Today an interview with Herrmann Königs, Spotter for our Berlin cityblog. We met him in 2008 and had a drink on a terrace in the Simon-Dach-Strasse. He told us many interesting stories about Berlin. I think he knows everything about Berlin!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was in born in the district of Friedrichshain, grew up and still live there. After school I decided to go abroad for a year to find myself working and travelling in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. On my travels I got to know Couchsurfing and am involved ever since. Returning, I started to show my guests around which made me see Berlin through the eyes of an expat.
My nature has it that I am very curious and interested in many things. That might explain my open-mindedness to anything when it comes down to culture. And I think I’m one of the few actual Berliners who really love their city in the same way all those people do who had just wanted to stay here “for a while” and never left after.
Showing Berlin to others became one of my passions. I still do it as a Couchsurfer, now on Spotted by Locals and I used to to work as a tour guide for Alternative Berlin (they do the best tours!).
I used to study physics which I quitted a year ago. I now work a bit until I get back to uni this year hopefully.
Which prejudices about Berlin are true? Which ones are not?
Rude bus drivers, maybe…
Let me illustrate the behavior of Berlin’s bus drivers with this little story:
It was my father who arrived at Tegel Airport from the States. To get away from Tegel one needs to catch one of the buses back into the city. Already seated in the bus he could see two Americans with huge suitcases trying to enter through the middle door which was closed of course because one has to show the ticket to the driver. But their cases wouldn’t fit through the front door. So they left the cases where they were and asked the driver politely if he could open the middle door. He, who must have watched the whole scene, replied seriously: “Why should I?”
It finally took the Americans a bit of a quarrel to get the driver to open the other door.
What do you know about Berlin what no tourist will know?
I’m addicted to street art. That’s why I keep scanning every corner, entrance and other suspicious objects for stencils, paste ups, stickers, tiles and other objects. Now I know the most important spots where to find major street art. Not every tourist will be able to point that out.
The Oberbaumbrücke, a bridge that separates – or combines, as you wish – the districts of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, is the spot of a supposedly annually held food fight: “The Waterbattle” or “Vegy Battle” between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg.
The igniting spark was the administrative fusion of two districts to the greater district “Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg” in 2001. And now it’s an ironical idea of two districts fighting over each other’s power. The battle begins in the middle of the bridge. Everyone is asked to bring anything not hard but mouldy, muddy and stinky stuff to throw at the other side. One can also fight with non-hurting things made from foam or with shields. From my own experience I can safely say that nobody involved in the fight will stay dry and nobody should wear Sunday’s clothes. The food fight ends with one side pushed to the end of the bridge. The last food fight of 2008 was heaps of fun. I’m looking forward to the next one…
What is the most popular neighborhood to live in Berlin at this moment?
That’s hard to say. But for me it’s definitely Friedrichshain or Kreuzberg. Both districts are known to be hot spots for night life. Be it Techno or other clubs, bars or cultural centres. You’ll find a great variety of these places here. It might be that Kreuzberg saw a few more alternative venues coming up in the last years than Friedrichshain. But living in Friedrichshain means to be situated literally between all other cool areas. Going out in Prenzlauer Berg, Mitte or Kreuzberg is always just a short trip from here.
Can you describe a perfect day in your city?
A perfect day means for me of course a long sunny summer day of, let’s say, 27 degrees or so. And let’s say it’s Sunday. That means of course a long night out before at Club der Visionäre , a cool Techno club outside on rafts. Having let off some sleep, I’d surely meet up with some friends for “Brunch” – an all-you-can-eat buffet that most bars and cafes offer on Sundays. Preferably I’d have that on Simon-Dach-Straße because that’s where you get the best offers by my experience.
Having eaten, day activity options are nearly endless. Volkspark Friedrichshain always invites for a stroll with a cone of ice cream, football or barbecue with my mates or jogging around. Mauerpark with Berlin’s best flea market in the city and karaoke in the amphitheatre (see here and here for some pictures) are one of my favourite to do’s on Sundays.
For the evening I’d first meet up with friends on Admiralsbrücke, a bridge where people gather for chilling, having a beer, chatting and listening to street musicians before heading over to Madame Claude, one of my favourite bars, to enjoy the open mic session.
Is there something else you want to share?
Yes. A very personal view. Berlin doesn’t have beautiful buildings. But certainly the most interesting ones. Berlin isn’t famous for being “beautiful” but for everything else: alternative, interesting, cool, sexy, creative,…