Destination: Berlin, Germany
Recommended Airlines: Ryanair
Accommodation: Hotel the Yard https://hotel-theyard.berlin/ & https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/germany/berlin/hotels/hotel-the-yard/
Attractions: Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Wall Memorial, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin Cathedral, Berliner Fernsehturm, Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island, East Side Gallery and of course, Berlin Carnival!
Overall Experience Rating: 🎒🎒🎒🎒
During the glorious month of June, I embarked on the most eventful girls trip ever. If you’ve never heard of Berlin Carnival, let me be your plug. Every single year on Pentecost Sunday, 1 million+ people gather in Kreuzberg for a massive street parade celebrating cultural diversity in Germany. There are food stalls, street performers and floats; people are singing, dancing and socialising – it’s an all-around good time. In my personal opinion, if you live in Europe, especially in the UK, there is actually no excuse for you not to visit Berlin Carnival, at least once in your lifetime.
For all of my Londoners, it’s literally a 1.5 hour flight from Stansted Airport. Without a shadow of a doubt, Berlin Carnival is an experience that I would 100% recommend to everyone… and their favourite travel/turn up Auntie.
However, what I will also say is that the days leading up to Berlin Carnival on Sunday are not at all for the faint hearted. It is 3 days/nights of intense partying. You don’t believe me? Cool, take a look at the itinerary from this year, courtesy of Soca Berlin: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a43ea0dd7bdce811eaa9693/t/5ceb07de4785d31a3765a3ba/1558906849713/NEW+KdK+Fete+List+%282%29.pdf …
Yeah, it is literally the epitome of “eat, sleep, rave and repeat”. That is precisely why the quality of your entire Berlin Carnival experience is highly dependent on the type of people that you go with. In short, they have to be completely up for it; if they’re not, I promise you that your level of enjoyment will be capped at approximately 29%.
Luckily for me, I was surrounded by good people and good vibes throughout. In addition to my girls, I also linked up with a few of my faves from the Black British Travel Meet Up (fondly known as BBTMU). If you’re a black travel enthusiast based in the UK (particularly in London) you need to attend a BBTMU event in the near future. You will not regret it, meeting like-minded people does wonders for the soul.
Back to the matter – although the dates of Karneval Der Kulturen change yearly, the days will always remain the same: Thursday (for pre-weekender shenanigans), Friday, Saturday and Sunday (and technically Monday too). Here are some reviews of the events that we attended.
Thursday 6th June 2019
Day & Night: Silent Rooftop Party @ Deck 5/ Carnival Fever Entertainment
Price: 27,45 €
Touch down in Berlin! Our flight was at silly o’clock in the AM and by the time we arrived we were absolutely shattered (in fact, shattered is even an understatement). I, for one, had not slept in about 30-something hours, so I required the strength of the entire Holy Trinity to get me up and moving that evening.
On top of our state of exhaustion, we arrived at our hotel a couple hours earlier than the check-in time and ended up getting into it with the receptionist. Long story short, in addition to him being rather cold towards us, he went onto display preferential treatment towards another set of guests who also arrived early. Despite adamantly stating that he couldn’t check anyone in before 3 pm, he was running around like a headless chicken to accommodate this pair (who actually arrived after us), whilst we were patiently sitting in the lounge area, also waiting to be checked in.
Now, on route to the lituation, we also had wahala with our Taxify driver. Due to his phone not working, he didn’t receive payment for our journey after we parted ways. Knowing the venue of the party, this guy went to go and practically pitch a tent at the entrance. He was telling anyone who would listen that we’d tried to rip him off – when in actuality, that wasn’t the case. Funnily enough, we briefly detoured (by foot) before heading to the venue, so we actually found him outside, making unnecessary noise. Complete and utter strangers also started chiming into a matter which did not concern them. Thank Jehovah that the transaction eventually went through because these people were ready to burn us at the stake. Yes, we were trying to get lit… but not that lit.
The event itself was amazing. This was the first time that I had ever been to silent party of any kind and it will be forever etched into my memory. It was such a weird but equally enjoyable and entertaining experience.
Everyone was either plugged into the red or blue channel, where soca, dancehall and afrobeats were playing at any given time. DJ Tate also sprinkled a bit of UK funky house, grime and drill into the mix, which was greatly appreciated, as London was heavily represented. That being said, the crowd was incredibly diverse and so many different nationalities were present. It was such a memorable opening night that sometimes I still get flashbacks of hearing Mr Killa’s voice sing “pick up something start to run wid it“ and just seeing lots of women’s bodies bouncing in the air. The mandem were definitely shooting in the gym before they all came out for carnival.
Friday 7th June 2019
Day: Soca on the Beach @ Badeschiff/ Carnival Fever Entertainment
Price: 25,00 €
Soca on the Beach was by far my favourite event of the entire trip, so much so that I can barely put it into words. However, for the purposes of this sub-section, I shall try. The sun was out in full force, the sand at this (man-made) beach was toasty warm, sensational soca tunes were blaring in the background and the sweet cocktails were flowing. Everyone was covered in glitter, wearing a smile and high on the good vibes. A notable part of day 2 was seeing everyone that we made friends with from the night before (and we continued seeing them at every other event thereafter) making it an even bigger collective experience.
Night: Avenue Nightclub
Price: 12,00 €
Avenue was an absolute sweatbox. I’m convinced that they deliberately filled that club to overcapacity simply for banter (and profitable gain, of course). Health and safety requirements, fire regulations and quality of experience clearly all fi dead because they really didn’t care. The worst part was that they did unnecessary shakara; they had this ridiculously long queue outside the venue and appeared to be hand picking those who could enter. Abeg, all for what? It was so cramped inside that I could barely enjoy the night. Although my love for R’n’B runs deep, I don’t think I could put myself through that again.
Saturday 8th June 2019
Day: UP! – The Rooftop Party @ House of Weekend/ Emurgy and Carnival Explosion
Price: 15,00 € on the door/ 25,00 € online
*Shudders at the memory* this was the ridiculous night where I managed to lock myself out of my iPhone… for the remainder of the trip. Let that sink in, please. The enjoyment distracted me to the point where I typed my password incorrectly 10 TIMES, at various different points that evening. This has never happened to me before and to be quite frank, I’m still quite bewildered. The night really did start off well (the views from House of Weekend’s rooftop were spectacular) but it gradually took a nose dive…
Night: XXL Carnival Edition @ Festsaal Kreuzberg/Cirque de l’Afrique
Price: 16,90 €
First of all, I suspect that whoever was running operations for XXL Carnival Edition has now been sacked. Why? Because the logistics outside the venue were shambolic. There were no clearly demarcated queues for those already with or even without tickets, so naturally, their process of permitting entry was chaotic. There was just a massive crowd of majority black young people looking hella confused. The organisers eventually SOS called the police, who then came to conduct their own perverse idea of “crowd control”. This unit of noticeably riled up, all white police officers arrived and immediately started shouting in people’s faces and aggressively pushing people back. I won’t even lie to you guys, it was a terrifying scene. More so, because some of the officers looked like they genuinely enjoyed inciting fear into us.
Sunday 9th June 2019
Day: Karneval Der Kulturen
Price: FREE.99 €
Our accommodation, Hotel The Yard, was down the road from a main section of the carnival (by design and not coincidence, OKURRR) so we casually strolled down to the festivities.
We couldn’t find a procession map, so it was fairly difficult to locate the floats that we were interested in. Thankfully we ended up finding Freak De L’Afrique’s Africa float which had our beloved DJ Neptizzle on the decks and Shopsy Doo on the mic. Everything from Côte d’Ivoire’s ‘Premier Gaou’ to Ghana, by way of the UK’s, ‘Wo Onane No’ was played. We fully enjoyed the vibes of a neighbouring Caribbean float as well; I honestly danced till my feet were numb and my waist was sore. So to regain strength at the end of such a workout, we bought some very sloppy chorizo sausage burgers from an open grill stall. It was so delicious, I think I even bought 2.
Night: BURN “The hottest Carnival Afterparty” @ Haubentaucher/Freak De L’Afrique
Price: 15,00 €
Freak De L’Afrique are known for annually hosting a massive carnival closing party at Haubentaucher. This venue is so aesthetically pleasing, my literary description won’t do it justice so just go and see the visuals here: https://haubentaucher.berlin/. Although the night poolside views were worth the wahala of getting in, was the actual “multi-room” event? Absolutely not. This particular organiser suffers the same plight with every event they do: they either over-sell tickets or don’t know how to manage the crowds. To make matters worse, the staff of this facility were incredibly hostile, nonchalant and borderline-nationalistic. Whilst urgently seeking their help to address an accident, they told us “this is Deutschland” implying that we should be speaking their native tongue rather than English. We just thank God that somebody in the wider group was first aid trained because the staff were truly unbothered… so much so that:
…they still hadn’t cleaned up the puddle of blood by one of their poolside deck chairs. Whew, chile. The literal ghetto.
Tips for Berlin Carnival
- Don’t even bother with a crack of dawn outbound flight (unless it’s really cheap), it appeared as though many hotels in Berlin had a 3pm check-in time.
- Toss Taxify into the bin! If you’re going to use any taxi app in Berlin, let it be Uber.
- Always ensure that you have a sufficient amount of cash on you. Berlin has a pretty rigid cash over card preference. In fact, we were even denied the use of card in Burger King. Can you imagine? They refused both international and German cards alike.
- For all self-proclaimed mixologists, buy your alcohol (and mixers) in bulk (to cover the whole duration of your trip) more or less as soon as you arrive. Carnival is on a Sunday and all shops/supermarkets are closed. Also, the price point for most of the stalls selling beverages and cocktails at the parade is comparatively quite high.
- If you’re a fellow lover of soca, I would recommend buying one of Carnival Fever Entertainment’s package tickets. They do a Golden Ticket which permits entrance into 9/10 events across 4 days and gives you a 40% saving over buying single tickets. Similarly, their Silver Ticket covers 7 events across 3 days and saves you 30%. Even if you don’t go to everything (which is highly likely, unless you have the strength of the Black Panther), it’s better to have the security of guaranteed entry than to be disappointed by certain events being sold out.
- Be friendly and sociable from the jump! You’ll see a lot of the same faces throughout the weekend so it makes perfectly logical sense to make friends with them.
- Berlin Carnival is very much an all-day event, so please wear comfortable trainers (advisably ones that have cushiony soles and that you don’t particularly care about), slather on the sunscreen and take lots of water with you. It’s the height of summer, hydration is crucial.
- Consider taking a backpack (and no, this is not a plug). I know babes (myself included) love to do lightweight fashion with fanny packs for carnivals, but a backpack is probably more practical for all your essential belongings and liquids. You can never be too prepared and you can always take it off for pictures.
- Book your accommodation for Berlin Carnival by January, latest March. Things fly off the market like hotcakes because the Monday after carnival is a national holiday. A lot of hotels and hostels get booked up quickly for weekend getaways.
- If you can, get breakfast included with your accommodation. Party holidays are physically strenuous. The nights will eventually blur into one, you’ll be heavily sleep deprived and you’ll most likely be aching. The last thing you need is to be struggling to chef up breakfast or frantically running to a café.
- Finally, with regards to travelling in a group, be responsible (Germany is an orderly “no nonsense” country), take care of each other and most importantly: be sure to have the time of your lives!
Aside from Checkpoint Charlie, I didn’t get to do much touristic exploring of Berlin on this trip. However, I did notice that the city generally had an industrial/clinical ambience and aesthetic. Considering its tumultuous history, I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was, but it was just very underwhelming. I truly hope that next time I’m Berlin-bound that I get to see the more colourful and quirky aspects of the city. Hopefully, that won’t be too long from now, considering Karneval Der Kulturen is from May 29th to June 1st 2020.
First thing Monday morning, go and book off your annual leave. Don’t say that I didn’t tell ya xo
P.S. Check out my Berlin highlights on IG @theblackgirlandherbackpack to see more of my carnival shenanigans!