I'm Living Under Berlin's Strict Covid-19 Regs Because Of Selfish 'Corona Parties'

"These measures are drastic, but important."

It’s March in Berlin, the sun has just started to shine consistently as spring trickles onto the cobblestone streets, and I’ve been spending 23 hours a day inside for the last 12 days because of coronavirus.

Going outside in Berlin for “no reason” is currently allowed, but only in groups with a maximum of two people, and if you want to enter a pharmacy or supermarket (the only places allowed to open), it’s best you do so alone.

Many people are wearing masks, not necessarily because they help, but because they bring a certain sense of security in an otherwise ghost town-like city that’s become riddled with anxiety as a result of the vital but tense social distancing measures in place.

Hear about Australia’s latest coronavirus restrictions below:

There are plastic guards around the check-out staff, they’re wearing gloves and masks, there are stickers on the floor to mark the minimum 1.5-metre distance required between all people, and paying with cash is no longer an option. This is actually hilarious, considering that paying with card in Germany was, up until this point, seldom. Nothing like a pandemic to force a cash-happy society into the 21st Century. 

When I do go outside, I have to carry identification and proof of residence with me, in case the police stop me, to prove that I haven’t wandered out of my own city district. Groups of more than two will be stopped by police, and fined. A terrifying concept out of context, and a foreboding one in a world where we’ve long forgotten the reality our grandparents faced.

Kids kept having coronavirus parties in Berlin’s parks however, and people kept meeting to slam a few tinnies and punch durries on the street. When a bunch of inconsiderate, virus-spreading, ignorance-touting idiots can’t get it together, even to save lives, I guess being pushed to the point of state control isn’t entirely unexpected. It’s like all the people who thought going to Bondi Beach on the weekend was a fabulous idea.

The measures are drastic, and important, but they do leave a very sour taste in one’s mouth, and in the air. This is Germany, after all, and in Berlin, where many buildings are still riddled with bullet holes from the 1940s, it’s easy to feel particularly wary of too much power being given to leadership. 

My mood swings radically from stressed, anxious, depressed, worried, uncomfortable, and scared, to elated, organised, determined, happy, and productive about three times a day. My kitchen has never looked so clean, my muscles are hurting from doing more yoga than I ever did when I could still go to a group class, my cat is receiving a healthy amount of attention, and up until the time of writing, I still have a job. I await the call any second, so I bake another panic cake to avoid it. I watch the cashews and dates getting ripped apart in the blender and wonder if they’ll be available again next time I go to the supermarket. I haven’t been able to get spinach for days. No one here is fighting over toilet paper, but I still felt like an absolute bell-end last time I carried some home. I wonder if I’ll be able to use the blender tomorrow, or if the electricity will be cut off. I realise my mind is wandering again, teetering with worst case scenarios, so I try to do something to distract myself.

I was meant to head home from Berlin for a three week visit starting this coming Friday, but that’s been cancelled. I start to worry about my my grandparents and my dad, perhaps irrationally, but it’s a solitary feeling to suddenly be locked away from them, even more so at a time of global coronavirus crisis.

I decide to do what all the “keep yourself sane and entertained during lockdown!” lists say, and I start a puzzle that’s been collecting dust for the better part of a year. 24 hours and a throbbing neck ache later and it’s finished. Sitting in silence, I look around and realise how quiet the room is – something that never bothered me before, but that suddenly hangs over me and my puzzle with a heavy sense of gloom. 

Tomorrow I’ll give the bathroom a deep clean, I tell myself. And then Angela Merkel addresses the nation again, a strangely comforting, regularly scheduled broadcast that has become a calming force over the past weeks. She speaks with a measured, logical urgency that creates a sense of societal solidarity in me, as I sit, locked away from society. I feel better.

Waiting patiently for my evening to match up with Australia’s morning, I stare at my phone. Then I get a text, Angela Merkel is going into isolation, the doctor who treated her has a confirmed case of coronavirus. I breathe, my throat hurts, I wonder if it’s corona, then the pain is gone. Or is it? 

Stay healthy, stay safe, stay away from everyone.

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You Don't Need Drugs To Get High The Berlin Way

Give nature a go.

There are a few things Berlin is famous for. One of them is the nightlife scene, the 24-hour techno clubs and well, the drugs.

Tourists flock to Berlin from all over the world with ambition of clubbing in famous institutions like Berghain and simply to enjoy the extremely open, albeit drug focussed, club culture.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Berlin is hell bent on consuming class-A drugs every weekend, but as I recently learned, they are pretty keen on getting high regardless. Yes, a new wave of consciousness is flowing through the Berlin streets, promising a natural high as intense as that you might experience from hallucinogens or various pills and powders.

Intensive Breathing

Also known as holotropic breathwork, use of simple inhalation is said to cause a euphoric natural high. You start by breathing in deeply until you feel a slight pressure in your cheek, you hold it for a moment, release the air completely, and repeat around 15 times. Following this round you take 30 “power breaths”. To successfully complete this, you imagine you’re blowing up a balloon, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth in very powerful successions. You basically flood your body with oxygen.

Next you take one more very long, slow breath, filling your lungs up completely, then push all the air out again. You should feel high after doing this, according to experts, and the many people who participate in classes that guide you through the stages. 

Light Therapy

This particular technique is intended to send you on a trip, or to at least create a similar experience. Dr. Engelbert Winkler, a psychotherapist in Berlin, invented a lamp called “Lucia”. One sits in front of the lamp and closes their eyes, while it begins to omit a series of lights and sounds that “stimulate the frequencies of the brain” in a similar fashion to the kind of thing that psychedelic drugs do with the mind.

Winkler doesn’t mind people calling it the LSD-Lamp, because on a scientific level, the effect it has on the brain is very similar. The important difference, he claims, is that the effects stop as soon as you turn the lamp off, so you’re not going to be stuck in an indefinite hole.

Sweat Huts/Hot Tenting

Somewhere deep in Saxony, there are a group of people who heat up their huts for a natural high by getting sweaty together. It’s all very nature focussed. Very hut, such nature, many sweat. The structure of the tent is first built with sticks, then coated with blankets and fabrics. They do all this by hand, all part of the peaceful method which involves being very in touch with yourself and the world. Wood is collected and a fire is started to heat up rocks, which are taken into the hut.

The idea of the hot temperature is to be so uncomfortable/elevated that you are forced to fight against our own thoughts because they will ultimately switch off. To get to the point where our thoughts stop speaking to us, where our mind can shut off, and where we can get to know our inner selves. Apparently getting naked in a group and sweating it out in a hut is one practical way to do this, and to feel quite a natural high and euphoric while you’re at it. 

So these three techniques designed to give you a natural high and get to know yourself on a deeper level are gaining popularity. Although they come with their own set of risks and issues, they are significantly safer than taking actual drugs to achieve the similar experiences and sensations. But are you sold?

Are Open Relationships Just An Excuse To Be Selfish?

Or does it save relationships?

Does polyamory save relationships, or just give us the chance to have our cake and eat it too?

The concept of open relationships is nothing new, but talking about it more openly certainly is.

With shows like Easy and You Me Her playing a part in normalising conversations about open relationships and polyamory, it’s no surprise that in 2019, many of us have found ourselves either in, or on the periphery of, situations where questions about monogamy, and what we want from our sexual relationships are raised.

Two is company. Is three a crowd?

Personally, I have never been in an open relationship, but many people around me are either dabbling, or completely immersed in polyamorous set-ups. As I started to question my own understanding of romantic, and sexual relationships, I decided to have a few direct conversations with the people who know far more about this than me.

One of the aspects of polyamory that has always scared me, is the concept of opening oneself up to more than one person, of doubling (tripling or even quadrupling) our own emotional vulnerability, of potentially getting hurt or hurting others.

Hurting people is not fun.

Some of these risks are expected when we enter into romantic and sexual relationships – but of course, the pros often outweigh the cons, so why would we limit the equation to one person at a time? Traditionally, it’s probably because of societal, and religious norms – but possibly also because of human nature. However, not everyone’s nature is the same and “different strokes for different folks” certainly applies here – pun intended. 

One of my close friends is in a long-term relationship with his partner, and they live together. Some nights, he doesn’t come home. His boyfriend hates it, but accepts it.

The sense I get from this is the same I get from many similar relationships, which is that the balance of power has fallen out, and that one side is doing anything they can to keep the other in their life, while the other is out and about doing whatever they please without really thinking of anyone but themselves. 

Umm, it’s not over yet?

Another friend of mine has been married for seven years to a guy she’s been with since she was 15. Five years into their marriage they decided to start dating other people, but to continue with their marriage. I asked her how she feels about it, she said she likes having the freedom to do whatever she wants, but gets upset when she thinks about her husband with other women. How does that add up? 

A different couple I know entered into their relationship with the agreement that it would remain open, and while they are the “primary” significant others in each other’s lives, they continue to seek out additional sexual partners.

This is the only example I’ve seen so far where both sides appear to be genuinely happy. Perhaps this is because no expectations have been redefined or pushed by one side of the relationship, and because they defined what they wanted it to be from the beginning. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to do this later down the line, it’s probably just more complicated. 

Sometimes it does work.

While I don’t necessarily agree, nor disagree, with polyamory or open relationships, I do believe in mutual respect, and honesty. This often seems to be missing in the scenarios that I have seen. Those who say it’s saving their relationship seem, in most cases, to be prolonging the pain of an inevitable breakup, or to be living in some kind of denial. 

A colleague of mine cheats on his girlfriend in secret, and says it makes him more attracted to her when he comes home because the element of risk turns him on. There’s no question that this is on a completely different spectrum, but at some point we all have to look inside ourselves and ask what we want from a relationship.

Stuck in a very pointy love triangle à la Vicky Christina Barcelona

No matter how we form relationships, and how many people we form them with, there will always be complications, so it’s important to know your boundaries from the get go.

Can an open relationship save a marriage? Probably not, but an open conversation just might. 

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