'You still wanna party, right?' The taxi driver is sure he know’s exactly who he has picked up when my boyfriend and I want him to drive us to the southern part of the east Berlin borough of Friedrichshain after midnight on Friday. He had not reckoned on our answer of 'No, we want to go home, we live there.' He retorts with a great note of sympathy: 'Oh God, it’s really loud there!'
A few years ago Berlin was a completely different place. Almost everybody was jealous when they heard that I lived at the heart of the trendy borough. Today Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is still beautiful and trendy, but lately it has become a little too popular, not only with its residents, but above all among tourists. In a sense, you could be happy as a Berliner when youngsters from all over the world say they feel at home in our district and we can call our home somewhere where others take their holiday. In this case it is almost exclusively youngsters who spend their holiday here. The average age of a tourist visiting Berlin is forty according to the web portal berlin.de, which is far below the comparable age for Germany. 'In a sense' is the key term. Because although Berlin is happy about more than twenty million overnight stays per year, the residents are becoming more and more annoyed about the hoards of EasyJetsetters who stay in the relatively small area between Schlesisches Tor in west Berlin — or Spring Break resort I — and Ostkreuz in east Berlin — Spring Break resort II. The locals are mainly bothered by the noise and dirt. They are particularly starting to become concerned that the district is no longer what it used to be — that a cool district has turned into a sleazy area for tourists.
Berlin the tourist magnet: small remnant of anarchy
The phenomenon of people gathering in public squares, in parks, on bridges and by the Spree River is nothing new in itself. The spontaneous and unorganised is exactly what makes Berlin so attractive. In fact, you can get beer everywhere without a problem in corner shops that are open until late. There are small remnants of anarchy that the city adheres to. In Munich they would look at you as if you were crazy if you were thinking of making a night of it with a beer bottle in hand. In Madrid it's part of the sunshine and drinking culture but today you could get arrested for it since a recent law was introduced, whilst in London you should seriously consider going to the pub instead. This culture is honoured and loved in Berlin, as recently sung by the artist Christane Rösinger.
The situation alters every few years due to gentrification — this is another phenomenon that is not new. There are the young parents who, until recently, were the ones hanging around in the small square playing table tennis with a few six-packs in their bag. Now they resent the fact that they cannot sleep at night because it is noisy until the early hours of the morning. Tine is a typical resident of Friedrichshain. She is a young bookkeeper who has an Italian boyfriend and an international group of friends. But she gets annoyed when she goes to ‘her’ park, where she likes to drink a few evening beers with friends, and suddenly a group of about 100 Scandinavians from the hostel around the corner turn up with sheet music, a guitar and a host to ensure a good atmosphere.
Monique, a business student who also lives in the thick of it, observes the development in her neighborhood with concern. 'It has always been pretty homey here actually. But lately, I feel like I'm in Camden Town!' Her neighbour Christina could go ballistic when she has to cycle in wavy lines in the morning to dodge all of the shards of glass that have amassed in the night — or even the patches of vomit that await her at the door to her building. I myself become filled with rage if a hoard of so-called Berliners — or more precisely English people with lolling tongues who are bizarrely dressed — want to try to wrangle money or a kiss from me because it is the current trend to celebrate stag dos on my route home.
Yes, I drank sangria from a bucket
The senate of Berlin has recognised the problem because the district is no match for the onslaught of tourists. However, it is still unclear as to what could be done so that tourists and locals can live in harmony. A hotel bar on Warschauer Brücke in east Berlin has its own strategy to keep the wrong people at bay with a sign saying 'Everybody is welcome, apart from groups of Swabians, English and Irish of 5 or more in Superman costumes'. What is meant to be funny can decline into arrogance. Tourism is and remains an important economic factor for Berlin. Before getting upset, some people should first of all look to themselves for blame. I myself went to Mallorca at the age of seventeen and yes, I drank sangria from a bucket. During my erasmus student exchange in Madrid, I was usually out in a big group of German and English people and I believe that after a certain amount of alcohol we no longer behaved particularly tactfully towards the Madrilenians. I vaguely remember spontaneous, highly illegal botellóns — social activities among youngsters, who gather in parks or public areas to consume alcohol on the streets as an alternative to going to a bar or club.
'What is meant to be funny can decline into arrogance. Tourism is and remains an important economic factor for Berlin'
'That's a pretty narrow-minded attitude that you have there,' my boyfriend says as I once again complain about noisy tourists. 'Whining that you want to have your peace and don’t want to be disturbed by anything foreign is an attitude expected in the countryside, but not here.' He is right. Let’s all just chill out: the celebration wagon will move on eventually and until then we just have to cope with the fact that we have had more than our fair share of just punishment for the spring break resort now.