Jet Petrol Station and Seeing Democratically

One of the major challenges of this mission – to walk every street in Berlin – is to try and see the city “democratically”.

That is, to consider everything within my surrounding urban landscape as equally valid, whether that’s a famous tourist landmark like the Brandenburger Tor, an obscure abandoned factory, a pair of discarded shoes – or a petrol station.

I noticed as I strolled the apparently charmless, roaring boulevard that is Prenzlauer Promenade that my natural inclination was to shut my mind down somewhat, to hunker down into my personal thoughts and just “get through it”.

But such places, by virtue of being a major part of our built environment – even if they are more functional than aesthetic – surely deserve the same kind of attention.

And sure enough, the street’s charms began to slowly unfold. The way the morning light glanced off the boldly coloured Jet Petrol Station (pictured); the manner in which the frenzy of signs lining the roadway ignored or even belittled pedestrians in order to shout their desperate messages at passing motorists; the interesting interplay between the thrum of the traffic and the chorus of birds in the surrounding trees.

To walk is to read the city; but to read we have to open our eyes (and ears).

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