This weekend, 17th until 20th May Berlin hosted its annual Karneval der Kulturen in Kreuzberg. It’s a celebration of the cultural diversity of Berlin and is four days of street markets, food and music, as well as a huge parade, which took place yesterday. And when I say huge, I mean nine hours of trucks, music, costumes, dancing and above all, people. The parade begins at Hermannplatz and finishes just a couple of kilometres away at Yorckstrasse, and along the street that connects them are around 700,000 people dancing, eating and drinking.
We arrived around 5pm, half way through the parade, to a U-Bahnhof along the main road of Gneisenau Strasse. My first impressions were of the noise and the crowds. Noise from DJs in the street and from the crowd, which appeared to be tourists plus every resident of Berlin and their dog. Berliners love their pets (which are usually giant dogs) and take them everywhere: the train, restaurants and street festivals.
We first found a drink of strawberry punch and then made our way slowly down the street, taking everything in and trying not to lose each other. We came across a crowd of people – a crowd within a crowd – who were using the street as a dance floor for a techno DJ who had set up outside a bar. He even had a smoke machine. People in a nearby building were dancing on their windowsills and throwing confetti. It was such a happy and laid-back atmosphere that it was impossible not to stop and dance.
After about half an hour the parade reached this part of the street and we found a great place to stand right beside it. The floats of the parade represented different nations and subcultures within Berlin. You could tell the floats hadn’t been expensive to put together and didn’t need to be. I’d love to see something like this in Sydney. It reminded me of our Mardi Gras, but this was less intense, more of a family-friendly, daytime event. I barely saw any police, but I also saw no violence or troublemakers. Everyone was represented – from Thailand to Nigeria to Colombia to Jamaica. We danced Gangnam Style with South Korea and eventually joined the parade behind a truck that had a DJ and strobe lights on board. It was just one of those days when you feel so ecstatic to live in Berlin, even for a short while.