I have visited the crazy city of Berlin twice in the last few years, and both trips I have made sure to visit two places very close to my heart. A short walk away from each other in the area of Mitte, are the Ramones Museum and Bertolt Brecht’s grave and residence.
I grew up listening to the Ramones, and could quite easily pin them as my favourite band. So naturally when Dad tell’s me there’s a Ramones Museum in Berlin, of all places, I wanted to race there. And to make things better (and easier for travelling) it turned out that Bertolt Brecht, my favourite theatre practitioner, is buried in a cemetery not too far from the Ramones museum.
I know visiting a grave seems a bit morbid, but I had wanted to do something Brecht-related while in Berlin. However, Brecht’s Berlin is long gone, and much to my dismay most tourist attractions focus on the war or the wall, not the weird and beautiful era that preceded both those things, where Brecht did most of his work. Sure, I could have gone to see a cabaret show, but it wouldn’t be Brecht as such. And the Berliner Ensemble, whom Brecht’s founded, only perform in German, which was not much good to me. So I found the location of his grave, and it seemed to be the best I was going to get.
We set out early in the morning, using the S-bahn from our flat in Kreuzberg, over the river into Mitte. Upon arrival at the burial site of Brecht, we discovered that the building alongside the cemetery is in fact where he resided in his later years, after returning to Berlin after fleeing the Nazis (he was Jewish). Tours were available of the house, so we set off to the Ramones museum with intentions of coming back for a later tour.
The Ramones museum isn’t a big place, and it also’ doubles as a cafe, visited by many famous people. Four euros gives you a lifetime membership and pin. Much to the cafe assistant’s surprise, two years later I returned, flashed my pin and re-entered the museum free of charge! The museum was founded in 2005 by Flo Hayler, who owned a large collection of Ramones memorabilia in his apartment. The collection continues to grow in size, and the cafe regularly host live music events.
Naturally, that same day I returned to the Ramones museum, I returned to Brecht’s grave. I noticed a number of folded pieces of paper sitting around the headstone, amongst other nicknacks. I figured they were letters. So, I pulled out my notebook, and wrote a letter to the playwright myself. A weird thing to do, I know. But it was Brecht’s work that made me fall in love with theatre, and made me want to work in theatre myself. If you are not familiar with Brecht’s work, I highly suggest you read up on him. He created my favourite theatre convention, Epic Theatre, which followed his”Vertfremdunseffekt”, also known as the alienation theory. It worked to remind the audience they were watching a play, by unusual lighting, partial costumes, musical numbers or actors playing multiple characters, amongst other things.
I know for sure that when I return to Berlin (and I will return to Berlin, without a doubt), I will also return to these two places. When you love something as much as I love the Ramones and Brecht, once is never enough!