Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gritty & Glorious - Erster Mai

May Day is one of the premiere events in Berlin. Though I had little idea it even existed in the United States, I now eagerly look forward to this kick-off of summer festivities.

This year we took on another part of the celebration we were similarly ignorant of. Have you heard of Walpurgisnacht? I didn't even know how to say it. This day falls exactly half a year from November 1 and has roots in European pagan rituals. A time of bonfires, witchery, and spookiness - I was in.

Arena Berlin

The traditional place to go in Berlin is Mauerpark and I had full intention of going. Friends had intentions of going to Badeschiff. Only half-reluctantly, I changed plans and headed to one of my favorite places in Berlin. After a recent facelift to the surroundings, the open-air club was looking even more magical than usual.


I had only been here to swim before, but the club was relaxed with several different areas of electronic and hip-hop. Starting in beach chairs overlooking the Spree, night fell and we joined the masses, dancing to old school remixes like Vogue, Short Dick Man, and Hypnotize. Some of our friends opted to stay up, but we went home in the wee hours to prepared for Mai Day.
Kreuzberg Erster Mai
Görlitzer Park
Erster mai
Erster mai

Mariannenplatz MyFest

short rain storm

Erster mai
The crew
Kruezberg Berlin sunset
Berlin MyFest
Kreuzberg Berlin crowd street

Kreuzberg Erster mai
Berlin Spati

Kruezberg trash

Glorious! As always. The festival lived up to expectations and we avoided any bottle throwing or car tipping. As good a time as you can have, there is always a bit of sadness that you'll need to wait a whole year for Erster Mai to come again.

Then again - chins up boys! Karneval der Kulturen is just around the corner.


In shocking news, we had yest another amazing Erster Mai! 2013 May 1st pics here (including a protest on our street) , but this gif really says it all.

ZKu193 on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

Top Tips for a Successful May Day in Berlin

  • Wear shoes, not sandals. The ground often becomes littered with broken bottles so protect those feets!
  • Put on some sunscreen. We've had pretty good luck with weather in past years and the sun has a way of sneaking up on you when you sit in a park all day. Alternately, never trust Berlin weather and you might also want am umbrella.
    Bring your own booze. There are drink stands and spätis everywhere, but come prepared with some beers (or whatever drink of choice) to get started.
  • Have a meet-up point. So many people are crowded around Kreuzberg, cell phones are often useless when trying to join a group (too loud, cell phone service temporarily unavailable, etc.). Pick a U-Bahn station to meet and walk in, or try to find your friends at a stage or park. We usually form a concrete plan with some friends, and then give a general meet-up point like a specific location in Mariannenplatz.
  • Get out when the bottles start flying. The event is really very safe throughout the day, but when night falls things can get a little rowdy. There is a heavy police presence throughout the day and most of the ridiculousness is for show. But if the thought of bottles flying off the high buildings around Kotti make you a little queasy, disperse when it gets dark.
  • Plan an alternate route home. A few U-Bahns and streets, like Kotti, will likely be closed sometime in the night so find another way to make your exit. 

UPDATE: 2014 Picture of the Festival

This year's signage often reflected the controversy surrounding the upcoming vote on Berlin's Templehof Park

For more of magnificent May:

 May Day 2008


Jack Scott said...

Sounds like huge fun. May Day is important in Turkey too but stays loyal to it's international workers' day roots with a huge march in Istanbul.

Unknown said...

I can't believe we never really did anything for it in Seattle. Unfortunately, that seems to have changed this last year as Seattle had loads of petty crime. Bad form hometown!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008