Up to one million residents and tourists joined the Carnival of Cultures in Berlin on Sunday. The sunny and rather hot weather was just right for the biggest cultural event of the year.
The Carnival’s highlight was a procession involving performers from countless countries. Brazilian Samba groups were part of it. Dancers and drummers turned Berlin into Rio de Janeiro for an afternoon. Korean musicians followed them.
A youth circus presented artistic stunts, a band consisting of some 14 instrumentalists played Rock and Funk tunes. Performers from Nicaragua danced to Salsa-Pop songs from back home and demanded an end to President Ortega’s rule. Some political messages are usually included in the Carnival of Cultures.
Scottish nationals and Germans dressed like them, in kilts, presented music from their island. A total of 75 groups, some with only 15 members, others consisting of many dozens of people, performed from the intersection of Grossbeerenstrasse and Yorkstrasse all the way to Hermannplatz. It took about five hours for all of them to cover that 3 kilometer (1.9 mile) stretch.
A large part of Kreuzberg was closed to regular traffic. Apart from Gneisenaustrasse and Heisenheide, which were right on the procession’s route, many side streets were blocked by police, for security reasons.
The Berlin Police Directorate had to order more officers from Lower Saxony in order to be able to cope with the Carnival, which consisted of both a street fest at Blücherplatz and today’s big procession. The street fest will be open until Monday evening.
The U-Bahn, Berlin’s equivalent of the subway, the underground or the metro, was absolutely crammed, especially on line 7 which runs along the procession route. An employee of the BVG, the city’s main public transport operator, who was pushing passengers into trains at Mehringdamm station on Sunday afternoon, said the situation was almost like in Tokyo.
Along the procession’s route, exotic and conventional drinks were offered, including Caipirinha and beer. Some of the hundreds of thousands of spectators seemed to be getting drunk in the early afternoon.
Since 1996, the Carnival of Cultures has mesmerized Berlin with its blend of cultures, music and dances. The message this traditional event is conveying is that Berlin is a multicultural and diverse city, an aspect which needs to be celebrated.