Tag Archives: Kreuzberg

Football on a Windy October Saturday

I’ve lived nearly one fifth of my life in Germany. Crazy how time flies. Oddly enough, on most days it doesn’t even feel like I live in Germany. At work I used English, at home, well, I just speak to myself and most of my friends are non-Germans hence the lingua franca is English when we gather to socialise with each other. But the moments when I do remember I live in Germany (which I’m happy about btw) are the moments to do with Football. Never have I seen a crowd erupt like they did when Germany won the World Cup a few years back (see post) or when a second league team (St. Pauli) scores a goal against a random team in a seemingly meaningless match on September Monday. Moreover, what Hockey is to the finns (debatable yes..) is Football to the Germans.

Last year, one of my best friends invited me to join for a beer at the pub of their football team, THC Franziskaner FC (yes, they have their own pub as an amateur team – how nice is that?) If anyone says Germans can be a bit standoffish, well, they’ve clearly never been to a football pub. Even though, the last time I kicked a ball was probably in High School, I was welcomed with hugs and handshakes, as if by friends who I had known for ages. You can sense the camaraderie, similar to that of what arguably I felt during my hockey times or even in the military.It’s this friendliness that’s made me become a regular at the events of the team.

Yesterday I joined the guys at their game and saw it as an opportunity to also catch a few photos in the mix. The game was played on top of a wholesale store (Wallmart size) and as one can imagine, it was windy up there. There was a good crowd of supporters of the team and also of the opposing “Spartans”, with one heckler amongst them being the loudest, trying the hardest to amuse and also throw the opposition off their game. “Franziskaner THC” chants echoed, as the game went on in true football weather, with sunshine one minute and rain the next. The Game was entertaining (I’m a Finn, so what would I know about Football right? ) and the atmosphere was fun and warm, even if my hands begged to differ by going numb from the chilly wind. I managed to get a few decent pics also during the match, before the fresh autumn weather killed my battery. The Boys in Orange were able to fight off the Spartans for the a good chunk of the game, only during the second half giving up a goal or two, which eventually cost them the game. We often have heard when playing amateur sports, probably from our parents, that winning isn’t everything and if as a kid I merely took those words as just something moms and dads say when you’ve lost a game, now more than ever I felt it was indeed, nearly all the same, whether the guys won or lost on the pitch. It was secondary. Of course, you play to win, but the feeling on the pitch and in the stands was the “win” of the day. Regardless of seeing the ball go into the net or not, everyone had fun and got their fair share of laughs that day.

Now I, as mentioned am not a footballer, but I still felt almost a part of the team whilst watching the guys sprint after the ball and us cheering them on. It was fun. If at times I forget that I live in Germany, this was definitely the moment where I remembered that I was indeed living in the capital of a country that loves its Football. And it is these moments, that I am lucky to be able to be a part of, since for a short moment I don’t feel like an “expat” living in his own little English bubble, but I feel like just one of the guys, chit chatting about football (in German) and having laughs about bad calls by ref and the reactions of the opposition. Who knows, given the progression of my interest for Football, maybe one day I too will take a turn at kicking the ball, but for now I’ll make due with shooting with my camera from the sidelines.

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The Rooftop

Wars and conflicts are never a good thing directly, even in the case of a city like Berlin, one can still see some indirect implications from the city being divided for such a long time.  Now, often the implications of war and dividing cities and countries are obviously not good, but the one thing that can be indirectly linked to the city being divided is that the rent prices and living expenses have not risen as fast as in some other areas of the country. Why I bring this up is that I have recently gotten the pleasure of enjoying rooftop parties at my friends place, or their “commune”, if you will. For some people rooftop parties might be an everyday thing, more common than the usage of “like” as a substitute for commas in the speech of some unnamed nationalities, but for me they are still a rarity.

In Finland the only people that can afford rooftop apartments with massive terraces, are usually the people who do not have to look at the floor level shelves at the supermarket when going shopping. Here in Berlin, “regular” people can afford to enjoy the luxury of seeing the sun set far away, creating silhouettes of the city on its way down, atop your own apartment. Even though, it is still very possible to live in a rooftop apartment, there are not enough of them to go around for everyone. However, with good luck you might know someone who has a rooftop terrace place, as I did.

It wasn’t the first time I visited my friends pad, but it was the first time I remembered to bring my camera with me. Even though the night started to fall upon us nearly immediately as I had arrived to the rooftop, thanks to my swift moves and fast camera handling, I was able to capture a couple of these “rooftop moments” onto my camera, before the fat ball of fire that we nickname the Sun could fully dive behind the skyline.

We noticed with my friend,after jumping a fence to another rooftop (for a better pic) that the party seemed to follow us and that we had unintentionally created a gathering of amateur photographers on the roof of a curious neighbour, probably wondering why he hears noises of shutters clicking and people laughing through his roof. Nevertheless, everyone behaved and did the same as we, took memories of this great city that one cannot buy from a gift shop at the Brandenburg Gate.

Once again this Saturday had given me yet more reasons to contemplate on staying in Berlin even longer than merely till the end of this, seemingly short, year.

IamJPR

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Landscape VS Roofscape

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“Be Yourself Days” or Karneval der Kulturen, as they say here.

Every spring when the sun has started to become a frequent friend and the temperatures are rising like a souffle in an oven, Berliners living in Kreuzberg clear the streets of cars, not in fear of them getting burnt as usual, but to make space for the 3 day street party that is the Karneval der Kulturen.

I could go on and on about how the whole carnival got started, but to be honest my timetable doesn’t really enable me to research the party in too detail. All I can say for sure is that it started in 1996 to celebrate cultural diversities or a multicultural city as it is. The concept seems to be that people of different unifying factors form floats which then parade through the streets of Xberg and spectators walk along the roads digesting culture through every single sense they can.

The Crossroad at Mehringdamm

Whistles, techno, samba, hiphop, punkrock you name it, you heard everything whilst walking behind other people as if you were a big herd of happy zombies enjoying the awesome weather and good company. Since I’ve been here in Berlin I haven’t seen a gathering of people so large except at Brandenburger tor during the Einheitsfest, but even there people weren’t filling the streets in such lengths as they did this weekend in Kreuzberg.

If you happened to have Kohle (trying to be hip and use German lingo for money) there was sure enough places where you could get rid of your excess cash. Cocktail kiosk, beer booths, grills and obviously the most necessary kiosks of them all: the funny hat/wig stands. Personally I only used the services of one grill to buy myself a big ol’ steak in a bun. Sadly though, I ended up having a rather bloody steak which was impossible to eat thus ended up enjoying a mere “steak flavoured bun”, which I kept telling myself was all I actually wanted and didn’t care for the steak anyway.

Vendors everywhere

The numerous “official” parties were also accompanied by seemingly popup house parties on literally every corner, and yes these parties were not invite only! Not only were people jamming to their pop tunes coming out of their home stereos, own grills were also set up on the street or porches near the said parties, giving the mini-fests a nice smokey aroma.

Houseparties Berlin style

If you happen to be a more of a “I know I can dance guy”, there was plenty of room on the streets to get “jiggy with it”, as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air once sung. Probably one of the coolest streets was Zossnerstrasse, just off the main parade road. At times it truly seemed there that we were in a massive outdoor disco, it was ridiculous, in a good way!

Sunny

The fact that people can have so much fun, without causing disturbances or trouble even when enjoying alcohol, is for a Finn almost unheard of. During the whole time I was there (roughly 8hrs) I did not witness a single fight or other violent behavior, maybe it was just luck, but I’d like to imagine it’s something else, it’s the culture. I believe this to be the best part of the Karneval der Kulturen that if it indeed is possible, Berlin felt even just a notch more tolerant than normal which is really impressive seeing that this is by far the most tolerant and peaceful city I’ve been to so far. During these 3 days people could not only come to the streets and be themselves to the fullest, but furthermore they were encouraged to do so, which I can only say is pretty damn awesome.

Jurgen Klinsmann?

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Summer in March

We Finns love Saunas, partly because they work as a sanctuary for the ever quiet Finns to speak about their feelings, worries and other issues, however we are also attracted by these “human ovens” because of one simple thing : Warmth. Yes, if you haven’t lived your whole life out of the reach of media coverage and information on my beloved native land, you probably are well aware that  Finland isn’t found on Google searches made with keywords such as; hot climate, warm climate,  beach holiday destination. Nay, Finland is only given a short time of warmth during the year and this period of time is usually referred to as Summer. Since this so called “summer” usually starts around late May in Finland, I have never before in my life had to ask myself the question in the morning ” shorts or slacks?”

Apparently Europe (or mainland Europe to be precise) gets a head start on the Summer and believe it or not I am not complaining! It’s a pleasant change to see on the thermometer a “+” instead of a ” – ” in front of the 20 degrees.  Waking up to the sunlight blazing through my dark blue curtains, I cannot but feel that it’s a sign from mother nature saying to me ” get up and go out you lazy kid!” (somehow I always hear that with the voice of Howard’s mom from The Big Bang Theory http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaeY8N4T7Do ) . The fact of having +20 degrees, sun and plenty of free-time on my hands has lead to me making some small urban ventures within the area of Berlin.

One of these Indiana Jones- like ventures took me even so far as a couple of kilometers from my home in Schöneberg. Initially I had great plans for this particular day, but probably due to the pleasantly shining sun taking away all of my energy, I stepped out of the S-Bahn already at Yorckstrasse, a relatively nearby stop on the trainline, and decided to continue my day by walking around the area of Kreuzberg, in search of something cool to see or capture onto the memory card in my camera.

I walked for roughly an hour without seeing anything worthy of taking my camera out of my backpack and gathering attention by being the ever stereotypical tourist taking pictures of seemingly non-enthusiastic objects.  Even though, I thoroughly enjoy the whole city of Berlin and especially Kreuzberg, as one foot went in front of the other for another kilometer, I began to think  if today I couldn’t actually find anything that would spike my enthusiasm for taking photos. Just as the 7th kid in line for a soda from a 6-pack I too started to realise that I might not get what I wanted today.

As I continued to walk, still with a smile on my face ( partly thanks to a new mixtape going through on my player), I saw a large shadow on the pavement in front of me. I glanced to my right and realised that there was a rather large hill with some sort of monument on top of it. Water ran from top to bottom and everywhere I looked, there were people chilling and enjoying the weather. This was a place I too wanted to relax at and took out my camera and headed up hill.

I walked straight up to the monument ( to be honest I was too excited about the nice view and the weather to pay any attention to what was written on the monument)  and took my time to take in the sights, after which I  started to slowly descent back  from the top to the street level. I followed the water running down the hill, in order to see whether I could take some pictures of these “waterfalls” in the midst of Berlin. I was able to capture some simplistic but satisfying enough moments to quench my thirst for pictures. I can only imagine how touristy I must have looked, as I nearly went in the water in effort to get a better photo.

Having taken photos of the same spots by the water for nearly half an hour I decided to call it quits and perhaps  start to navigate back to my humble home in Schöneberg. I packed my stuff, hopped happily down the tarmac leading down the hill and decided to make one more necessary detour before treating my photoshop with some new photos: enjoying a Kebab at Mehringdamm.

Here are some of the pictures from that day, rather repetitive but hey, I did say I spent nearly half an hour at the same spots.

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