Karneval at the Zossenerstraße

I experience today the first day of intellectual silence, as long as I remember. How, sweet to have sunken into these singular thoughts, that are elongated and clear. No desire to break out of the concentration, but a yearning to continue the thread that is unraveling. I am drilling into the well of thoughts that make the poet, although my finding might not be great yet, but my yearning and attention has been awakened.

At night we walk to the Blücherstraße, where the yearly Karneval der Kulturen takes place. This multicultural festival has turned into a large demonstration of Berlin’s multicultural society, a demonstration against national-German tendencies of the past and present. Hundreds of stands and a dozen or so main podia are spread around the area of the Blücherstraße and the Zossenerstraße, in Kreuzberg. Against the background of the red dom of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and right beside the Jerusalem cemetery, huge beer jugs are served to a mixed crowd, which is seated near the stand at the lines of plain, wooden, square tables and benches. At these mini Biergartens a colorful mixture of people eat world snacks or just plain German Bratwurst, drink up their beers or their tropical cocktails.

Cultural celebrations around the world are mainly fests of consumption. At the podium at Blücherplatz, in front of the American memorial building, next to the “tree of books� a group of musicians is sound checking on the Oriental Podium. The sound check actually turns out to be most interesting, although they are all professional grade musicians, but unfortunately technically skilled without creative talent. During the sound check, a choir vocal echoes over an electronic dance beat, while the Oriental instruments and tunes of the sound check smoothly float atop. When a few minutes later, the musicians start their horrible introduction, the good mood I fell in, quickly sinks away again.

I return the beer bottle for the €1 refund on the bottle, and we escape the still ongoing introduction, each few minutes adding the next instrument to the ensemble. There is an amazingly large crowd visiting the festival, without people getting in the way, the organization is perfectly prepared. In the small park at Blücherplatz, the regular crowds of ‘multi-cultural alternatives,’ ‘white dreadlocks’ and ‘pot smoking 68ers’ hang out. I don’t mind this group, they are well-willing people, but the stereotype they dwell in is horrific, they are so attached to ‘the impression of a better ideal in a bad world’ that to loose the insignia of that intention would equal the very complete loss of that identity and spirit to them, it almost seems. Just like the 80s punks in Berlin, the fashion of the past decades is still firmly established, more firmly than the volatile times themselves. I don’t know if these folkloric fashion statements are signs of cultural coagulation or not. I don’t remember seeing so much fashion remnants like time capsules in Amsterdam or New York City. Is Berlin suffering from fear to seek the present, to indulge in the modern? Is there again a cultural conservatism growing from the roots of government that are grown rank on top of the rebellious sentiments that gathered here in the 80s? For the time being, this cultural conservatism brings out old subcultures to the surface, but these subcultures are already belonging to an older, aging generation, and what’s to become of the new sounds? They will not be heard and maybe that’s how underground should be! Here the preconditions for a new forward culture?

We leave the Karneval at the south end of the Zossenerstraße where a street circus is performing.

Started writing: Book Review: Wibke Bruhns, Meines Vaters Land (München 2004)

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