Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin And Kreuzberg
At 12.00 PM sharp first celery roots and tomatoes cut quick arches through the air, swiftly followed by billowing clouds of flour and a battery of water-bombs. Dozens of eggs cracked open on the enemy´s heads and shoulders, rendering many a pair of skiing-goggles useless by covering them in slimy goo.
The troops on both sides of Oberbaumbrücke, spanning the river Spree between Berlin-Friedrichshain and Berlin-Kreuzberg, fearless and drunk on the perspective of victory, were moving slowly but steadily towards the western end of the bridge. The opponents spared no courage, saved no-one, shrank from no nasty trick involving fresh and not-so-fresh groceries, to win the upper hand. The Battle of Oberbaumbrücke was in full swing.
Known as Gemüseschlacht (Vegetable Battle) or Wasserschlacht (Water Battle) it began officially in 2001 although in fact the first wet clash of the boroughs took place already in the summer of 1998. However, in 2001 the city of Berlin was divided anew through a massive administrative reform. The old boroughs were replaced by 12 new ones (comprising 96 Ortsteile or districts in total). Although welcome from the practical point of view, the new division was not actually embraced by the residents of the boroughs themselves. When the two neighbours, the old West Berlin Kreuzberg and the old East Berlin Friedrichshain became one it was clearly an arranged marriage that neither the bride nor the groom were particularly thrilled about.
The first Battle of Oberbaumbrücke was a witty and harmless way of expressing that animosity. And so the tradition continued, as all things witty and harmless should. With a small legal intermezzo in 2007 and 2008 when the court´s decisions became indispensable to decide the fate of the event. On July 3rd, 2009 carrots and water-filled plastic bags were flying again. Until money ran out and the the battle of 2013 was about to end before it even began. With both sides as losers. Fortunately, the last minute decision saved the day and tons of vegetables from rotting in vain.
And so today, on September 22nd, the federal election day in German Federal Republic (in election years the battle takes place on the election day), two armies launched their green-leafed and root missiles.
Kreuzberg lost, as it in fact always does and the joy of the Friedrichshainer was palpable. Well, they say they crossed the bridge and we lost. I say, they crossed the bridge and we welcomed them with full hands:-)
Here are some photos from this fantastic late summer day on the bridge (click to see the original picture). Make sure to be there next year.