When I find myself shaken with travel fever and I am really itching to get away, but I'm stuck in the grey, weird, awesome and stressful monstrosity that is Berlin, Bearpit Karaoke at Mauerpark is a remedy that has proven to be helpful every single time for several reasons. I'll take you on a quick stroll through a Sunday afternoon at the pit to explain to you why that is.
On any given Sunday between sometime in Spring and the last halfway decent day in Autumn, I will get to the pit and there will still be a gymnast, a magician or a stand up comedian heating up the crowd that is bound to be sitting on the steps already. As long as they are still going, I will peform the art of choosing the right place to sit (not too close to the speakers, perfect distance from the stage, preferably in the sun etc.). When around three o'clock the artist of the day will have wrapped it up, Joe Hatchiban arrives with his orange bike that magically transports everything he needs to get the show started - including speakers specifically designed for the pit's acoustic conditions, wicked!! And the cheering begins. And I cheer, too, for Bearpit Karaoke heals my travel itch, as it is a bit like travelling in itself. And here are the reasons why:
Reason #1: It is a place completely out of space and time. If you took this little patch of land and isolated it from its surroundings, there would be no way to tell where you took it from. The language that is spoken most is English with any given accent, and the German accent is not necessarily the most common one in the crowd. I could forget that I am not abroad when I am here. There literally are people present aged 1 through 80 from any country with any background.
Reason #2: Everyone's equal in the pit. Because the crowd - I am horrible with estimating numbers, but appearantly there are more than a thousand onlookers on a sunny day - will cheer with equal enthusiasm for someone who is really horrible and for someone who is just rockstar amazing. The people will reward what the performance manages to get across - and even someone who cannot sing can make a thousand people dance, or laugh, or just plain feel something.
Reason #4: Unexpected things happen. A blind Brasilian girl is led to the stage, seeming insecure, and then she's singing the Scorpions' "Rock me like a hurricane" like an absolute pro. A plain, short, bearded man that in teh street you would easily overlook is coming into the centre and then singing a German version of Sinatra's "My way" with so much soul and ernest that you're just completely taken by him (granted, he is not bearded anymore and also he does this every Sunday, but the first time it is really unexpected! And also, it doesn't cease to be endearing). Most recently, four people are starting to sing "Gangnam Style" and all the remains of the pit are storming the stage and starting to dance. There are marriage proposals. Declarations of Love. And just plain old good entertainment.
As I make my way back to my bike through the park when the show is over, past all the people with their guitars, their drum sets made from cans and boxes, their artwork, their dancing, their hula hooping or whatever else they may have on display, I can't believe that I am walking on what used to be the death strip. To my left - the former West. To my right - the former East. Today it's multiculturalism at its best. And a whole lot of happy up for grabs.