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.
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.
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.
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!
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.