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The Best of Berlin in October

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The Best of Berlin in October
Photo: www.haus-schwarzenberg.org
11:59 CEST+02:00
Exberliner, Berlin's leading English-language magazine, in October celebrates Haus Schwarzenberg's 15th birthday, gets it's 15 minutes of DJing fame, and still has time for coffee and cake in Kreuzkölln.

Happy birthday Haus Schwarzenberg

It all started in 1995, when the art collective Dead Chickens and their enormous bronze monster sculptures took over an empty Hackescher Markt courtyard. A non-profit organisation (Haus Schwarzenberg e.V.) was established; to show off its creatures, Dead Chickens also opened Eschschloraque bar and created a “monster cabinet” in the basement. Now, 15 years later, this Hackesche Hof is a very unique Berlin institution. Haus Schwarzenberg continues to runs the bar and an art gallery (Neurotitan, which was a pioneering exhibitor of street art), and rents out space to Kino Central, designers, artists, illustrators and Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt. The latter pays homage to Weidt, a German who sheltered Jews in his brush factory during the Second World War. In fact, the courtyard's worn-down façade is like its own little museum, silently telling the story of Berlin's hectic 20th century history. Once home to the headquarters of DEFA, the GDR's official film company, the fall of the Wall left the surrounding buildings empty – ready for the Haus Schwarzenberg era to begin. Their decrepit walls are covered in posters, graffiti tags and painted messages: a look that perfectly encapsulates the shabby-chic-with-a-dash-of-history so prized by Berlin's visitors. And since this is Berlin, the Haus is celebrating its 15th anniversary clad in scaffolding. But even that won't spoil the fun: from October 15-30, there will be DJs, art and photography displays, an art/design fair and much more. By Karen Sophie Egebo

Flesh ‘n' blood file sharing

Cigarette in mouth, you stand sweaty palmed, clutching a handful of scratched records and CDs. On the wall, a giant beamed digital timer counts down towards zero. The DJ is indulging in some obscure Italo disco. When the timer reaches 00:00, Tom, the host, flips a switch and your first 33 LP starts spinning: SOS Band's “Just be Good to Me”. A couple shake their skinny butts half-heartedly to the 1983 funk classic. For the next 900 seconds (hence the name of Kim's DIY party on the last weekend of every month), you have to entertain a hodgepodge crowd of gallerinas, bearded Mitte guys and an assortment of DJs – from totally professional to hopelessly amateurish – and their various entourages. Five tracks later (one, Stereo Total's “L'amour à trois”, managed to get a few enthusiastic bodies onto the miniscule dance floor), and your all-too-eclectic set is promptly cut off. A real DJ-producer type elbows his way in and starts making all of those ‘real DJ' movements: with one ear to the headphones, he flips and slides switches, expertly fondling his vinyl. Your 15 minutes vanish into smoke; your DJ ego is crestfallen but you're relieved you don't have to do it for a living. And for the rest of the night, there's new music every quarter-hour. Never a dull moment. In reaction to Berliners' tendency to share music on MySpace and SoundCloud, rather than in the flesh, organisers Tom Heywood and Martina Carl took “user generated content” offline and into nightlife. It really is a better way to “share”: anyone can show up for this DJ version of karaoke, with any music in virtually any medium – vinyl, MP3, CDs, tapes, Ableton Live. Just show up at 22:00 to secure your slot. By Seymour Gris

Cakes and vintage fashion… for a song

From a burgeoning nest of ateliers in Kreuzkölln, Sing Blackbird has become the latest addition to the neighbourhood's hype by dishing up “vintage, coffee and cake” five days a week to a crowd of local and transient Berliners. Hailing from Germany (with Croatian parents) and the US, owners Diana Durdic and Tasha Arana make a winsome duo. Arana, a former New Yorker, worked as an accessories designer, while Durdic was an engineer. As the latter says, “We're able to take advantage of each other's abilities.” Though even these weren't able to prevent them from being robbed on their first week in business… which proves Neukölln might, after all, have retained some genuine local flair. Spanning multiple white-walled rooms, Sing Blackbird oozes more modern elegance than scruffy vintage (the place used to be a phone-sex HQ, but gone are the artifacts of its earlier incarnation). Light fittings are fashioned from birdcages, fresh flowers adorn the tables and dainty crockery features on the wall. Make use of the free wifi and settle in for an espresso, made from coffee beans roasted just outside Berlin (Ridders Kaffeerösterei). And don't go without trying the homemade baked goods, such as the delicious Zwetschgenkuchen or organic scones with marmalade (both €2.50); there are also savoury options from Hokkaido pumpkin quiche to Spanish tortilla (€3). No visit would be complete without trying on some of the handpicked stock: leopard-print ankle boots for €35, or a 1970s knit sweater dress for €50. Sourced from Germany, Poland and the US, the 1970s-1990s garments, shoes and accessories are decently priced, and you can swap your own clothes for store or café credit. Just in case you wanted to leave empty-handed… (or empty-bellied for that matter!). by Melissa Gray-Ward

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