When I find myself shaken with travel fever and I am really itching to get away, but I’m stuck in the grey, weird, awesome and stressful monstrosity that is Berlin, Bearpit Karaoke at Mauerpark is a remedy that has proven to be helpful every single time for several reasons. I’ll take you on a quick stroll through a Sunday afternoon at the pit to explain to you why that is.

On any given Sunday between sometime in Spring and the last halfway decent day in Autumn, I will get to the pit and there will still be a gymnast, a magician or a stand up comedian heating up the crowd that is bound to be sitting on the steps already. As long as they are still going, I will peform the art of choosing the right place to sit (not too close to the speakers, perfect distance from the stage, preferably in the sun etc.). When around three o’clock the artist of the day will have wrapped it up, Joe Hatchiban arrives with his orange bike that magically transports everything he needs to get the show started – including speakers specifically designed for the pit’s acoustic conditions, wicked!! And the cheering begins. And I cheer, too, for Bearpit Karaoke heals my travel itch, as it is a bit like travelling in itself. And here are the reasons why:

Mariella MauerparkReason #1: It is a place completely out of space and time. If you took this little patch of land and isolated it from its surroundings, there would be no way to tell where you took it from. The language that is spoken most is English with any given accent, and the German accent is not necessarily the most common one in the crowd. I could forget that I am not abroad when I am here. There literally are people present aged 1 through 80 from any country with any background. 


Reason #2: Everyone’s equal in the pit. Because the crowd – I am horrible with estimating numbers, but appearantly there are more than a thousand onlookers on a sunny day – will cheer with equal enthusiasm for someone who is really horrible and for someone who is just rockstar amazing. The people will reward what the performance manages to get across – and even someone who cannot sing can make a thousand people dance, or laugh, or just plain feel something.

CIMG9527Reason #3: When I am there, it is easy to believe that the world is a good place. There is an image that is among my most favorite memories ever. Joe always walks around with a tin collecting donations. The way that everyone stretches out their arms to him is getting to me every time. People are doing it not because they want to take something from him, but because they want to give something to him! There is this immense willingness to give back for all the joy that this event imposes upon everyone who is there. And it looks so beautiful when Joe is jumping up and down stairs and arms are reaching for the tin from every direction to underline the feeling of gratefulness that encircles the pit. Really I am not here to flatter, but Joe is a pretty awesome dude for making this all happen.

Reason #4: Unexpected things happen. A blind Brasilian girl is led to the stage, seeming insecure, and then she’s singing the Scorpions‘ „Rock me like a hurricane“ like an absolute pro. A plain, short, bearded man that in teh street you would easily overlook is coming into the centre and then singing a German version of Sinatra’s „My way“ with so much soul and ernest that you’re just completely taken by him (granted, he is not bearded anymore and also he does this every Sunday, but the first time it is really unexpected! And also, it doesn’t cease to be endearing). Most recently, four people are starting to sing „Gangnam Style“ and all the remains of the pit are storming the stage and starting to dance. There are marriage proposals. Declarations of Love. And just plain old good entertainment.

Reason #5: When I travel, I never have to care about tomorrow – just about the moment. When I am singing for an audience, I feel the same way. Yes, I am a sucker for the stage. I love singing, and I love the funny things that stagefright does to my tummy – especially when there is an audience that I do not know. I find it much harder to perform for people I care about, because I put a lot more pressure on myself. At the pit I go in there and I’m allowed to forget about my ambitions. I just let go and sing. And I return to my seat with adrenalin shooting through my body, and I am feeling alive. There really is no need to be afraid of a performance at the pit. Nothing to lose. Just a whole lot to gain.

As I make my way back to my bike through the park when the show is over, past all the people with their guitars, their drum sets made from cans and boxes, their artwork, their dancing, their hula hooping or whatever else they may have on display, I can’t believe that I am walking on what used to be the death strip. To my left – the former West. To my right – the former East. Today it’s multiculturalism at its best. And a whole lot of happy up for grabs.