Schlecky Silberstein stumbled upon this instant Internet classic -- an American from San Antonio decides on the spur of the moment to visit legendary Berlin nightclub Berghain and, as his Yelp review indicates, is scarred for life. I'm putting it after the fold because, well, this is Berghain we're talking about. You've been warned.
Underneath the central train station in Frankfurt am Main is a large network of underground passageways lined with shops. It's ugly, but it lets you navigate to the various parts of this massive central transportation hub without crossing the busy streets which surround the central station.
And now, as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports (g), it's home to gangs of drug dealers, mostly young males from North Africa who "arrived with the stream of refugees". They hang around in small groups, openly offering and selling marijuana, crack, heroin, and pills. With them, of course, come the junkies, who sometimes shoot up in crevices and under stairways, in view of passers-by.
The police no longer bother to arrest them, since simple drug dealing is not a jailable offense in Germany, and they're back later the same day. The fact that these are illegal immigrants committing crimes on German soil in a highly public place means nothing, since drug dealing does not affect their asylum applications. Of course, the vast majority of these applications are frivolous, but they will take years to decide anyway. And, of course, won't result in actual deportation even if the asylum application is rejected.
This is all happening in literally one of the busiest transport hubs in the world, used by 450,000 (g) people every day. Which means every day, probably hundreds of parents have to come up with answers to questions from their curious children: What's wrong with that man? What' sticking out of that woman's arm? What's 'grass'? And thousands of foreigners get their first impression of the financial capital of Europe as a place where the state is so disorganized or bankrupt or weak that it can't even stop a drug market in the heart of the city.
And, of course, thousands of Germans commuters will ask why their elected representatives and their legal system can't seem to stop this humiliating spectacle. They live in a heavily-regulated society which has red-light cameras to detect traffic violations, requires an ever-increasing number of special permits which motorists must buy to drive various places, and has teams of roving enforcers making sure mom-and-pop shop owners don't play the radio without paying royalty fees.
But this state cannot prevent people who are not even legally in the country from openly dealing drugs and ruining yet another public place.
I find it hard to blame more and more Germans for voting for the only political party to bluntly say: "This is unacceptable and must stop immediately, and if that requires changes to the law and to our funding priorities and especially to our immigration policies, the time to start with those changes was yesterday." What mainstream opinion denounces with that tiresome cliche "populism" sounds like common sense to more and more Germans. The AfD is quickly catching up with the rapidly-imploding Social Democratic Party.
Americans are familiar with cities like Frankfurt going to hell in a handbasket, 'cause we watched it happen to New York on our TV sets: "New York City is depicted as a dysfunctional, crime-plagued, vermin-infested, smog-choked, polluted, grimy, sleazy, seedy, corrupt, racially-divided, poverty-ridden, morally-and-financially-bankrupt Wretched Hive filled with Apathetic Citizens, hostile jerkasses, violent psychotics, drug addicts, deviants, a crumbling infrastructure, and not enough parking spots."
Unless there's a big change, many of these German citizens (and not just the ethnic Germans) will turn their back on the decaying, increasingly lawless public sphere by sealing themselves off in gated communities and secure apartment blocks, putting their children in private schools, and buying a car.
Germans, to escape all this, will begin living like Americans. Just look up the phrase "white flight".
The most useful phrase a world traveler can know is, of course, "My hovercraft is full of eels." Here is a website with the phrase translated into dozens of languages, including -- importantly -- Sardinian.
For all other needs, Spy Magazine has you covered:
Berlin, Nollendorfplatz. Everyone who enters this nondescript building to go to the dentist is reminded that the house in which Wilhelm Furtwängler was born once stood here.
I popped over to Berlin for the weekend and this time stayed in Friedrichshain. Friedrichshain is part of the former East Berlin which was pretty rundown 10 years ago, last time I visited, but is now gentrifying, as the phrase goes. I'd say the process is about 65% complete in Friedrichshain. You still have some hard-rock bars and blotchy, disgruntled East German retirees, but they increasingly look bewildered by what is happening to their Kiez ('hood). What you get instead are:
- Boutiques with aggressively unique handmade purses and clothes out of rescued fabrics or ancient leather.
- Self-consciously crudely hand-drawn posters for various kinds of punk that were all the rage when I was in college 25 years ago (Psycho-Trash Punkabilly from France, Runaway Monks Buddhist punk, Ska-Punk from Ipswich).
- Small clever cryptic stickers showing faces in silhouette, Third World children, or bearing mysterious slogans like '435%' or 'BBAN' or 'whyisnow.com'
- Posters demanding solidarity with Blockupy, with migrant workers seeking back wages, with the political prisoner Sürgül Amedölügcülügünülcü, with refugees, with the 'anti-Fascist resistance', with Mumia Abu-Jamal, with Pussy Riot, Gaza, homosexuals, squatters, and so many more!
- Spray-painted anarchist symbols, haunting symbols of the imminent Revolution that will soon sweep us all into the Spree.
- Small, ancient travel vans with faded stickers for bands, political causes, and football teams.
- That most insufferable of all claques, white people with dreadlocks. These people should be forcibly shaved, and their greasy hairworms used to make comfy pillows for refugees. After thorough sanitization, of course -- the refugees deserve no less.
- Community centers surrounded by multicolored murals with vaguely Eastern or ethnic themes.
- Ads featuring ironic clipart of clean-cut, smiling 1950s housewives and businessmen. Again, all the rage in the US in 1988.
Did I miss anything?
Over the weekend I set out for the Neander Valley, where the first Neanderthal skeleton was found. It's also an ultra-pleasant hiking destination, complete with babbling brooks, succulent green meadows, winding forest pathways, mildly dramatic shale rock formations, and quaint villages where people set out bookcases full of old horse magazines by the side of the road. The leaves were, to use Oscar Wilde's phrase, 'ruined gold'.
During the hike I made a wrong turn or two and ended up in Mettman, famed as one of the epicenters of German Spießbürgerlichkeit (g) (petit-bourgeois stodginess). Everything there was quiet, respectable, recently-cleaned, and terrifyingly rectilinear.
Perhaps you readers can help me clear up a few mysteries in the pictures below. First, those metal studs pounded into the (mold-yellowed) wooden electricity pole? Who puts them there and what do they mean? Second, the old stone markers by the side of the road in Bracken, Germany. What was their original purpose. Any clues would be appreciated.
Last Friday a friend and I went hiking in the Siebengebirge, gradually ascending the Löwenburg. Below are a few pictures of the fall splendor, and of Haus Neuglück (g) a funky villa in Königswinter where a young Guillaume Appollinaire fell in love with an English housemaid. Lars von Trier, impressed by the gloomy splendor of this classic German forest, filmed 'Antichrist' near where these pictures were taken.
If anyone knows what built the large insect nest on Schloss Neuglück, please let me know in comments.
A bit of imitation Bill Viola, courtesy of GoPro's 240-fps video mode.