Karneval der Kulturen in Berlin
The 17th edition of Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures) is starting tomorrow Friday. Celebrated always on the weekend of Pfingsten (Pentecost), it is the perfect time to experience the big diversity of Berliners living in our beloved city. From Friday to Monday, strolling around Hallesches Tor, Gneisenaustraße and Mehringdamm is a trip to the world without leaving Kreuzberg 61. The food, the smell, the colours and sounds make you forget about the grey long Berlin winter and fill your heart with hope for a great summer to come. Well, it might not be that great, but we are all wishful thinkers in BLN.
But the main attraction of Karneval der Kulturen aka KdK is Sunday's Umzug (Parade) starting at 12:30h in Hermannplatz and finishing in Mehringdamm via Südstern. Almost 80 different wagons, each powered by a different community of foreign locals living in Berlin, make their way crossing Kreuzberg wearing their traditional outfits and dancing on the trailers or on the street. It goes slow, so you can either just watch them pass along or even better, join them :)
Personally, the parade is what makes me love this Berlin weekend festival. For one day all the different cultures, countries, communities - whatever you wanna call it - living here get real visibility. What in other cities such as London and New York is everyday life of having workmates from around the world in all kind of jobs and levels, in Berlin all of it many times becomes a bunch of mental drawers.
To say it bluntly, the overview would go like: "...there are the blonde blue eyed locals and of course Irish and English but, whatever, they all look the same; then the Turks, the Asians, the Latinos and some blacks from US and also Africa. Mostly the Berliners "with migratory background" (Migrationshintergrund) who grew up in Berlin work in restaurants and as shop assistants, the foreigners coming from other European countries are working in startups or rather go corporate, but in any case they don't speak German and usually are a bunch of hipsters." Yes, I know, it is very politically incorrect to refer to the Berlin diversity in such terms, but it is an unspoken mindset mostly everyone in Berlin shares but nobody would really put like this in public.
Well, KdK is the day in Berlin you see how many blends of Asian, Middle East, European, North / South / Central American, African, Australian and so on we have around. The Parade showcases so many different countries and traditions we usually put in the same box that it helps to break those generalizations of the Berlin crowd. It's an annual opportunity to reset that mindset and break the invisible barriers. It was inspiring for me the first, second and third time I watched the Parade go in front of my eyes.
So much that on the fourth year, even I, who left El Salvador at age 4, identifies as a Catalan (but not so much as Spanish) and one day actually wants to hold the "Berlin Passport" (allright, German is ok too), got carried away with the KdK fever and ended up dancing in the Salvadorian truck with the typical dress. I bet you will do something like that in a couple of editions too ;)
That's the magic of the Karneval der Kulturen! Best part, no one cares which passport you carry, you can join any community just by asking with some time ahead.
Important rules for KdK Berlin 2013 Street Festival and Sunday Parade
2. Same as in my previous MyFest guide: don't expect to have mobile reception after a while, too many people around, and be careful with your wallet and Handys. Berlin is really safe, but in crowds all around the world, you better be extra careful.
3. Don't stay all the time at the same place. Start early in Hermannplatz for example and see how the parade starts. It will give you the opportunity to check out the different music styles and decide what is the one you want to enjoy. Look for the numbers and once you have seen everything, catch up with the chosen one to follow it for a while. The Umzug moves slow, so whenever you need you can go to the front and to the back to change "dancefloors".
4. If you really want to stay at the same place, then go early to Südstern, get a nice spot and be very patient. If you are not around early, you won't have a chance to actually see the parade from a nearby area and it gets really really full. So seriously consider following rule #3 :)
6. Charge your phone, smartphone, big camera and have space in your cards to record videos. You will regret it if you don't go home with plenty of material.
7. It is too full? Then head to Viktoriapark for a romantic stroll, the most amazing waterfall in Berlin (well, there ain't that many :P) and for some nice views over the city.
8. It always rains one of the days in the KdK. So a small umbrella in your bag won't hurt.
9. Don't leave too early on Sunday. The whole Kreuzberg 61 parties up big time and once the parade finishes, all bars and clubs nearby have an special party for you. Monday is public holiday, so you want to keep the mood going on until at least 3 am. Yes, in Berlin we love the Partythons, can you blame us after a long long grey winter?
10. Wear comfortable shoes, bring enough cash to get drunk twice and your best friend. Well, that's Berlin rule #1 for everyday's life, if you think about it ;)
Comments? Questions? Other rules I missed? Leave it in the comments!
Here some pictures I took of Karneval der Kulturen in past editions and you can like the Karneval der Kulturen Official Facebook Page
ENCORE: One year, we got really lost with one friend in the Karneval der Kulturen and ended up going home at 5h, but it looked like 13h. Here is the place :D