We were one of thousands on the Berbelplatz, Berlin, on a warm October night. My husband had kissed me lightly on my cheek as we passed a street musician praising his love to a girl, who was as dear to him as his bicycle. He might have been left unnoticed as people’s attention was drawn upwards to admire the illuminated buildings, if only it hadn’t been for the chain of bright lights that marked his spot on the pavement and spiraled around his microphone stand. The one-person-band played the guitar with a passion. With the stomp of his foot, setting the pulse to the beat of the drum and cymbal he had strapped on his back, he joined in on the rhythm of the clapping. He was smiling from ear to ear as the city had transformed into his glowing stage.
At the Festival of Lights, Berlin had been taken apart and put back together in a different way. Popular landmarks, such as the Fernsehturm (TV Tower), the Dome or the Brandenburger Tor had been re-sculpted from light and digital effect. While before they were a popular tourist attraction by themselves, they now became part of something creative and bright. “Creating Tomorrow” was the festival’s theme.
Artists had been exploring the seemingly limitless possibilities of a palette of colors and interpreted historical buildings in a modern and trendy fashion. Holding hands at the Berbelplatz, where a 360 degree animation had been put together, I couldn’t feel happier. My eyes were jumping from one sight to another. Animated frames in a playful rococo style lit up in bright colors at the university building, while its columns were decorated with blue and purple flowers, turning the top of the building into a bright night sky. Above throned neon green statues of fighters on horses. On the opposite site, on the walls of the opera building, women with puffy white 18th century wigs and powdered noses danced around the columns.
Weeks before the celebrations began, the illuminations on the Brandenburger Tor had already been set up. In that night’s animation, common ivy grew up the historic monument. The leaves disintegrated, but what stayed were its twisted roots that transformed into the dreadlocks of a woman overlooking the crowd.
At the Dome, equally spectacular lights were displayed. In one moment, it appeared that the building crumbled into dust, falling to the ground like a theatre curtain leaving nothing but the main fundament. Later, the Dome would magically transform into a robot with rotating hands and a round head where the cupola stood.
My favorite was the old town house. Slides with regular patterns, such as pineapples, flamingos or flowers, were portrayed on its rectangular shape. It was simplistic, but the pictures themselves were wild. The pinkish touch turned the no-looker into a Barbie dream house. And might this be Barbie’s office?
The color had brought out something beautiful that I had not seen before in Berlin, a city I had been in at least a hundred times. Millions of visitors had joined into the festivities. With light-up neon shoes, a crown out of light-up stars or light-up dazzling toys, they spread the spirit of connecting the world through brightness.
My piece of travel candy for you
The Festival of Lights is one of the few festivals that can be celebrated in your pajamas. The most comfortable way to get through the capital is probably in a bed on wheels under a thick blanket. (No joke!) Plan ahead and rent a “bedbike” for the ultimate experience!
Don’t Miss the Festival Dates
The Festival of Lights Berlin is scheduled again for October 2018 and will be followed by the Festival of Lights in Potsdam in November 2018.