Wildcarpets

Interview  Peer Martiny

Your birthplace lies at the foot of the Swabian Alb, which is certainly not a place directly connected with the world of carpets. How did your great affinity for them come about?

Already as a student I tried to earn my own money on trips, and to think of ideas that connected beautiful or romantic things. I came upon the idea of amber, which the Germans had sold to the Romans via the Amber Road—blonde hair and amber were the export hits of the Germanic traders in Rome—but it was only possible to buy amber in Gdansk after the fall of the Berlin Wall. During my first visit to Tibet I’d noticed that amber is of enormous importance for Tibetans, because Baltic amber also reached Tibet and China in ancient times via the Silk Road. I purchased unprocessed amber and worked it on Lamma Island in Hong Kong, with a friend of mine who owned an amber cutting shop for the Tibetan taste. I tried to sell these pieces in Tibet, but also in Mexico and in New York, for example. In Tibet the difficulty was in trading amber for cash, which was almost impossible. The Tibetans were very interested in bartering though, and as I’d been travelling in this cultural area since 1983 I already had a well-functioning network, so the amber became my first currency for buying carpets.

So how did you start making money?

Already on the second trip to Tibet I had some, because after trading the carpets for amber I’d sold them in Berlin at the flea market on June 17th, immediately and without any hassle, and also through the daily newspapers. The interest in antique Tibetan carpets was great. The main market for these carpets was in Hong Kong, which was still British at that time and had a large number of people who were trying to do business with the half-closed China; there was no Shanghai or Beijing as we know it today.

"Many of these people were bored and some of them collected things like old porcelain, furniture, carpets and textiles."

It was very interesting for me to buy carpets and textiles in Tibet at that time and to sell them in Hong Kong, fast and maybe a little too cheap. But the profit was always good enough to keep up my small trade and to learn a lot, so these were the beginnings of the flying carpet merchant.

Was there any certain place which you particularly appreciated?

That was without a doubt the Snowland Hotel in Lhasa, which I regret to say no longer exists today, as it was demolished by the Chinese in the course of an “old town renovation”. I’d rented the top floor of the Snowland with a handful of colleagues and we merchants sat together in the evening showing our new acquisitions and discussing them. We were all, in this international round, of one vintage: the year of the dragon. I received visits from merchants who, like me today, owned a shop somewhere in the world, but only had a week or a few days to buy carpets, so it could happen that I bought a carpet in the morning and sold it to a New York gallery owner in the afternoon. I sent many of my pieces to Kathmandu to have them cleaned and restored; in Kathmandu there was a very active expat community and it was very popular at that time, the luxury hotels always fully booked. Tibetika sold well and Tibet was very strongly represented in the media all over the world. My mentor in Kathmandu was Bob van Grevenbroeck, and it’s fair to say that he made the Tibetan carpet presentable. Bob was a great stroke of luck for me, but unfortunately he died far too soon. But I was also aware that this mood would not last forever in Lhasa and Kathmandu, so I soon collected the pieces which I thought were very special, and had them sent to my apartment at Rosenthaler Platz in Berlin.

So Berlin was a safe haven for you?

I didn't necessarily want to be a dealer for Tibetika, which would have been difficult to realize with the small collectibles from Tibet. I preferred to become a carpet dealer who could offer a wide range of oriental, authentic and decorative carpets, because I also wanted to give space to my inclination to furnish. I must also have had a desire to settle down after living nomadically for so many years, and so it was obvious to open my shop in Berlin-Mitte. That was in 1998.

Did your interests broaden as a result?

I work in this respect without restriction. Whether its an Anatolian kilim in minimalist style, or a Persian Heriz with a large central medallion, or an Art Deco carpet of Chinese origin with floral decorations, the carpet must please and enrich the respective living situation. Since the mid-90s I’ve also been interested in Moroccan Berber carpets. These had already found their way into the work of Bauhaus and Scandinavian architects and harmonized with the furnishings of classical modernism. Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Charles and Ray Eames are just three examples.

"These carpets met the taste of my generation in a special way, influenced by the so-called Mid-Century styles."

Why do you think that is?

It’s partly due to their ‘archaic minimalism’, which marks a break with the sober, clear furnishing concept of the Western Europeans. Often it’s just about the texture. Within the Berber group there are carpets that strongly correlate with our understanding of art. Artists such as Tal R, for example, see much more in these carpets than I could, since they look at them with a purely artistic eye. Also gallerists such as Nicole Hackert and Bruno Brunnet have discovered these carpets as a collection area. In our Western understanding, the carpet is not an object of art in itself, although it has been part of the Western furnishing culture for centuries. This tension between near and far is repeatedly taken up by artists; Jeppe Hein recently used forty carpets of mine in a performance at the Galerie Johann König in Berlin. I also occasionally develop exhibitions in my rooms on different topics, such as the Afghan war; carpets in whose pictures the current war traumas of the Afghan people are reflected, such as by replacing a Granatapfel design with a pattern of hand ridges. My interest in the deeper meaning of the carpet is an essential reason for my curiosity about them, but this interest is not absolutely necessary to find pleasure in a carpet, if it can develop its decorative power convincingly.

Is there any one carpet that holds a special attraction for you?

The carpet trade has always been a relatively small market segment; it’s always been ‘Internet’ because it could only be operated internationally. In 1993 I purchased a fragment of a carpet in Tibet, fortunately a central part of an original carpet that had been cut up for reasons unknown to me. Two years after purchasing the first fragment, I was able to buy another fragment in Tibet with the same motif, which I thought was a different carpet until I realized it was a second piece of the first one. Two years later I discovered another segment in New York, in a photograph. Two years after that I discovered another section in Kathmandu. The carpet comes from Khotan, an oasis city in the Taklamakan desert, and is extremely rare. Khotan was the Buddhist center of the Silk Road until about the eleventh century, and its carpets reflect influences from the entire Silk Road. I now own seven parts, almost the entire carpet, which I’ve collected in Asia, Europe and the USA. My special relationship to this piece tells a lot about the carpet trade, and about us traders’ associated passion for hunting.

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Nobelhart und Schmutzig

Just a few metres away city outbound, a few steps from the tourist haven of Checkpoint Charlie, across from the southern exit of the Kochstraße U-Bahn, stands a storefront whose actual business can’t be easily gleaned. It could be anything. The offices of a small but self-confident guild, a casting agency or a shadowy massage parlour. You step closer, ring the bell, a friendly person opens the door, welcomes you, and suddenly you are standing before a greyish, ceiling-high wall and seem to be in a much-too-narrow hall. The friendly person takes your coat and finally leads you around the ominous grey wall. A restaurant!

Indeed, Berlin’s “brutally local” locale, the thirty-seat horseshoe of Nobelhart & Schmutzig. The designation “brutally local” signifies the further development of local food and also a practical criticism of the concept of regionality, which, so watered down by tourism, often means little more than “regionally washed.” In the middle of the horseshoe, the Michelin-star kitchen. In the kitchen, a busy but by no means hectic bustle, no noisy pushing around of pots or clanging of dishes, no loud or continual talking by the staff. Concentration on the essentials. Muted music plays with dignity from a record player. You assume your seat at the horseshoe, look around at the other guests, give yourself over to considerations and estimations. Hear numerous languages. Berlin’s “brutal locale” is a cave.

Cooled birch water, tapped from a birch tree in Prenzlauer Berg. Fresh, soft and velvety. A stimulating start to the only menu, one of ten courses. As you learn, some 45 local and regional suppliers provide this place with clean and pure products. Though it is not defined what is still considered regional and what is not. Whether chicken eggs, fingerling, lamb or goutweed, behind each product stands a person with a clear opinion on purity and how the particular thing is to best grow and flourish. “Brutally local.” A self-given label that would be fatal for music, for painting, for art, even for life itself, since coexistence, influence, stimulation and inspiration are everything.

“Brutally local” is hard to keep up when it comes to wine and coffee.

The international wine list and the sommelier’s guidance are excellent, inspired and full of surprises and originality. It is also a major accomplishment to attend to non-alcoholic drinks and their food pairings with equal earnest. Elstar apple juice with pine needles and a lilac-hay juice are just two examples.

Spelt sourdough bread from Sironi with dated raw-milk butter, self-explanitory and delightful and a obliging tie-over for hungry patrons all too impatient to begin. Trout, drained and dried for five days, accompanied by onions prepared in whey. “On point!” your tastebuds cry, though you have no comparison. Evidence is the term in philosophy. But that is the point: to create dishes, meals, combinations that become their own references, not continually compared to other things. Guests must be open to this. “If you have three colors, paint with two,” Picasso said. Here at Nobelhart & Schmutzig it seems they know this sentence, as a random selection from the menu shows:

Egg / Mustard. Pike / Bay Boletus. Red Beet / Parsley. Schwarzkopf Lamb / Green Asparagus. Only the producer of the base product is listed additionally in a slightly smaller font. These producers also have their own histories and stories, as we have long known and long to know about winemakers. “Return the face and history to food, too!” might be the motto. Let’s try it! Nobelhart & Schmutzig shows us what that might look like.

Go see for yourself. Forego pepper, espresso machines and chocolate for an evening. There is much to discover. PM

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TTA15 Privacy Dinner with Horizn and Beats

Angelika Taschen and Marco Velardi

Paul Snowden and Christophe Chemin

Polina Sova

Marta González, Maryama Luccioni, Dauwd Al Hilali

Jan Werner, Dustin Hanke

Juno Meinecke, Theresa Genth, Roman Schramm

Vladimir Trisic and Angelika Taschen

Romy Pope and Patricia Bondesson Kavanagh

Avelina Boateng

Anuthida Ploypetch and Richy Koll

Seiji, Marcus Rossknecht and Romy Pope

Emily McDermott and Johann Courgibet

Maryama Luccioni and Dauwd Al Hilali

Paul Kominek and Polina Sova

Ildiko Dienesch

Photography by Markus Ortmanns

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TTA&Reference Studios present "Privacy" at Silencio Club

Valentina Nemchenkova

Veletina

Valentina Nemchenkova

Venus X

Juergen Teller

Juergen Teller

Jonathan Taylor & Katrice Dustin

Jonathan Taylor & Katrice Dustin

Paul Kominek

Julie Ellen Günbil

DJ Pawel

Maria Carvalho

Maxime Ballesteros

Maxime Ballesteros

Venus X

Tim Neugebauer

Marta González

Photography   Adrian Crispin

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Monumental Cemetery

Photography  Marta González

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Israel by Kira Bunse

Photography  Kira Bunse

Text   Giulio Perticari

This May Israel celebrates 70 years of statehood. From the first week of independence, the nascent Jewish state had to fiercely defend from its neighbors the blurring boundaries that the United Nations had delineated, and this has become an integral aspect of the Israeli national identity ever since. Palestinian leader Arafat used to claim that the two blue stripes in the Israeli flag represent the rivers Nile and Euphrates, the boundaries of the land God promised to the Jews. This of course is nonsense. The design derives from a traditional Jewish prayer shawl, the Talit. However, it represented a charged rhetorical weapon to talk about the disputed territory and allege that Israel’s territorial aspirations are grounded in religious nationalism. After the murder by an ultra-Zionist in 1995 of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister who signed the Oslo I Accord that recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization as partner in territorial negotiations, the discourse about state borders became the most divisive subject within Israeli society. Recently, even an Israeli star like Natalie Portman, who is an outspoken supporter of the state, has criticized the current conservative government for violence carried out on the Gaza Strip, the Arab territory that is walled-off from the rest of the world. Moreover, many prominent Israelis such as writer Amos Oz have criticized settlement policy of development and expansion of Jewish areas on occupied Palestinian land for making the dual state solution untenable. In Jerusalem, the city the United Nations recognizes as being above all nations, it becomes clear that the border is even more sedimented in people’s minds than in reality. Tourists can seamlessly go from east to west, without even noticing where the boundary lies. But locals are very aware of it, not only because the documents they possess dictate where they are allowed to move, but, regardless of political faction, religion or nationality, they all know how to cold read the border on each other’s faces, clothes, accents, movements and names.

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Hotel Brunelleschi

Florence, with its aura of ancient mystical spirits, that still inhabit the walls and dark alleys of the historic city center, draws in millions of culture thirsty travelers from around the world each year. Not only during the Pitti fashion weeks, all throughout the Summer season, “regular tourists” battle with fashion and art crowds and school classes for a room at the hotels and inns of the city. Accommodation within the ancient center is limited and so prices can reach dizzying heights during those peak weeks. Some places however retain a good balance of quality, location and price, even during those fiercely competitive times. One such hotel is the Brunelleschi, named after Italian designer and engineer Filippo Brunelleschi, modestly called one of the founding fathers of the Renaissance. Set in a circular Byzantine tower in a medieval church, the hotel offers history not only around its premises, but also right within. Underneath the Pagliazza Tower, the oldest part of the hotels structure, significant historic relics were uncovered and are now made available for interested guests as part of the hotels own museum. For more modern needs, the hotel offers a state of the art fitness center, which was conspicuously empty during our stay. This probably due to the fact that most Florence visitors collect their miles on the way to dinners, exhibitions or other forms of entertainment that can only be reached on foot.

Rooms at the Brunelleschi are very heterogeneously furnished, which gives the hotel a bit of a ragbag touch, not without charm and the occasional surprises. Some rooms feel very modern, almost corporate, others seem to have functioned as the set of a Fellini movie.

Staff is well mannered and fairly helpful. The bellmen in particular are readily available to walk a considerable distance in case you got lost and desperately parked your car somewhere in the cobbled alleys that surround the hotel. Which brings us back to the main plus of Il Brunelleschi, which is its location, location, location. Few hotels can put “direct views onto the Duomo” onto their list of highlights. And although just a few of the suites offer that privilege, most guests will most likely prefer to descent into their quiet chambers undisturbed and dream of the mystical spirits that surround them.  PK

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Gucci Garden

 

Piazza della Signoria, 10, 50122 Florence - ☏ +39 055 7592 7010- www.gucci.com

One of Alessandro Michele’s most beloved and used symbols is the snake, “which slips in everywhere, and in a sense, symbolizes a perpetual beginning and a perpetual return.” Like the alchemic image of the Ouroboros, Michele’s aesthetic integrates past and present in a loose way, as if time were nonlinear because references and knowledge possess that quality. The snake is a polysemic archetype in Western culture, appearing, for instance, in the most significant scene in Genesis, where, in the Garden of Eden, the snake tempts the first humans to value judgments: moral, aesthetic, social…with emotional byproducts such as shame but also taste.

These are some of the reasons that pushed Michele to rebrand the old Gucci Museo as Gucci Garden, a garden of luxury by Gucci, a paradise of consumerist pleasure. Gucci Garden is housed in the Palazzo della Mercanzia, a former tribunal for business affairs that dates back to 1337, facing Piazza della Signoria, the most important square in Florence and by temporal proxy of the Renaissance. With Gucci Garden, Michele does not only want to materialize the top brick-and-mortar Gucci retail experience, with a showcase of pieces from the brand’s past and products that are exclusively sold there, but he also makes the case in point of Gucci’s determination to display its humanist principles: that of private patronage of the municipality - 50% of each ticket sale will be donated to support restoration projects in the city of Florence; that of sponsorship of the arts - Michele reimagined the museum as a “living, collaborative and creative space,” where he invited artists to decorate and exhibit their work, in retail and dedicated spaces, such as the red-velvet tented cinema auditorium called Cinema da Camera. The highlight of these collaborations is the one with chef Massimo Bottura, internationally famed for his three-Michelin-star Osteria Francescana. Bottura was invited to open an intimate restaurant on the ground floor, the Gucci Osteria, for which he created a menu that takes influences from his travels applied to Italian cuisine. Even here the space is used to stress the link between the house, Florence and its past, with golden lettered lines of a 15th-century carnival song by Lorenzo de’ Medici, the patron par excellence.

During Pitti Uomo this June, Gucci opened two new rooms that will host special presentations as an addition to the permanent collection in the other spaces. The inaugural exhibition is an installation dedicated to the work between Björk and Alessandro Michele for the video The Gate (2017), with the emphasis on the dresses that Björk wore in the bucolic and futuristic landscapes of the film.

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Piazza dei Ciompi

Piazza dei Ciompi 50122, Florence - ☏ +39 055 328 3513

There’s something beautifully nostalgic about open air markets in Italy; about the rundown stalls, the chaos, the life - especially in summer, with the sun beating down on your back as you sift through the objects laid out in front of you, hunting for a treasure that you don’t know what it looks like but you feel it is there, waiting for you to discover it and give it a new home and purpose.

While always an open-air market selling excellent fruit, vegetables and the occasional knick-knack, on the last Sunday of the month the legendary Piazza dei Ciompi flea market descends on the area of St. Ambrogio, engulfing the daily regulars and creating a distinctive buzz and energy in the air.

On this day you’ll find everything from skeleton keys and old cracked Tiffany lamps to vintage designer bags and hats; people young and old, locals and tourists, families and friends all come together to stroll through the cobblestoned streets appreciating, touching and debating their findings

. What used to be a quiet Florentine alleyway that housed two scooters and a clotheshorse strung with laundry drying in the sun, is now reminiscent of a Moroccan souk, filled with the smell of old leather, colorful fabrics and energetic hand gestures - a language in themselves passed down through generations of Italians.

While you never know what you will find when entering Piazza dei Ciompi, one certainty is that you will find Paolo’s stall where he sits in the shade surrounded by his cases and cases of vintage books for sale. Yellowed pages, cracked spines and torn corners force you to look past the book cover - which has been held so many times that the lettering is faded beyond legibility - and into the book itself, transporting you for a split second into another era. And just for that moment you glimpse out of the corner of your eye a horse-drawn carriage bringing two noble women back from their afternoon at their country estate in the Chianti hills. Paolo adds his own magic to your vision as he recounts, in his broken english, the stories of the people who sold him the books, of the many faces he has seen crossing the threshold of his wooden bookstore. Who will ever know if those people really existed or if they are all characters, part of Paolo’s own novella that he continues to develop day after day like the " cantastorie " that roamed these same streets centuries before you and I looking for inspiration for their evening performances. CB

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Grunewald Graveyard

Standing at the edge of the Grunewald forest, one hardly feels that this place is still Berlin. Past a certain invisible line to the west, the city is suddenly stripped of all urban appearance, exemplifying the phenomenon of Villenkolonie—neighborhoods that were never reconstructed as eastern socialist suburbs and so retain a distinctly pre-suburban, village-like character.

The landscape opens onto vast straps of water and deep woods where the well maintained villas of the wealthy hide away, and the occasional contemporary glass cube appears beside classical mansions with porches. The road runs to the waterfront of the river Havel, where boats sway all year long; confused, one walks along the woods and the river for a while until realizing finally that there will be no sign to indicate directions, and so one chooses the entrance into Grunewald forest at random. Inside, the trees are dense, identical—sometimes the unsure eye of an urban dweller catches the silhouette of a wild boar, with its massive mane and long tail, and since there is no other soul in sight, the walker increases pace with an uneasy feeling. GPS shows a vast blank field of emptiness, and somewhere in the depth of it, a small island marked as Friedhof Grunewald-Forst. After several wrong turns and an increasing feeling of absurdity, one finally sees it—the stone arch of an entranceway. Here, deep in the woods, is a cemetery for suicides. And one of them is the international adventurist, femme fatale and Velvet Underground singer Nico.

"Despite the somewhat spooky story of the place that explains its remote location (suicides who drowned in the river were buried here as outcasts), one feels relief after stepping into its walled off territory"

Despite the macabre back story of the cemetery and its remote location (suicides who drowned in the river were buried here as outcasts), one feels relief inside its walled off territory—a hand-drawn picture of a wild boar, pinned to the door, confirms the visitor’s previous fears. A couple of Chinese tourists wander among the old graves, reading details on tombstones, and they’re here for the historic legacy of the place and for the graves of Russian prisoners of war, oblivious to Andy Warhol’s muse. After searching through a couple of rows, one sees candles and flowers at what must unmistakably be Nico’s grave, with a simple black square that bears her real name, Christa Päffgen. In the peaceful quiet of the moment, one contemplates the fate of a woman whose star carried her from war-devastated Berlin to bohemian New York, and to Warhol and Lou Reed, and Alain Delon with whom Nico had a child. The singer is buried here with her mother in Grunewald forest, far from everything that shot her to fame, in a strange reminiscence of another forest outside Berlin, where she was partially deafened as a teenager, during World War II—the reason behind the sometimes charmingly off-key notes in her songs. One reluctantly leaves the haven of the cemetery and, on the way back, one fights the urge to run. MY

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Thermen am Europa Center

If you’re yearning for a compact and concentrated impression of the old West Berlin oft decried as “cheesy,” you need look no further than the rooftop of the Europa Center in Charlottenburg. Home to Berlin’s largest sauna complex since 1970, it remains today as one of the West’s oddest cultural-historic relics of the Cold War era.

"Tuff stone walls, kitschy antique statues, and waterfalls whisk the visitor back through time to the era of Fordism, when getting fit after work was not yet a concept"

The baroquely labyrinthine interiors make it clear that it never had anything to do with modern ideas of “fitness” or “wellness”; instead it provides a traditional way to unwind after work. Tuff stone walls, kitschy antique statues, and waterfalls whisk the visitor back through time to the era of Fordism, when getting fit after work was not yet a concept. The old gentlemen in bathrobes, playing cards in the brown wood-paneled restaurant areas, too, are like monuments to another epoch. And here you are afforded a taste of the culinary predilections of West Berliners in the 1970s; you would be hard pressed to find dishes such as Bienenstich cake, Herrentoast (a vintage concoction of toast, meat and melted cheese), “fiery goulash,” and pungent Harzer cheese with onions and caraway on the menus of modern spas. The same can be said for the numerous warning signs: “It is frowned upon to reserved seats in the sauna; please refrain!” Indeed, the baths are not informal. And yet: the many steam baths, herbal saunas, and Finnish saunas offer unsuspected delights in various temperatures. After the 100-degree Finnish session (during which the master of ceremony strictly forbids even the quietest of whispers), it is simply divine to float in the exterior salt-water pool or to stroll along the terrace. From there you have a great view of the Gedächtniskirche and the ever-turning Mercedes star on the Europa Center roof. To your heat-scalded senses, it might even seem for a moment that the Wall never fell and punk never happened. AL

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Diener Tattersall

Under the rumbling trains at Savigny Platz on a street just off the tourist spots of Kurfurstendamm, artists, filmmakers and theatergoers have been gathering or more than fifty years at an old-fashioned kneipe, under a green sign that reads ‘Diener Tattersall.’

As you step inside through a red velvet curtain, a waitress employs the precise enthusiasm required to distinguish her attitude from outward rudeness, and leads you into the dining room. The scene that meets the eye has an immediate cinematic quality: in old-fashioned interiors that have stood still since the 1960s, there is no music—only the clanking of knives and forks and different conversations heard all at once, like memories of New German Cinema, and darkened with time, the tobacco-brown walls bear drawings of equestrian hunting scenes that trace back to the building’s past as a horse-riding school, of which the mysterious word Tattersall (livery stable) is a vague reminder.

"The Diener menu ignores modernity in favor of the kind of simple German cuisine that’s hard to find these days: the majority of it consists of meat products and potatoes, and fresh vegetables are a rare treat."

The tables are covered with unashamedly stained tablecloths, upon which the waitress serves the famous in-house liver sausage, mashed potatoes with eggs in mustard sauce, Black Forest ham, Nuremberg bratwurst with sour cabbage and shots of classic Mampe Halb & Halb schnapps. As you chew on sausages, you look around at the clientele, intelligentsia in their sixties, coming here after a play at the nearby Stage Theater of the West, and glance at the walls covered with photographs, newspaper clippings and sketches of the previous owner, a heavyweight boxer champion called Franz Diener. Loud bursts of merriment can be heard from the back room, where a door constantly opens and closes to reveal pennants of football teams and clouds of smoke—to which those who added a couple of beers to their schnapps retreat.

As you pay at the antiquated bar, the waitress shows no intention of giving you back your change. Before leaving, you can’t help but ask her about Fassbinder, who put this place on the map of bohemian West Berlin. She casually confirms that the filmmaker was a frequent guest indeed, indicating a picture of him on the wall, among numerous portraits of other artists and personalities who frequented the place. A graying, disheveled man points at the corner and confirms that there was Fassbinder’s place at the round table, and by the man’s authoritative air you intuitively guess that you’re speaking to the owner. Leaving once again through the red curtain, you hear the man and his company begin a conversation about Fassbinder and the times he spent here: no doubt stories too old and wild for the stranger’s ears. MY

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