Friday, 13 June 2014

Sonntag: Karneval der Kulturen

"You thought Mai Fest was a big party?" smiled Ed, our landlord, as he raised a wry eyebrow.

"Just wait until you see the Karneval..."

We didn't know much about the Karneval before we set off for Hallesches Tor on Sunday afternoon. The vague snippets of information Ed had fed us as we sat smoking on our balcony in no way prepared us for what we were about to experience.

I'd managed to catch about 45 minutes of Karneval activity on the Saturday before heading off to work for the evening. Hordes of people were swarming the closed-off streets, browsing the market stalls, watching bands on the various stages and drinking the obligatory 0,5's of beer, but it all looked relatively tame. We spent a fair bit of time watching a Chilean acrobat reeling around on a gigantic unicyle. A word of advice to anyone unfamiliar with street performer etiquette: never, EVER make eye contact. Unless of course you want to be forced to dance the Bolero with a demented street clown in front of 150 observers, as Oli was.

The next day, I promised myself I'd make up by experiencing the Karneval from beginning to end. Sadly that was not to be, as the temperature soared to above 30 and the city started to smell a little bit like sewerage. We retreated to Tiergarten to wait out the heat, and finally made our way over on the stifling U-bahn in the early evening.

It was rammed. We spent about half an hour shoving our way down a street no longer than 100 metres, whilst our nostrils and bellies were tormented by the myriad irresistible aromas wafting out from the hundreds of food stalls that lined our walk. Thai green curry, candyfloss, freshly roasted vegetables, gelato - I sorely regretted eating bland 2.50 noodles from Zoologischer Garten bahnhof before arriving.

We met up with Di, who had made some incredible feather headdresses which she had been successfully selling at Hallesches Tor station until security told her to move along. I gladly took one off her hands (I still owe you that fiver Di - there, it's in writing now) as we sat on the floor of a Mehringdamm side street and watched an experimental two-piece collaborating with a rapper who had happened upon them 10 minutes earlier. That was ace, but time was ticking ever onwards and we realised that, if we didn't motor on quicksharpish, we'd miss the main draw of the entire carnival - the parade.

The party hit us full force in the face the moment we left the confines of our little alleyway. We must have danced our way through at least four impromptu dubstep street raves on the short stretch to Yorckstrasse, where the parade was coming to a close. Despite it being 8pm the heat was still searing, and buckets of water were pouring down from 5th floor apartments onto the thankful crowds below. As we made it to the parade a mass of glitter-streaked, bikini clad revellers - we're talking thousands here - surged past, following their party float of choice. Smoke machines relentlessly shrouded the passage, dancers in full Carribean carnival attire ignored the broken glass littered everywhere and simulated sex on the road (awkward), an old man with a bandana, a spliff and a beard to rival Santa Claus danced on the back of an enormous techno wagon.

The other day I read the Daily Mail's annual frown-fest about the infamous Cardiff Carnage night*. I'd strongly advise the clearly quite sensitive journalists in question to steer well clear of Karneval der Kulturen for fear of them suffering an outrage-induced aneurysm. To everyone else, I'd recommend considering a holiday to Berlin in mid-June. KDK is, quite simply, a fun overload.

Bis bald,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

*In fairness, this particular Daily Mail grumble does lead on an awful story about a group of girls attacking a homeless guy. That's horrendous behaviour and deserves to have been reported, but it still doesn't justify the finger-wagging 'oh, isn't fun crap' attitude and terrifically bad writing that punctuates the rest of the article.

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