Notes from Pictoplasma 2013: Berlin, a truly free city.
I recently made my first proper trip outside of the United Kingdom in order to attend this year’s Pictoplasma character festival, which I did so alongside two of my fellow friends; MrJimeLee and KDDoran. The festival was based in Berlin, Germany and it was certainly interesting to see how some everyday things differed in this country as opposed to back home. Probably the biggest of these differences was seeing people smoking outside and in social places, a sight that has been almost completely removed from sight here in Britain due to the public smoking ban.
Vehicles in Berlin drive on the right hand side of the road and this often led to some near misses whilst at the crossing, though not due to a confusion of where the traffic was coming from but rather the misunderstanding of the traffic light system. Here the green man indicates every man, car, cyclist and tram for itself. However, I was very impressed to see that they have a second smaller set of traffic lights at junctions specifically for the attention of cyclists. Almost all streets have cycle lanes or are open to riders, again something you wouldn’t see often in our city centre.
'The land of small dogs' as we came to know it over the week was another aspect of freedom in the city as you literally couldn't walk a few steps without seeing (or leaping out of the way of) a dog turd. I think perhaps this is something they could try to crack down on, but no one really seems to mind it.
Without a doubt the most striking thing about Berlin is the street art/graffiti, as there is not a single street in the city that doesn’t have at least several tags or doodles on the walls, windows, roofs and in some cases the parked cars. It definitely seemed like graffiti is openly welcomed and accepted, something which I could imagine in England would draw away the attention of youths who might otherwise turn to violence as a means of expressing their feelings or frustrations. Visiting the Neurotitan gallery in Haus Schwarzenberg as part of the festival character walk was quite a bizarre sight to see as every floor of the building staircase was covered from top to bottom with art, graffiti and random messages lost in time. This will be the enduring memory that I hold from my time in Berlin.