• Sun. Sep 26th, 2021

Herbstzeitlos column: the disco ball stands still


Jun 11, 2021

When partying no longer helps. A now-first-right visit to the Christmas market on Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz.

People who have come first-right and wear fake fur on their anorak hoods. Photo: dpa

Celebrating had always somehow been the answer. And today it sometimes seems like an echo from the nineties; what was in the noughties, I can also remember worse.

So celebrating as an answer had meant going to the Christmas market at Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz after it reopened. It had been closed for a whole day after the assassination, which by Berlin standards was already a paragon of thoughtfulness.

So the idea was: now more than ever, there we go, there we drink nasty mulled wine and eat a low-quality bratwurst; if we had gone to Alexanderplatz, Germany’s most brutal Christmas market, mangy and rough, we would also have gone on a carousel, so that we would have felt nice and sick. At the appointed meeting point, in front of the Zoo-Palast cinema, I stood waiting at first.

In the Zoo-Palast there was still in the nineties a laser show, about which one laughed, because it was from the eighties. Now there were countless candles, the kind you put on graves. Flowers were laid between them. A few meters further, on the other side of the street, it had happened.

Singing for peace

The OB vans of the world’s press are still standing around everywhere, reporters are questioning passers-by, collecting sound bites. Muslims sing for peace, a camera captures it. In front of the Zoo-Palast, a couple, a man and a woman, kiss.

It could be a symbolic act of love, she is also paid attention to by passers-by; but it is quite everyday, he has taken her to work, she has to go to the cinema, the evening shift. He waves after her. A lump sits in her throat. The kiss, the flowers, the candles.

Here come the others, the gay gang. The hard core. Whatever happens. Can’t be killed. Over 40, hyaluron, Hendrick’s gin. "Yalla?"

Across the street, more candles. No one waits outside the stalls in the alley where it happened. The sausages are waiting, they’re half charred, shriveled, "2 euros and 50 cents," the vendor says. "Mustard with that?" The day before yesterday, five of her colleagues died here.

Greasy potato pancakes

The mulled wine is served in thick-walled glasses, and there’s a smell of hot grease and sugar. More people here, who have come all the more, wearing fake fur on their anorak hoods. They eat the greasy potato pancakes and drink the sugary stuff that could give comfort if you were really grieving.

"You would have had a box seat from here," says one, "but you wouldn’t really have had much room to dodge here," says another. Another mulled wine is ordered, first of all.

The Christmas market gradually fills up, but the alley where it happened remains empty. The mulled wine, it does not taste today, as if you drink heated multivitamin juice. It does not want to shine here tonight, the tirelessly spinning disco ball of life stands still for a moment.

Everyone in the round knows: This is not a good time. Especially not for us.

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