Surprising the things you may encounter by following your nose around your vibrant Berlin neighbourhood. The Raphy and I stumbled upon a carnival (!!) and a beautiful one at that.
This gorgeous event, took place over three days of a searingly hot weekend in the capital. We took to it day and night, naturlich. Where else can one enjoy a cocktail, nyam some jerk chicken and buy a djembe drum, all in the same evening?
I confess I had a few misgivings about what might unfold at an international carnival in a country that betrays dubious notions of what is known as 'integration'. Would this be the sort of one-sided integration I'd seen elsewhere? With all the emphasis on 'foreigners' to integrate and none on the Germans themselves? Would this world carnival be all exotic spectacle and gawping onlookers?
Well, no actually. Here was an event of genuine multicultural intermingling. We saw more brown faces amongst the revelers at Carnival than I have in the streets of Berlin for a long time. And amongst my favourite bands of the Sunday street parade were those with Germans playing Brazilian drums that move you down to your core.
I was recently in London to interview a lovely elderly gentlemen for the final chapter of my book. He'd been a friend of pioneering feminist leader Claudia Jones, one of the originators of the first Caribbean carnival celebrations in London (the crucial forerunner to the Notting Hill Carnival). Berlin's Karneval der Kulteren resonates deeply with the original motivations of Jones and her collaborators as they weaved new dreams in smoggy, wintry, un-integrated London all those decades ago.