Ben’s Words

In Interview on October 31, 2010 at 6:01 pm

These were made up on the spot while we were doing the tour, so bare with me here. So, where were you before you moved to Berlin a couple years ago?

Um, well I’d been traveling around for about eight to ten months, but I’d lived in London for two months then I moved back down to the south of Germany for like a month just before I moved to Berlin.

Can you tell me about how you came to the decision to move to Berlin?

Um, well it was more a decision to leave New Zealand and maybe live in Europe for a while. I had a British passport, so I was able to do that, and I thought, maybe Berlin, maybe somewhere in Holland with a kind of open government and things like that, with a good art scene. But when I came to– I went to Amsterdam and it was alright, it wasn’t anything spectacular. But when I came through Berlin, it just kind of synced with me.

Is this still recording? [The mobile phone] Yes, it is. Thank goodness.


What’s something that you want to accomplish that you haven’t yet?

What? In Berlin or street art or–

Maybe an artistic goal?

Um.. I have, I mean a few projects that I would like to do that I’ve thought of over the past while, but also I want to get into tattooing. I’ve been teaching myself for the past couple years but I’d like to actually be in a studio.

That’s awesome.


You’re welcome. So, I wanted to ask you about the Alternative Tours. How do you think that, uh, the people that work in these places and hang out in these places feel about the idea of an ‘Alternative Tour’?

Um, I think there’s some mixed feelings about it, you know. Most places, places like this [Tacheles] are more than happy, you know. It’s not just Alternative Tours that come through here; there are all sorts of stuff that comes here, but this is the place that is open for tourists and people to come through anyway. Some people kind of get like, uppity about it like ‘oh, anti-gentrification’ or whatever, you know. But really the tours and tourists don’t make that big an impact.

And how do you personally feel about it?

Me? I think it’s a good service that, uh, the city needs. It’s basically like having a friend living in the city, you know, because we take you to the places you wouldn’t normally go unless you were living here. Or if you had friends living here that took you around. So it gives you easier access to those sorts of things. Berlin’s kind of underground thing is really pretty close to the surface, anyway, you know? It’s just kind of like a bridging gap.

When does living in Berlin feel its best to you?

Probably in summer– the end of summer. In the middle of the summer it gets a little bit hot and sticky and things like that, but yeah, summer in Berlin is amazing. The winters are horrible, but the summers are fantastic.

It’s interesting you took it in a temperature sort of way. [Laughs]

Yeah well, I don’t know, the kind of point is just that the summer is amazing in Berlin. It’s like one of the best times to be in Berlin. It’s wandering around and going to the parks and all that kind of stuff. Everything’s so much more open. There’s still the stuff that happens all the time in winter, you know, but uh, there’s just a million more things going on. All these parties and going, and things. So, it’s a good time to be in Berlin.

How about when do you think its at its worst?

Um, probably near the end of winter. When you’re basically inside with minimal light for six months or something like that. Especially if the winter eeks on a little bit, like it did this year. It gets a bit depressing. You need Vitamin D. And from my sight, everything else is pretty straight-forward. There are points in the winter, like especially with the tours, where money doesn’t come so, so easily. People don’t tip so much and things, and it starts to get a bit more difficult. Last January was really difficult– I only just scraped by, kind of thing. So, that’s another thing about winter, it can be a bit harsh as well.

Something I meant to ask you before that last set of questions was if there was anything you struggled with when you first started working on the tours.

Um… No– well, I mean there’s kind of the thoughts of whether or not you are aiding gentrification here and what some people are saying to you, like saying ‘oh, you guys are making it worse, bringing tourists’ and stuff like that. I kind of battled over that as well. But I think for the most part, I’ve realized that it’s not us that creates all these problems, but that’s pretty much it. There was the odd thing when people start ranting at you in German and your German wasn’t so good and you’re like, I don’t know if I’m supposed to leave or what. There’s always the language barrier as well.

Is there anything you think that has gone exceptionally well, from your point of view?

In the tours?

Like with the people or…

Like places that people like, or…?

Actually let me change my question altogether.


Um, is there anything that you’ve learned from doing these tours?

Well, I’ve definitely learned a hell of a lot more about street art coming into Berlin, obviously there’s street art everywhere. And uh, it kind of sparked my love for it. I’ve been doing these tours, you know, I’ve been talking about this stuff everyday and new things pop up, and definitely that kind of thing. Um, obviously I’ve had to learn a lot of the information that I’m giving. I’m always kind of learning new stuff about the history and things. I think I’ve probably taken away a lot from doing tours… Speaking in front of people. I haven’t had a problem with that for a while, but you know, you’re doing it everyday and it doesn’t become some kind of issue at all.

You get used to it.


What’s something you have to remind yourself often?

Um, what from? From doing the tours and things?

Just, um, in life. [Laughs]

In life? Something I have to remind myself.. uh, it’s all meaningless, you know. But not in a bad way. I try and remind myself that in a good way, that all the crap that happens doesn’t have to have meaning to add to it. A lot of people react to what someone will say and be offended by it because they’ve made it mean something that it doesn’t. And so I try to remind myself of that, and I do a pretty good job of it, or so I’d like to think, anyway. [Laughs]

That’s really interesting. That’s a good one.

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