, costs a measly 6€ if you get there before 1pm. Me, fitting in my training in the morning thought that was well tasty. Bright Site, which I thought was 9€ across the day (same as Berta’s standard) turned out to also have the cheapies when I arrived earlier in the week (and it opens an hour before Berta, at 10am. I know! Awesome!)

I was biking home thinking about both places, and comparing them, so this is something of that, what’s similar, what’s different, what I like (well, 6€ morning bouldering in excellent local halls is what I like). Berta is around twice as big, and twice as high, though the walls are only slightly higher. Bright on the other hand has massive windows running the length of both long sides on its first floor home. Both have cafés and stretching/yoga/training areas, Berta’s upstairs on a mezzanine (Bright might also have a second area downstairs at the far end of the café. I haven’t properly looked). Both have music nights, competitions, training evenings, tend to be full of families with small kids on the weekends (less so for Bright in the week mornings), and have a pretty similar feeling, enough that I could imagine them to be connected.

So what’s different? Bertha also has more routes, not just because of the extra square metres, they have swimming pools full of holds, and most walls have a few to several routes overlaying each other. The actual climbing feels significantly different, which the blisters and flappers on my fingers from Bright seems to prove. I think Bright is much more bouldery in route construction, often with those weird final or crux moves that are either psychologically tough, dynamic, awkward, or otherwise unusual. Bertha feels often like sections from longer climbs, where the entire route is in one style, fingery, slopers, laybacks, balancey, but not often going from one to the other, and only psychologically unsettling within that, which has led to regular What the Fuck moments at Bright I haven’t had since climbing in China.

Bright is also physically harder on hands (except for the fingery vertical stuff), and the colour-coded grading feels more spaced and sometimes erratic. Berta uses the Fontainebleau (numeric) grading and seems to have more variety of easier and mid climbs, though that might also be my current state of climbing improficiency.

What else? Well, entirely subjectively, the music is better in Bright. I’ve heard the usual generic beats at both, but at Bright everything from classical western to classical Indian to American folk. Both are almost completely absent of broulderers, plus a lot of women in both (and families and ankle-biters), which might just be a local thing, I dunno, but it’s kinda nice. And yeah, both are super-friendly.

I’m a long way from climbing like I used to, and do miss the millimetre edges of my old railway bridges in Balaclava, but both these places have reminded me how much I love climbing, the pleasure and calm it brings, attached to the world by fingertips and toes alone. It was always the one thing I never thought about too much, analytically or otherwise, the way I have with all things around dance; it’s just something I do, which I missed these last years with no regular, nearby place to go. So, yay to both Bertablock and Bright Site!


Dasniya at Männer in Garagen

Last night Dasniya made a 10-minute performance in the Männer in Garagen Festival around the corner-ish in Pankow. I wish I was capable to write something as brilliant as Megan Vaughan’s on Teh Internetz … sadly, no. Here are some rather average photos of what was a hilarious and smart performance that deserves to be 40 (or 100) minutes long. Oh, and when I saw Dasniya trying out costume ideas a couple of days ago, it reminded me of those comically high-collared space opera get-ups of Blake’s 7. Servalan is right to be afraid.


Noblisse Oblige — Mata Hari

From November last year, when I met Valquire, and Valerie and Sebastian from Noblisse Oblige and choreographed for their music video. I’ve had this for a while and seeing I’m doing an afternoon of non-work in front of screen, thought it was about time I put it here.

  • Noblesse Oblige – Mata Hari
  • A music video by Valquire Veljkovic
  • Prop design: Isabel Simões
  • Grip assistant: Jean Pidré
  • Clothes: Tata Christiane
  • Assistant Tata Christiane: Linnéa Broo Andersen
  • Dance choreography: Frances d’Ath
  • Dancers: Kaddish, Kana Tanaka, Nils Freyer, Elle Erdman, Irene Gonzáles, Elsa Loy
  • Special appearance: Udo Wiegand
  • Special thanks: Brina Stinehelfer, Nikolaus Schneider
  • A valconsprojects production

Music and lyrics written by Valerie Renay, Sebastian Lee Philipp
Mata Hari appears on the Noblesse Oblige Album Affair of the Heart


hadlichstraße… a cigarette dancing factory

I often muse on how dance takes me into peculiar, old, strange, uninhabited, alien places. Old cities are amassed with such edifices, fenced off usually, or only indirectly accessible, perhaps better to say neither a public space and so restricted, nor a private space and so open to whoever crosses the boundary.

These kind of places suffer eventually two fates, that of gentrification, and so excluding and pushing out whatever made them seductive in the first place, or demolished, and so remaining only in memory, or perhaps an unremarkable plaque. I do like that my life affords me the pleasure of trespassing upon their grounds, and maybe even playing there a little.

I’ve been taking class at Sasha Waltz the last couple of days, in a factory that has been re-imagined as a performance space. Across the Spree are several Fabriks, the one bordered by Schwarzer Kanal, others stretching the length of the river, as yet unclaimed except by punk squatters I can see from the fifth floor while warming up, their two dogs running in a joyous morning exuberance, them sitting in the shade of a large tree. I wonder how to find a way in to these buildings with their monstrous brick chimneys and air of immanent collapse.

I walked from there to Marameo, finding Daniel, Clint, then later we went north on the S-bahn to Pankow, and along Hadlichstaße, the empty remains of an industrial baron’s cigarette factory that may become the second home of Dock11. We enter from the side, and waiting for Paea, I go for a walk. I should have gone further, because each new corner, like cresting a hill or ridge takes me further into an unknown world. Instead I learn some movement of Daniel for a piece he’s making for Paea and Clint. Dance. Daniel’s dance.