A year has passed since my nostalgic days in exile, grumping around my college campus while longing for the knifelike cold of a Berlin winter.
The appeal is hard to define. The daylight is fleeting, the sky is a muffled, expressionless grey, all the living color leaches out of the city—trees are starkly naked and skeletal, the buildings drab, the water a frozen mess in the river Spree. A cunning wind can slash through layers of wool, leather and down, finding the tip of a nose or an exposed wrist to chew with unrelenting chill.
Some people will tell you that Berlin is ugly in winter. But I missed its strange, devastating allure in my final year at Whitman. Berlin blooms in a way not seen in more mild climes. The most abandoned, ruined places become the most vibrant in the cold months, because on old warehouses, in decaying trainyards, on the hopeless buildings in the hinterlands beyond the Ringbahn, you find the most graffiti—and the graffiti brings the dead city to life. Layers upon layers of lurid paint, from the simplest smears built up over time to the most staggering works of street art.
This rough, gritty beauty brings me out into the cold, to wander the industrial wastelands and try to capture them on camera while the wind gnaws at my fingertips.
A few snapshots:
Photos copyright of Caitlin Hardee. May be used with attribution for non-commercial purposes under Creative Commons.