I’ve always thought Easter was a much better celebration than Christmas. In religious terms, of course, you get all the dramatics of death and resurrection, as opposed to birth in a stable, but Hallmark and the Capitalist machine hasn’t reinforced too many “traditions” to be observed. The pagan original was all about fertility and the coming of good weather after the spring equinox, but these things still spring up in the shape of eggs and rabbits. It’s an opportunity for people to get out in the open, celebrate sunshine, eat some chocolate, have a pint after Lent is over, feel liberated from the long winter.

 

We heard mixed reports about how many tourists came for Easter, either 200,000 or 2 million people descended on the city for the weekend. Actually, looking at the figures for last year, Berlin had 5.3 million guests in the first half of the year, so somewhere between those two figures would make sense. More Germans than foreigners come to visit, though the U-bahn tends to be overrun with very loud Spaniards (I’m getting to be a Berliner now). Actually, probably the major tourist sites were very busy, but in the far reaches of Neukoelln, there was no noticeable difference in numbers. Tourists tend to want to feel the buzz of everyone, to know they are in the middle of things, whereas we want to know that we are in a place that nobody knows. The weather was ideal for hanging out – sunny with the odd cloud, a little chill at night – and I spent the weekend between cool and quirky venues, meeting the new breed of European: Serbians who live in Dublin, another Serb who speaks Swedish and Spanish, a Spaniard who speaks faultless American English, a Finn, a Croat who speaks Italian, a Dubliner who moves between Berlin and Sligo, a Norwegian, an Australian who’d like to be a Berliner, a German who needs to brush up her Spanish, Italians and Swedes; all of these speak perfect English, that’s the currency these days, and most speak German.

 

We celebrated Easter itself by having a barbeque/picnic in Mauerpark. This is a green space, taken over by residents after the fall of the wall. “Mauer” means “Wall”, hence this area was the site of the death strip between the French and Soviet areas. Half of it is a big tacky fleamarket, half of it tries to grow grass to accommodate crowds of people who come to throw down rugs, have picnics, play ball, listen to buskers and drummers, sunbathe and chat. A large part of the attraction is the “Bearpit” Karaoke Show, which takes place in a stone Amphitheatre every Sunday. I had been to see the show on and off throughout the winter, and it was a sad affair, not really karaoke, with just an odd gem thrown in. What we got this Sunday was obviously the beginning of the Real “Bearpit” Karaoke Show, with an Irish MC introducing people, making sure their words and music were happening, moving them right along, and cracking jokes at a great rate. I don’t think I’ve laughed as much in years. People without a note in their head were cheered on, we all sang the chorus for them; a man who looked like a curate, black overcoat, black flat cap and hornrimmed glasses, gave us a most fabulous rendition of “Highway to Hell” to rival AC/DC; a 12-year-old sang “I will survive” to a rousing crowd; Detlef (who sings every week apparently) turned in a heartfelt German version of “My Way”; a troupe of California students performed a number from “Grease”. All the while, the sun blazed, we went back and forth to the collective picnic, we had a laugh. The “Bearpit” closed around 7pm, with the MC getting us all to join in his version of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher”. It was difficult to let go of the day, it was so perfect, so we repaired to a bar with doors open to the terrace, to have one drink before dark.

 
There are times when you feel as if you have put a piece of your personal history in place, to look back on, to enjoy again and again, to say “that was a great, sunny Easter”, and this was one of them. The next day, I got together with another friend to try to turn our minds back to study, and we read together, first in one venue, then in another (when the first closed). This, too, is crystallised as a perfect day, when the comfortable couch is free, when the music enhances rather than intrudes, when the company is perfect. College today was hard work to return to, but it was a pleasure to come back refreshed, restored, ready for action.

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