May Day in Germany

April 19, 2012 by

Festivals & Events, Free Things to Do, Things To Do

May Day Germany. Photo courtesy of iotae via Flickr.

May Day Germany. Photo courtesy of iotae via Flickr.

Those reliable Germans – even their riots are scheduled!

Every May 1st, largely left-leaning protestors face off against police in the district of Kreuzberg, throwing Molotov cocktails then sweeping up the pieces and putting them in the recycling bin (OK, that last bit is made up).

Naturally I’m not suggesting you go on a violent rampage, and fortunately May Day is also marked in Berlin with less hazardous activities. MyFest was conceived to allow peaceful street celebrations without risk of injury. As such, glass bottles are completely banned from the area, which takes in large parts of Kreuzberg north of the underground station Kottbusser Tor. The program reflects the diversity of the district, with underground bands, Turkish dancing, techno DJs and stalls offering food from around the globe.

This neighborhood, one of Berlin’s most dynamic and interesting, has long been a refuge from the mainstream. Once hemmed in by the Wall, it attracted young runaways from West Germany, immigrants from Turkey and countercultural rebels from around the world. Squatters occupied numerous grand old apartment buildings which would otherwise have been left to rot by unscrupulous landlords.

The area rewards a visit any time of year. During the day, head for the serene Engelbecken – a large pond (or small lake, depending how you look at it) with a charming café, or stroll the main street, Oranienstrasse, with its numerous bars and restaurants. Look out for the fascinating Museum der Dinge, or “Museum of Things”, which offers an enlightening survey of household objects.

At night, dine on traditional German food in lovingly converted interiors at Markthalle or Max & Moritz, or snack on quick, healthy, delicious falafel at Maroush. Follow up with a beer in the brutalist concrete surrounds of Möbel Olfe or cocktails at the elegant Würgeengel, or catch a band at SO 36.

- James Conway

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