Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
One of the first useful things to learn when you are young is that nothing ever stays the same and all is in the state of flux. Once you leave the room, in spite of the appearances and despite your natural wishes or expectations it is a different room that you would enter upon your return. It is – for some a sad – fact and Einstein, I am sure, would have concurred.
Sometimes, however, the changes that took place during your absence are of such extent that there can be no mistake: things just ain’t the same. And no amount of appearances, expectations or wishes can possibly “un-do” the difference.
I am very much used to leaving Kreuzberg for a day or, say, even a week and coming back to discover that things have changed. The coffee bar on the corner has been replaced by a chain hairdressing salon that is already on the verge of bankruptcy. But fear not! There’s already another chubby guy waiting in the wings to take over with his little gambling parlour. Panta rhei and in Kreuzberg even more so.
What about the changes so brutally final, however, that they make you want to lay down on the pavement – trying carefully to avoid squashing anything suspiciously brown and commonly left behind by our little four-legged brethren (and equally commonly ignored by the brethren’s dim-witted owners) – spread yer puny (or not) body and weep?
After being away for a tad longer than a day or “even a week”, I returned to Kreuzberg that will never be the same. Karstadt in Hermannplatz is still there and the water in Landwehrkanal (luckily!) keeps flowing but if any of you have been planning to go to any of the numerous events organised for the past 9 years at Festsaal Kreuzberg, well, it is time to adjust your plans. Festsaal Kreuzberg is gone.
The massive fire that broke out at the venue in Skalitzer Strasse on Saturday morning July 21st and took until the early hours of Sunday to extinguish. 300 firemen worked extremely hard to quench the flames inside the concrete bunker that Festsaal Kreuzberg in fact was. With no windows or skylights to let the smoke in or our they were fighting not only against the fire itself but also against the thick acrid smoke filling the venue and making it almost impossible to stay inside for longer than a minute at a go.
By the time they finished their work Festsaal Kreuzberg was history. That’s the bad news. The goods news is that neither the neighbouring mosque under construction nor the repair garage or a historical factory building behind it were affected.
The best news, though, is that the fire broke out two hours before the scheduled concert. And some 19 hours after the last one. Despite its horrific scale almost nobody was hurt and the only victims were an injured firemen and a by-stander who came too close to the flames and inhaled the poisonous gases contained in the smoke.
The cause of the fire is unclear yet but it was most likely a technical problem that started the inferno.
Well, Panta rhei. And in Kreuzberg the more so…
Here is the message left by the club’s management on its web page:
With torn hearts we have to report that on July 21st 2013 at 6.30am our beloved venue Festsaal Kreuzberg has been forced to its knees by a fire that started the night before at 9pm. The Berlin fire department did its best to avoid further damage for which we are very grateful to them. Luckily, except for one fireman who suffered light injuries, noone got hurt. Our special regards go out to him.
After 9 years of countless amazing concerts, partys, readings and boxing events Festsaal Kreuzberg will have to close down its gates at least for a little while. We want to thank the staff, friends, artists, promoters and especially YOU! for making Festsaal Kreuzberg the magical place it used to be and will hopefully become again. We will keep you updated on further developments and hopefully we will be able to open our gates again in the not too distant future. Yours truly, Festsaal Kreuzberg