Karneval der Kulturen

It’s about 13h00 on a Sunday afternoon and I’m trying to hide my budget bottle of sparkling wine from two cops who have just walked into the subway car.

I’m panicking the way a woman who has no desire for foreign detention cells and deportation should be but my friend Tanya just laughs, takes a big swig of beer and shrugs her shoulders at me as the polizei busy themselves with barely giving us a glance.

In Berlin, legend has it that you can drink beer on skateboards, in the streets and on the subway.

I know this because my new B-town buddy has thrust a bottle in my hands and made me walk past all manner of pavement inebriate and law enforcement as we make our way to Karneval der Kulturen. A ‘Carnival of Cultures’ that makes a stage of the street in a celebration of tolerance, multiculturalism and peace.

Though Berlin has pop culture connotations of pale, moody somewhat gothic characters, the Karneval reflects a face that I can’t help but be surprised to see and which grins back at me in a parade of floats from Angola, Brazil, Turkey, Japan and just about anywhere as the community’s recent and long ago immigrants sing and dance under the light drizzle falling over Kreuzberg.

The effect is spectacular and inclusive. Though each float has a specific cultural identity, they are not beyond including people from other communities who may have a passion or an interest in their culture.

So geriatric German white women dance the samba, black kids join in a parade of roller skaters and every creed and colour fits into whatever they have grown to love.

Me? I jump in with Trinidad and Tobago. 

The beat calls, the energy erupts and before I know it, I am being carried along in a mass of dancing, singing, rain and sweat drenched bodies while trying to spot someone who looks like Nicki Minaj.

It’s one of the best days of my life.

I eat currywurst from one of the most revered stalls in the city. I join a drumming circle in the middle of a park. I meet up with filmmakers Florian and Cherlien Schott and I only bid them farewell when a coat check attendant brings Cherlien her jacket because it’s 4am, we’re never going to leave and he wants to go home.

From there, we go in search of döner. A Turkish wrap filled with lamb shaved from a hunk skewered on a rotisserie and we set out under the lightening sky.

Them to the subway. Me to a cab.

Just three grinning, curious, adventuring Windhoekers in Berlin who have attended a German festival somewhat reminiscent of the ones we have seen photographed at home.

But without the blackface.

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