You don’t give gypsy cigarette?

Urban jungle

It puzzles me when friendship circles overlap. Lately, I have moved between so many places that conceptually speaking, the friends I have made seem to exist in entirely different realms. Luckily, it never fails to be nice when the drawers in my head get pulled out and their contents receive a good stir on the floor.

We are driving across a bridge leading out of the city, when next to us emerges what is virtually a wave of people and moves into the lane; sweeping across the intersection as the car has barely passed. In the mellow evening sunlight, it looks like something straight from a documentary: “Fearless of the unknown, the pack of hungry wolves moves into the city”, a voice seems to say, “walking into oncoming traffic, it is unaware of this behavior’s potential fatality”. Instead, the young man next to me begins murmuring: “Tourists!”. Nothing seems to upset locals like the presence of tourists in Berlin – clearly, they have no business visiting Europe’s 2nd largest city in summer.

All this happened last week, after I had received a Facebook message from Tobias, saying that he was going to come to Berlin. He lives a wildly nomadic life, sticking his head above the surface only now and then, and the visit was so sudden that I actually had to work. Yet though it all didn’t really fit, I wasn’t going to pass up a visit. Mi casa es su casa.

It seems that all of Germany was glued to the TV screens sometime last week when a documentary reported the local resistance in Kreuzberg where people have been employing a somewhat questionable rhetoric, petitioning “Kreuzberg den Kreuzbergern”. Everybody I talked to had seen it: They want tourists to go, plastering the city with “Berlin doesn’t love you” stickers. Supposedly, the tourists ruin their neighborhoods’ originality and have this nasty habit of wanting to stay and live here. It is absurd, not only only because of the old mantra that those complaining have probably just moved here themselves. I read somewhere that this city renews itself every so often, trading in large swaths of its population for new people – kind of like the human body swapping its cells. So there you have it: People come and go, the city remains.

Eat up

The little time I did have to spend with Tobias and his friend Martin, we went to see pictures of Raphael’s amazing journey around the world, and I introduced them to my fellow comrades in Berlin; in order spark a discussion between former and current housemates about the unbearableness of living with me. Really, it was so little time – either I was at work or the boys had to go out “hetero style”. And so, the visit was over before I knew it. On the last day they were here, I took the afternoon off and we wandered through the afternoon sun into Kreuzberg, drifting across the park and into Neukölln. It was there where a somewhat deranged woman came running screaming after us: “You don’t give gypsy cigarette? You fucking hipsters!”. I do not know what was wrong with this woman, who was pulling up her dress whilst quoting Brecht and feeling very angry about a life devoid of cigarettes. But even in those strange, remote corners of her mind, she really hated tourists.

Neukölln

Tobi

Comments 2

  1. Rance June 24, 2011

    It really irritates me that the world is quite equal in its stupidity and xenophobia. Cities, countries, geographies, etc, inevitably change, but for some reason, people instinctively believe they have a natural right to be somewhere and develop a strange possessiveness.

    Also, I wanted to put Berlin on a pedestal, damnit!! Really messing with my idealism here, people.

  2. Laura June 30, 2011

    I felt quite scared sometimes while going rambling at the christmas markets last christmas, I must say, it was the first proper christmas market experience I’ve ever had -with proper snow and freezing temperatures-, that all the colours, smells, flavours were an entire new experience to me. The magic was such, I felt like touching, watching, smelling, tasting it all, but most of the time I just stared for a long long time until a Frau or Hehr would say something to me in German -That most of the time I’d understand-, sounding kind of brassed off, rude and “aggro”, I later learned that if I wasn’t going to buy anything, it was “rude” to stay there, staring at it all, like a mere tourist would. I love Berlin though and like the comment above, I would still put Berlin on a pedestal, but sometimes I don’t understand whether people from Berlin are pissed off at tourists for being solely tourists, or for not being able to stand there and buy a bloody sausage when they should.

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