Having seen some people who I knew at the anti-NPD demo (demo = demonstration), I was in a rather social mood, and apparently so was everyone else on the crowded SBahn back to Berlin Proper. Some people had been drinking since the night before, others were on their way into town for one of the street festivals. It was a rather strange mix of people, but they were pretty genial if you overlooked the drunken tomfoolery.
One of the days' recurring themes that we saw from 9AM to 11PM was PEOPLE ON THEIR CELL PHONES TEXTING AND TRYING TO COORDINATE IN MASSIVE CROWDS. If it were America I would speculate they were all tweeting, but it was mostly--and we were doing it too--"how can we move person A to location B?" I found it rather cool.
There had been some news that said that local public transit would be shut down in the XBerg neighborhood, so we got out and walked into that part of town, which was also very nice. The boys got a cool beer, I sat there getting pinker in the friendly sun (Texas sun = not so friendly), and plenty of totally normal Berlin-ites came strutting by on their way to the street fair.
A Word on the Street Fair: XBerg has a HORRIBLE reputation for the 1 May, as being a place where punks and bums collide and cause trouble. As a way to combat this the neighborhood put together a street festival of more bands than you can count, grills a plenty, and drinks all being sold from folding tables on the street. It's a really cool vibe. You almost don't notice that all the banks, shops and anything remotely capitalist is boarded up like Hurricane Katrina was coming through. You only notice it if, like me and Stefan, you need an ATM and whoops.
We stopped on the way into that part of town for a little grub-a-dub-dub, and I discovered the niftyest sandwichy thing ever. It involves hummus (double YAY!), lettuce, chicken, and some kind of pita but like thin pita, and it just tasted lovely. I almost finished it all too, so hungry was I. It was nice to kind of dial back from the intensity of the morning and let our legs rest, our cellphones charge (good thinking, bringing that charger, dude!), and chat.
There were at least 5 stages for bands set up all over that part of town, playing music that...well...I was not totally into, but I was into their existence. There was some pretty decent rap (ok, for Wolfgang's sake, I'll say it was good for Berlin rap, happy?), a bit of yelling alternative, and a touch of emo rock in addition to mad screamy rock. It was a big deal, and there were people and balloons and life all around. This wasn't the angry crowds I had expected, but approximately the same crowd we in Texas get at MayFest...sans the hail, rednecks, confederate flags, and Mexican food. There were families setting up booths on the sides of the street selling beer, grilled burgers, cheap eats and expensive "mojitos." Some of the areas around the drum circles smelled of acrid smoke, but there was no big police presence that was visible (they were preparing for events yet to come I suspect), and everyone was having a good time.
In the crowd we somewhat improbably found some of Stefan's friends and friends-of-friends, and we all sat down briefly to chat. One of them, in a trade unionist tee shirt, had a number scrawled on his arm, and I asked about it. He told me it was a phone number of a law firm to call if you get mistakenly arrested by the "bulls" (aka cops), and he told me to write it down too. I found this a bit silly, but I ended the day rubbing ballpoint ink off my arm, so there you go. We walked about and eventually, at an old squatters' collective grounds, we found the political party tents and refreshment stands. There were:
Turkish...communists? (I don't know, my turkish isn't what it should be)
Naomi Klein groupies
People kept sort of filtering in and out, but 6pm was approaching, and it was time for us to be moving on down the road as it were