Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
In a borough where almost 25% of residents are immigrants and who knows how many more come from all possible ends and corners of the republic, you are bound to encounter a rich mix of some pretty cool traditions. Some of them are quite popular: many of them thanks to the annual Carnival of Cultures in Kreuzberg. Some others still take you by surprise.
On the morning of May 1st I stepped outside, got on my bike and started in the direction of Mehringplatz. In the next street I was stopped in my tracks – they might still be a black streak of rubber slashed across the asphalt there – by the sight of a tree. A tree where no tree used to be before. And not only was the tree there – it was also was dressed in a mass of colourful ribbons.
A passing neighbour explained what the author of the leafy and ribbony work only confirmed minutes later: we were looking at Rheinland tradition (Rheinland is the large area in the south-west of Germany around, roughly speaking, Bonn and Cologne).
Down in Rheinland on the night of April 30th to May 1st all young men are busy chopping big birch tree branches and decorating them with crepe paper ribbons (every four years, on leap years it is the ladies turn to swing the ax and work with them ribbons). The branches are then put in front of their sweetheart´s house with the sweetheart´s name written on a paper heart. And let´s be honest, if that doesn´t make that sweetheart´s Herz beat faster, then probably nothing else will (well, maybe apart from having a crowd of 19,000 march outside her window that same day in the evening and demanding the end of all social inequalities and free wifi for all).
But in this case no marching crowds were necessary: the look on the young lady´s face made all that chopping and decorating very much worthwhile:-)
That´s why I´m expecting a birch tree in front of my house next year, too. Tradition can learnt.