Last weekend we went to the Karneval der Kulturen, or the Carnival of Cultures, in the district of Kreuzberg, not far from our house. It's an annual parade and street fair that aims to celebrate different cultures from around the world and, apparently, the local subcultures as well. Berlin is a very appropriate city for this. It's always inspiring to be among a crowd of people who support the distinctive aspects of each other, but for us, it was even more meaningful that we were in a new part of the world, a part of the world which borders more countries than where we previously have lived. We are now surrounded by a far different variety of people, micro and macro.
The Karneval takes over Blücherplatz and the surrounding streets for four days, with multiple music stages, lots of vendors, tons of food stands, and more temporary bars than you can imagine. The pattern of the tented booths was basically "beer, food, clothes, exotic cocktails, trinkets, food, food, beer, exotic cocktails, beer". Now multiply that times 40 and sprawl it across a sun-drenched Berlin neighborhood. Then fill it with thousands of sun-burned Berliners and music from all directions and you have a basic idea of the atmosphere. We spent part of Saturday and most of Sunday there, enjoying the summer vibe.
On Sunday, the centerpiece of the festival is a long parade, starting from Hermannplatz (very near to our apartment in northern Neukölln) in the early afternoon and ending late in the evening at Mehringdamm just below the festival. When we got to Hermannplatz it was already packed. The funny thing is that it was so packed that we couldn't see much of the parade. So, instead of watching each country representing it's culture one after the other, like in the Olympics opening ceremony, which is what I naively expected, we could only catch glimpses of dancers and drummers, followed by robots, squatters, and a frisbee club.
Of course, we saw more interesting things and missed even more. But we couldn't get a good view and it was really hot. We drank some cold beer (because, Germany), and then decided to skip ahead on the U-Bahn to the end of the parade. This marked the very momentous occasion of The First Time We Brought Open Beer On an U-Bahn Train, which is now illegal but everyone does it anyway.
At the other end of the parade we didn't have any better luck seeing the parade, so we sat in the shade and ate cold watermelon and hot currywurst. Then we braved the sun again and walked up to the street fair area.
We walked through the entire fair, looking at all the vendors and tons of different food stands. We bought some gifts for our nephew at a couple of the many toy stands. And Rahsan sampled some of the MANY different kinds of food. There was a cone of fresh churros with dipping chocolate, and a delicious stuffed samosa from Sierra Leone (the first time we'd tasted food from that particular country). The highlight was a beautifully prepared salmon dish from Finland. This stand had big sides of salmon roasting on wooden planks over open flames. A big filet was then draped over lettuce on an open roll, and then drenched in a sweet, herbed cream sauce. Very delicious and filling. Later, we shared a chocolate milkshake and Rahsan drank one of the ubiquitous and overpriced fresh coconuts, because he couldn't resist.
It was the hottest day of the year, and kind of exhausting, but we had a great time. The energy of Berlin in the summer is magnetic and infectious.
|"Beers from around the World"|
|I got weird looks for this pose...|
|Oooo pretty pants... that I saw from every vendor|
|One of the many many many slightly confusing, ethnically-themed musical instrument shops|
|Lots of Indian food!|
|African beer. Including a Banana Beer!|
|Berlin mashup food, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood hippies|
|Shade was a rare commodity.|
|Heilig Kreuz-Passion Church|
|Some sort of anti-industrial Mad Max group with a metal ferris wheel...|
|Plastic leis and novelty afros.|
|A dedicated photographer with a prime spot|
|This was the busiest we've ever seen the U-Bahn. The trains were packed.|
|The Berlin Frisbee Lover's Society, or something.|
|Freaky troll people...|
|You may not be able to tell, but there are people partying on that boat|
|"How did I get here and how do I get out of here??"|
|Finnish salmon delight|
|Look at the many diverse types of hats available at the fair!|
|Beer - 2 euros; water - 3 euros; a coconut - 5 euros.|