Friday, April 23, 2010

Notes from Berlin - I

First bird call, first fresh green blades of grass, first shoots on a tree. I was getting tired of waiting for them in Finland and went to Berlin, Dresden and Prague in search of them during the first week of April. It was in a way, a temporary eloping with myself, away from the cold, grey skies and the dirty snow that became a fixture of Helsinki.

My birthday was just two weeks back, so a dear friend gifted me a moleskin notebook. For the first time in my travels, I stared to capture my journey not just in pictures, but also in words. A picture can show what you saw on the road, but being on the road is also an intensely intrinsic experience when you pause and reflect on the life left behind.

It has taken me more than two weeks to get to the little notebook with the furiously scrawled notes, but I will be transcribing them to the blog, to take them from my head and to put them away somewhere. So, in the order of random musings, here goes:

The Brand

Confession time : I have always felt like I have been to a Starbucks thanks to the many web-comics, tv series and web series that I faithfully follow. But I had never been to one, and when I saw one in Berlin ( derisively referred to as Starfucks by a local guide map to a walking tour ) I had to go inside.

The inside was not an architectural or design marvel. I have been to coffee-shops which were designed with much more love and whimsy, and I have seen food which had looked more mouth watering. I am not a coffee person, so I decided to order a tea from the counter. Tea in hand, I moved to a spot of sunshine in front of the coffeehouse. All around me, hipsters typed on, into their mac books, iPhones and even a few iPads; some of them even willing to rebel within their hipster identity by using HP touch-pads or Sony Wios. The place was intellectually snobbish. I found a free table, and sat down there, inhaling the second hand smoke that was liberally distributed by my coffee-table neighbors. Starbucks was exactly the way it was parodied to be.

Halfway through my tea, I realized that I was using my moleskin notebook in a way as to show off the fact that I am using it than actually trying to use it in a good way, and that I have been a little too careful with my placement of Bad Science, on my table. I had morphed into a little intellectual snob. I finished writing, made eye contact with the hard smoking guys sitting and typing away at a Mac at the next table, reciprocated their tight smiles and felt relief at the sense of belonging. I fit in. I can fake it at a hipster hangout.

The power of branding is very very subtle and very very strong, at the same time.

1 comment:

Quicksilver said...

Someday I shall backpack around and then I will give you a holler :)