Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Berlin: a city torn by war

All the guidebooks talk about Berlin as one of the most dynamic cities in the world. It should be considering its history. For almost 30 years it was carved up by a wall and 4 armies. How do you mend a city with an entire generation who has never known it wholly?

We didn't get to do much sight-seeing of this historic city, but we did get to experience a hidden bit of Berlin's post-wall culture. We hooked up with Arian and Corrynn, 2 old friends from Seattle who were here for a Hawaiian music festival (go figure?) Corrynn, ever adventurous, was couch surfing, staying at some guys' apartment she found on the internet. I'm sure its more legit than it sounds. ANYWAY, we were so glad she was couch surfing because the guys she was staying with took us to Wasserschlact.

What is this bizarre event? Two districts, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, were divided by the Berlin Wall and also by the River Spree. In the mid-90s the Berlin city govt decided to join these two very distinct districts and there was some general mumbling and grumbling. But the politicians from each neighborhood disregarded their constituents' wishes and met on the bridge between the two districts.

Since 1995 a group of Friedrichshain-ians and Kreuzbergers have gotten together to "Wasserschlacht" or water battle. But its not just water. As you can see from the video or the photo link below, rotten or cooked fruit and veg, bags of flour and mud, are all part of the mix. People make elaborate "armor" and even tanks out of cardboard in preparation for the battle.

While Wasserschlact has been banned for a few years due to some out-of-control behavior (a car got burned out) this year's fight was "clean." Police closely monitor the event and sort through participants' produce for hard vegetables, which are discarded. An ambulance was on hand, just in case.

The battle lasted a little more than an hour, Kreuzberg (our side) advancing steadily for the first 40 minutes, only to be beaten back across the bridge at the last minute. It began mostly with throwing food, but as supplies ran low, participants advanced with their pool noodles to whack each other. We mostly managed to evade the fray, although Corrynn did get an egg under her armor and I took an orange to the foot.

It gives me hope for the world that instead of rioting and actual violence, a city can come together to have a silly food fight once a year. Maybe the war-weary citizens of Berlin have got it all figured out.

P.S. here is a link for photos: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2041481&l=7d698&id=42900797

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