Follow the Fellow #3

Monthly notes from Les Vynogradov

3. Mai 2024 | Les Vynogradov

Himmel über Berlin
©Les Vynogradov

In this series, inm fellow Les Vynogradov from Kyiv shares sonic, spatial, and existential explorations of Berlin. 

A storm is brewing on Revaler Straße. For some reason, its name makes me think of Disco Elysium and the city of Revachol. In this weather, as the sun is fighting with thunderclouds just like the spring is still struggling with the cold, the Revacholian vibes are ever more tangible.    

The area around Ostkreuz where I live now reminds me of so many fictional places. The Ring is like an Outer Rim on whose outskirts all sorts of unexpected encounters occur. As I walk from the station to my place, I see heavily tattooed utility workers enjoying an evening beer on the street, half-stoned ravers with the craziest hairstyles grabbing a bite at a döner joint, random tourists with the same suitcase on wheels looking for their Airbnb in a cozy Altbau, hipsters with dogs sipping natural wine in a recently opened minimalistically designed café, local dive regulars smoking a cigarette and decanting the third bottle of their booze du jour. One day I saw Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff, my teenage idols from the doomgaze band Nadja. One day I was passing by a guy who suddenly said, out of nowhere and very clearly, »I’m considering a move to Memphis in this case,« as if he got teleported from Jarmusch’s »Mystery Train«.

That’s what I love about Berlin the way I got to experience it so far. There is an undeniable beauty to this randomness and diversity. There is also a brand of ragged charm specific to Berlin that made it so popular, prompting other cities to aspire for the proverbial status of »New Berlins.« Kyiv was among them in the post-Maidan years when we saw a boom in the underground scene, food culture, and international tourism, wholeheartedly embracing the »poor, but sexy« ethos and aesthetic. Kyiv hipsters cringed at the pervading comparison, and yet, as the Russian full-scale invasion started and many Ukrainians ended up in Berlin, they named a popular Telegram group berlin—the new kyiv. The title is ironic, sure, but it came to mean two very real hopes Ukrainians had: that Berlin could become a new home, even if temporarily; and that it could be as cool as Kyiv.

Sexy, Berlin may still be. But poor? After several months of searching for an affordable place in the city, I have my doubts. Even here, at Ostkreuz, the Outer Rim energy is slowly fading away. Friedrichshain still has its punk haunts but the part I photographed is already a testament to the inevitable ossifying effects of gentrification.

A German friend asks me if I think Kyiv will become a »New Berlin« again after the war. I wish Kyiv to remain as vibrant and interesting as I know it to be, but the question in my head is: will Berlin ever become the New Berlin again?

…Revaler Straße keeps bugging me: what does it mean? A quick Google search brings the answer: Reval is the old German name of Tallinn, which happens to be home of ZA/UM studio behind Disco Elysium. Revachol is very likely a portmanteau of »Reval« and »Ravachol,« a French anarchist, making my initial association not so far-fetched, after all.

Tallinn is home to another remarkable artist: Kyiv-born Valentina Goncharova (how’s that for a segue?) who is coming to Berlin on 4 May to play at the Kiezsalon. Her experimental works from 1987–1991 were released as an exquisite 2-volume package by Ukrainian label Shukai in 2020, and I invite you to indulge yourselves in this soothing, dreamy soundscape of late-Soviet psychedelia.         

As a bonus gift from Ukraine, I urge you to read VAN Magazine’s incredible interview with Stas Nevmerzhytskyi, founder and editor-in-chief of The Claquers, Ukraine’s only media about classical music, who decided to join the army. Stas is truly a pillar of the Ukrainian new music scene and we look forward to his safe return home. The Claquers have a dedicated English-language section, so give them a read!   

»Follow the Fellow« – ermöglicht im Rahmen des Stipendienprogramms »Weltoffenes Berlin« von der Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt.

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