A few days before the year ends, stores start selling fireworks. Massive banners go up proclaiming the availability of various kinds of explosives and proud fathers carry arms full of colorful packaging out of the supermarkets; their children literally squealing in anticipation. The packaging has remained virtually unchanged from when I was a child: Even the tiniest assortment comes wrapped in black cardboard with colorful images of mind-blowing fireworks. And people cannot wait. Starting a few days ago, each trip through the city would be to the sounds of random little explosions in the distance. You can hear the characteristic sounds of rockets taking off into the sky, where – in the broad daylight – they expel only a faint grey cloud of smoke and then start their slow decent, now a piece of trash. It is incredibly underwhelming and yet somehow the characteristic sound of the German year drawing to a close.
It was to this particular background noise that Anika and I climbed up the steep hill outside of Berlin’s Marzahn district. I had randomly stumbled upon this place on Wikipedia and decided to go there between the holidays. Not exactly a tourist destination, Marzahn is a site where the former Eastern German government built massive apartment blocks to house the people of the “capital of the GDR” – particularly those living in the ever-decaying inner-city districts. Today, it is so far in the outskirts of the city that one could easily overlook it – which would be a shame. As gruesome, grey and monotonous as it may seem to us today, it is as much a part of this very random city as all those destinations in the spotlight. Oh and it looks really good in the evening sunshine of a particularly warm December afternoon.