The Best of Berlin in October

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.

The Best of Berlin in October

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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10 unmissable events in Germany this October

From dazzling light shows to quirky food festivals, October is a jam-packed month in Germany. Here are some of the events you won't want to miss.

10 unmissable events in Germany this October

Oktoberfest, Munich Teresienwiese, September 17th – October 3rd

As possibly the world’s most famous beer festival, Oktoberfest needs no introduction – and for those who didn’t make it to Bavaria in September, there are still a few days left to catch it at the start of the month.

If you make it on the last bank holiday Monday, you can catch an especially rowdy party atmosphere as professional rifle shooters mark the end of the fest. But any other day at the Wiesn is an experience to remember, with live music and singing in all the tents, delicious Bavarian beer and a gigantic funfair for the most adventurous visitors.

And for those who can’t make it down to Bavaria at short notice, the Hofbräuhaus beer halls around the country celebrate their own mini-Oktoberfests with dancing, singing, live music and of course a crisp litre or two of Hofbräu. 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Germany’s Oktoberfest

German Unity Day Celebrations, Erfurt Old Town, October 1st – 3rd 

Marking the day when West and East Germany were formally reunited back in 1990 – a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall – Tag der Einheit (Unity Day) is a truly special bank holiday in Germany. 

Each year, a different German city takes it in turn to host the annual Bürgerfest (citizen’s festival) in honour of Germany’s national day. This year, the Thuringian capital of Erfurt will be putting on an action-packed programme of political and cultural events all weekend. To start with, Germany’s five constitutional bodies – the Bundestag, Bundesrat, Federal President, Federal Government and Federal Constitutional Court – will be represented with large information stands on the theme of “Experiencing Politics”. And for those less keen to take a deep dive into the workings of government, each of the 16 states will have the best of their culture and cuisine on display. 

There’ll also be live concerts, performances and a light installation representing German reunification over the weekend, making a visit to scenic Erfurt well worth it. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How October 3rd became Germany’s national holiday

Cannstatter Volksfest, Stuttgart, September 23rd – October 9th 

If you want to experience big folk festival but want to steer clear of the tourist crowd in Munich, look no further than Oktoberfest’s Swabian sister, the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart. 

First launched in 1818, the festival has become a mainstay of the autumn calendar in Baden-Württemberg, and it’s an event that is fiercely proud of its Swabian roots. If you go, you can sample some of the best local beers and wines around, as well as other traditional Swabian delicacies. You can also go on rollercoasters and other fairground rides, hear trumpeting Oompah bands and get dizzy on the world’s largest mobile Ferris wheel. 

Weimar Onion Market, October 7th – 9th

Nobody can say that Germans don’t make the most of their seasonal produce – and Weimar’s historic Zwiebelmarkt (onion market) is no exception.

The Zwiebelmarkt tradition dates back as early as the 15th century, when traders would come to the bustling town of Weimar to sell their wares. Over the years, the onion market days became a major social event where locals would also gather to eat, drink and barter. These days, you’ll still find all things onion-related at the onion market, from arts and crafts to culinary treats. But there’s also a funfair, live music, beer tents and family friendly activities to boot.

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival, August 26th – December 4th

If you’re a fan of all things autumnal, look no further than Ludwigsburg Palace, which becomes home to the world’s largest pumpkin exhibition each year from late August to early December. 

It may sound novel, but a walk around the grounds of the palace will show you that in Ludwigsburg, the pumpkin artists certainly don’t do things by halves. Not only can you see incredible sculptures made from around 450,000 pumpkins in total, but you’ll also see a jaw-dropping 600 different varieties of pumpkin there as well. And if you work up an appetite while soaking up the exhibition, you can also sample some delicious pumpkin-based dishes, from soup to Maultaschen.

Pumpkin exhibition Ludwigsburg

Balu and Mowgli from the Jungle Book at the Ludwigsburg pumpkin exhibition. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Schmidt

Filmfest Hamburg, 29th September – October 8

Though it tends to get overshadowed by the show-stopper Berlinale, film buffs who can’t wait until February will enjoy a trip to its Hanseatic sibling: Filmfest Hamburg.

Running throughout the first week of October, the Filmfest brings together the best of contemporary cinema from around the world at a range of venues around the city. This year, the festival is also celebrating its 30th anniversary, so there’s bound to be a truly special atmosphere at the event. 

You can find the full programme in English here.

Berlin Festival of Lights, October 7th – 16th

Each year in the middle of August, the familiar sights of the German capital are bathed in colourful light and transformed each evening into weird and wonderful artistic creations.

This year, the theme of the world famous light festival is “Visions of the Future” as artists explore the question: What will our future look like?

The fruits of their labours can be seen around the city each evening from 7-11pm, after it gets dark. Organisers says there will be a big focus on sculptures this year – as well as the usual large installations – as they seek to reduce their electricity use by 75 percent. 

Berlin cathedral at Festival of Lights 2018

Berlin cathedral lit up in colourful lights at the 2018 Festival of Lights. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Kalaene

Frankfurt Book Fair, October 19th – 23rd 

The world’s largest book fair is returning to Frankfurt this October with the theme of “translation”, exploring the idea of translating ideas into new languages, mediums and contexts.

Alongside the sprawling trade fair and conference, there will also be a packed schedule of literary events where people can hear reading and talks by popular authors. You can find out all about the exhibitors at the book fair this year and what’s on at the conference in English on the Frankfurt Book Fair website

Deutsches Weinlesefest, September 23rd – October 10th 

The picturesque wine-growing regions of western Germany hold wine festivals throughout the year, but the Wine Harvest Festival – or Weinlesefest – is by far one of the biggest.

Fittingly enough, the festival is held in Neustadt an der Weinstraße, a pretty little town located along the famous Wine Route. For the few weeks of the festival, this sleepy little town hosts an enormous wine parade and around 100,000 wine-loving visitors. Head there on the 7th to see the crowning of this year’s Palatinate Wine Queen and sample some Rhineland wines out of a dubbeglas, a big glass that holds a whopping 50cl of wine. As always, drink responsibly! 

READ ALSO: 10 ways to enjoy autumn like a true German

Halloween at Frankenstein’s Castle, October 21st – November 6th 

If the name of Frankenstein’s Castle sounds familiar to you, it should do: apparently, Mary Shelley, the author of the novel Frankenstein, could well have been inspired by the castle when she visited the nearby town of Gernsheim in 1814. 

These days, however, the castle is known for something slightly different: in 1978, American airmen set up an annual Halloween festival at the castle, and the spooky tradition has continued to this day.

Halloween at Frankenstein Castle

A blood-curdling character at Frankenstein Castle’s Halloween Festival in 2018. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

If you want to enjoy what’s been described as one of the most spectacular Halloween experiences in the world, it’s well worth booking tickets to go up to the castle in late October. In the weeks around Halloween, the 1000-year-old castle is transformed in a phantasmagoria of monsters and evil beings lurking in the shadows.

Every year, the organisers of the festivals pull yet another technical trick out of their sleeve to ensure that visitors are more spooked than ever. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but if you think you can handle the adrenaline, it’s bound to be an action-packed night. 

READ ALSO: What are Germany’s 8 spookiest places?