Fluoro green and gold headdresses worn by bum-shaking Barbadians. Kitschy Hungarian folk dancers calling themselves “The Moustache”. Catchy Palastinan tunes getting everyone belly dancing. Happy house blaring from a nightclub float with a legion of ravers in tow. Rio? Nope. New Orleans? Kind of.
In fact it’s Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Kreuz-kölln (the undefined no man’s land between the two). Berlin’s multi-kulti myriad of cultures and subcultures danced, shimmied, sung and roller skated their way these Kiez (not sure what plural is in German) for nine hours last week during the annual Karnival der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures).
As an unanointed KdK-er, I had no idea what was going to unfold. I was expecting a hybrid event showcasing the unlimited,gratuitous flesh of the Sydney Mardi Gras mixed with the fluffy, feather boas of the Salvador de Bahia Carnival. I wasn’t far off, except that this festival really was a family friendly affair. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, kids, the occasional Emo, Kreuzberg coolios. Hell, even a few Mitte people turned up to watch around 96 groups representing not only countries but also interests (Roller skaters! tresor nightclub! Hip Hop!) with some 4,500 dancers, singers and revellers as they snaked their way along Gneisenaustraße in 67 floats.
These are most probably the only few days in the year where the city becomes a melting pot in the true sense of the word.”It’s what makes Berlin, Berlin” said a few tourists knowingly, armed with their guide book and clunky Canon camera. Or as I heard being uttered a few times “So etwas wird in München/Stuttgart/Düsseldorf nie stattfinden”.