When folks visit Berlin, they probably just see one big big city
….and with 3.5 million people, it is a big city. Regardless, it doesn’t take long to discern two entirely different orbits in Berlin-the East and the West. Still separated along the path of the old Berlin wall, the two boroughs of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain are the epitome of this duality; The Berlin Wall and the Spree river both ran between these two boroughs. Kreuzberg was, and still is the West and Friedrichshain was and will always be the East.
Whats the difference you ask? A lot. East Berlin was Communist and East Berliners see their western neighbors as posh, materialistic jerkoffs. Bourgeois to the core, they are arrogant know-it-alls who care for little else aside from their next opportunity to look down on the East. On the other hand, the West was capitalist-rich and prosperous home of Coca-Cola and Yankee bluejeans. To them, the East was exactly the sort of people you don’t want for neighbors. A wasteland of stale beer, crumbling Stalin-era apartment blocks, graffiti, junkies, bike thieves and panhandlers punctuated with piles of crusty dogshit. Its actually funny, because to anyone else, they were both shitholes.
Nonetheless by the 1990s, the Wall had fell and both had actually turned into the most colorful and downright hippest parts of the whole city. Killer bars, great music scene, rock bottom rents, cheap eats and a vibe that you just cant explain. Soon, everyone wanted to live there. Well, scratch that, everyone wanted to live in Kreuzberg with its bohemian cafes, popular underground rave scene and trendy boutiques. But Freidrichshain? F-hain was still full of feral dogs and seventy cent beers. By the turn of the century well-to-do computer entrepreneurs, realizing they weren’t cool anymore, descended Kreuzberg in driving their strollers down the sidewalks and the rents through the roof. In the meantime, while Kreuzberg was losing it mojo, Friedrichshain kept racking up punk-rock credibility points with its smelly dive bars, graffiti and second hand shops,
So in 2000, when the Berlin City Government decided to streamline administration and merge the West Berlin borough of Kreuzberg with the Eastern one of Friedrichshain, people naturally flipped out. Because the only thing people here in Berlin love more than the city, is the boroughs that make it up. They are fiercely protective of their kiez and would rather see the Wall go right back than have some pompous arschloch with a baby stroller move in next door telling them to put their dog on a leash. Now that the government was merging them, it was war.
Enter the Gemusekrieg
The feeling was mutual, and Berlin not being a place where people take things laying down. Something had to be done. There was only one solution-an annual food fight on the bridge separating Kreuzberg from Friedrichshain. No holds barred, rotten eggs, fetid mixtures of who-knows-what, whole festering melons, bags of flour…as long as it wasnt deadly, you were free to throw it….Whoever managed to push their way onto the other’s side of the bridge was the winner and had bragging right for the year. So that’s what they did and that’s what they do. I was lucky enough to be called to duty in the 2011 Gemusekrieg. Friedrichhain did their best. S0me of suspect foul play, but this year for the first time, those Kreuzberg douches took the bridge.