Why you should care
Because cool is so damned transient.
In Wim Wenders’ 1987 flick Wings of Desire, Peter Falk, as Peter Falk, is bumping around Berlin with a disgruntled angel played by Bruno Ganz (later of Hitler-meme fame). The Berlin Wall didn’t fall until two years later, but even on its periphery, as you started to move east, you got … the vibe, a sort of postindustrial, postwar ennui best captured a decade earlier in Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy. Its graying, funky funk lets you know you couldn’t possibly be any other place.
“Berlin seems like it changes faster than almost any major world city,” says Arnim Bautz, whose project using cameras all over Berlin has been documenting, in real time, Berlin as cityscape. But in odd pockets and places to those in the know, time not only not moves forward that fast but also aggressively clings to another time, vibe and place. Which is exactly the case when you get to Cassiopeia.
Cassiopeia is open almost all the time, only starting to wind down at six in the morning … sort of.
Out of the remains of a former factory, Cassiopeia sprawls down the cobblestoned Revaler Strasse. A collection of at least three different clubs, cinemas, stages, outdoor beer gardens and, should you be sober enough to want to skateboard, what the owners claim is the biggest half-pipe in Germany. Cassiopeia is open almost all the time, only starting to wind down at six in the morning … sort of. You see, Cassiopeia is much less a complex than it is a park, one with neither gates nor fences. Wander in, stay in. And enjoy some almost-tourist-free time listening to anything from dancehall to drum and bass, from hardcore to hip-hop and reggae.
That almost-tourist-free bit? If you’re not a local, you’re a tourist, and us tourists are the lifeblood of many such places, but traveling thousands of miles to hang out with people you could hang out with at home seems like a waste. It’s nice to perambulate and hear enough German being spoken that you know you’re still in Germany.
“Still too many tourists for me,” says music producer Manuel Liebeskind. “But even if it were mostly people here from Berlin, it would still feel like tourists, because coming to a place that’s hip like this is to participate in inorganic hipness.”
But you come here.
“Oh yes,” Liebeskind says, laughing. “All the time.” Which makes sense if music is your profession.
“I worry about the crime, mostly,” says Hamburg-based artist Renate von Loewis of Menar. “It seems to sometimes be an issue here.” Almost on cue, five or six Polizei pile past security check-in at one of the outdoor gardens. The occasion? A lost child. Who was eventually found, rocking out to reggae. But for those with eyes to see? You start to see people selling weed to people buying weed and, as in any large public space, pickpockets and people on the prowl waiting for opportunity to present itself. In other words, city shit.
In the case of Cassiopeia, with its lights, graffiti and food smells wafting between the reggae club and the neo-postmodern metal club, that seems just about right.
“I don’t know how authentic it is here,” says Arkadiusz Aro Jabłoński, owner of a Polish recording studio. “But music and food are always real. And good.”
And getting there before everyone else you know does? Even better.