I've lived in Lichtenberg for the past 2 months. In this time, I have spent a lot of time at the house, I have gone to Nadia und Kosta, a small cafe with free WLAN next to Nöldnerplatz S-Bahn and the Netto Discount Supermarkt. Except for a few random walks outside to stretch my legs and get some fresh air, that is the extent of my time in my neighborhood. Otherwise I'm in Neukölln, Kreuzberg, or ocassionally Prenzlauerberg. So I'm not really aware of the flavor of my neighborhood.
Robert comes over the other night. We're hungry. I have purchased half a chicken at the Lidl, but it will take about an hour to cook. We are too hungry for this.
"There's a grill party at the place down the street. Want to go?" Robert asks.
"Sure! Grill Party! Toll!" I change out of my fuzzy, ladybug slippers into my trusty Doc Martens, thinking wistfully that I miss my exciting and eccentric clothes and shoes, but I only came here with two backpacks full of things, and that I'll bring more stuff back with me in August after my visit to the States.
We walk the block and to Zum alten Rauthaus, the Kneipe that often has the fire pits blazing outside it. There are a few friendly, drunk guys who offer us Goulash from a big iron cauldron hanging over a flame and invite us to come to the party inside. Great! We sit outside and eat the stew with some dark bread and then walk into Rauthaus. I look around and realize that this is not my crowd. Everyone is white and there are several guys who look like bikers or bears from San Francisco, except none of them are holding hands. A puffy looking blonde woman in an ugly sweater asks us who invited us, it's a private party. Robert answers in German that some guys outside told us to come in for a drink. She asks him to point them out but he can't find them. We are told to leave, so we go to the place on the corner by my place called Zum Guten Happen. I had been curious about this place. It looked rough, but they advertised a cheap happy hour. Before I left the neighborhood, I wanted to check it out.
I open the door and am met with mean eyes on the face of a man who looks like 50 years of cigarette smoke and 3 gallons of whiskey. It is a deciding moment. I am on the threshold, Robert behind me. We could turn and leave, but then we are inside.
While I don't usually like to let a man do the talking for me, I sense this is not the place to practice my rudimentary German. I let Robert do the ordering. I get a rum and coke and he gets a glass of red wine from the bartender, who looks like a combination of a bullfrog and a cigarette, She has a straight, blond hair, cut in the mullet fashion and with a bouffant on top. And her hairdo is not a joke.
We sit there for one drink that is only mildly comfortable, reminiscing over the finer points of the weekend visits with his parents. We finish our drinks, pay and practically run out of the place.
We come back home and Jana is still awake. She asks us where we went and when we tell her, she says, "Oh yes, those are Nazi places."
Yikes. But I sort of figured that out.
Let's talk about this word, Nazi. It means ultra-right wing. It means anti-immigrant. The focus has been taken off of Jews and is now directed toward immigrants, mostly Turkish, Asian, and Arabic people because they are easy immigrant populations to target. Still, they don't like Jews and if they had their way, that guy with the Charlie Chaplin moustache would have won the last world war.
I've been living in Lichtenberg, and I guess there are many right-wingers here as well as a large Asian population. Thomas, a man I know who lives a few blocks past Nöldnerplatz says that three of the Stoplersteine outside of his apartment where blacked out. He waited a week to see if anyone would do anything about it. Someone did, but he later found out it was someone from the city street cleaning crew, not one of his neighbors.
Berlin is wonderful. Beautiful. Lots of wonderful people. I love it. But there are still many Nazis in Germany and the rest of the world.
But the stew was good. And it was free.