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Exberliner Issue 138, May 2015

BEST OF BERLIN BY THE

BEST OF BERLIN BY THE EXBERLINER EDITORIAL TEAM. Best mid-week performance fix Open mics are one of those win-win-win situations – bar owners get a reliable crowd on an otherwise sluggish evening, Berlin’s inexhaustible supply of earnest musical amateurs gets an outlet and audiences get a free show. As live venues that actually pay their musicians (like Intersoup, see page 48) meet their demise one by one, the city is seeing an open stage explosion, especially in Neukölln, where dimea-dozen bars dilute weeknight traffic. Craving the spotlight yourself? You’ll find three options on Wednesday nights alone, the newest being a singer-songwriter night at OBLOMOV launched in March by Geraint Jean and Olivier Bernard, a pair of British and French lads. Already known for its popular monthly klezmer session, the cosy, candlelit 40-capacity room fills with the pleading strains of folk crooners and acoustic guitar slingers every second and fourth Wednesday of the month. For those seeking a more professional experience, the surprisingly huge café PRACHTWERK (photo), opened last year, offers a decent sound system and a real stage. The line-up also favours singer-songwriters, but it’s more regimented than Oblomov – make sure to sign up in advance if you want to play. For those who don’t want to fly solo, there’s the more under-the-radar jam session at LITTLE STAGE. Hosted by African slam poet, rapper and allaround good guy Jay C. Patsson, it’s the kind of low-pressure scenario where a part-time musician can dust off a neglected instrument and comfortably accompany the rhythm section, or even take a seat behind the electronic drum kit, without fear of judgement. While the musical level is sometimes inconsistent, the vibes are always positive. AB Oblomov, Lenaustr. 7, Neukölln, U-Bhf Schönleinstr., open stage every other Weds from 20:00; Prachtwerk, Ganghoferstr. 2, Neukölln, U-Bhf Rathaus Neukölln, open stage Weds from 20:00; Little Stage, Jonasstr. 1, Neukölln, U-Bhf Karl-Marx-Str., open stage Weds from 21:00 Best great Danes It might be the next step in Mitte’s inevitable transformation into Little Scandinavia, but at least new café EAST & EDEN isn’t run by the usual too-cool-for-school Nordic twentysomethings – at age 47 and 52 respectively, Danish owners Ulla Skaaning Mathiesen and Orla Damgaard left behind established careers as architects and interior decorators in Copenhagen to fulfil a lifelong dream of working abroad. On arriving, they immediately set up partnerships with the locals: Bonanza coffee roasters, recent tea startup TeaTales and a certain tarte baker whose name they won’t reveal (only that he’s based out of Moabit). He’s the one behind the delicious quiche (€6.90 with a side salad), served in generous rounds with a moist interior and crisp crust. The meat version comes with Serrano ham, sun-dried tomatoes, leek and parmesan, but we preferred the less orthodox, sweet-salty vegetarian one with Asian-spiced feta cheese, spinach and dates. If you’re craving a real Danish experience, end your lunch by picking up some fancy liquorice from high-end manufacturer Johan Bülow (€7-12/150-170g) and – truly a rarity for a Berlin café – swiping your EC or credit card. SA East & Eden, Torstr. 141, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosenthaler Platz, Mon-Fri 8-18 PHOTO BY: FRANCESCA TORRICELLI 4 • MAY 2015

VERENA BRÜNING Best chairs for a good cause Looking for some handmade local furniture with a great backstory? Kreuzberg-based organisation CUCULA sells simple wooden chairs, shelves and tables, the kind that wouldn’t look out of place in an artist’s loft or third-wave café – designed by 1970s Italian modernist Enzo Mari, built by refugees. The project was initiated in late 2013, when local designer Sebastian Däschle began teaching five young West African asylum seekers staying at the youth organisation Schlesische27 how to create furniture for their rooms based on Mari’s 1974 book Autoprogettazione. The idea caught on, quickly growing into a workshop spearheaded by the refugee group, Däschle and designer Corinna Sy. They now sell 12 different Mari designs, with the money going towards the refugees’ education and cost of living. Thanks to over €120,000 in crowdfunding, they’ve expanded this year to include a learning programme that teaches 15 refugees German. The furniture itself – plain wood, hard lines, boxy shapes – doesn’t look too comfortable, but it does look classic, and the child-sized chair (“the Bambino”, around €130) would probably be a nice, durable choice for a playroom. You can order online or visit the workshop, a small, bright space off Schlesische Straße, by appointment. Any orders you place now might take a while: Cucula is exceptionally busy this spring as the team works on the 330 chairs ordered as part of the crowdfunding campaign. But with record numbers of refugees coming to Germany this year (see page 3), we can expect more community-based programmes like this one to help integrate the new arrivals into Berlin with style. JBE Cucula, www.cucula.org JASON HARRELL Best scratch ‘n’ sniff street Walking along Karl-Marx-Allee, do you ever wonder what Berlin’s widest, most imposing boulevard was like during its socialist glory days? CENTRAL BERLIN, DDR LIMITED (€29.90) is a bilingual coffee table book that celebrates the Ku’damm of the East and its central square, Strausberger Platz. While the bulk of the book is devoted to interior design photos showing the contemporary use of the buildings that line the street, the real highlights are the black-and-white pictures of everyday life along the boulevard from the 1960s-1990s by photographers like Max Ittenbach and Harald Hauswald. There’s also a chapter about the street’s construction in the 1950s and the challenges of chief architects Henselmann and Paulick. The most surprising inclusion is the last chapter, “The Smell of History” – a scratch-and-sniff page that gives off a faint aroma of tar and paper: “scents from Strausberger Platz in the 1950s and now”. Beautiful photos of architectural details by Hans-Georg Esch offer peeks into buildings that you wouldn’t normally enter, although the accompanying texts and captions can tend toward the clunky, misleading or totally clueless. But then again, the pleasures of this book are from looking rather than from reading. Or smelling. EL Central Berlin, DDR Limited, published by Skjerven Group, 2015 5