You've seen them waving their little paws in window displays throughout the city, from Asian shops to hip boutiques: ‘Chinese Lucky Cats', as they're commonly (and erroneously) called, have become the ultimate cool-kitsch. Yet the colorful ceramic sculptures, actually called Maneki Neko and said to bring good luck to their owners, aren't Chinese: they come from Japan. So where to get your own lucky feline? You can always find the knock-off version for €5 on eBay, but for the real deal, head to Enishi in Prenzlauer Berg, a Japanese café and antique shop that opened in November 2010 on Pappelallee. Owner Maki Kawatsura imports most of her stock straight from Japan via her mom, who's been an antique handler for over 30 years. Everything in the shop is Japanese-made, with prices ranging from €20 for dishware made by a Japanese ceramicist living in Berlin to €500 for an antique Japanese shoji screen. While browsing the collection, you can enjoy green tea macchiato or Japanese pudding from the tiny-but-affordable in-house café (items from €2). At €380, the real-deal Maneki Neko might seem a bit expensive, but can you really but a price on authentic Japanese good luck?
ENISHI | Pappelallee 86, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Eberswalder Str., Tel 030 4862 5817, enishi.de. Tue-Fri 11-19, Sat 12-18
La vie en rouge
Perhaps it's for the same reason that control-freak businessmen patronize dominatrices, but ever-schicki Mitte does love its grunge bars, whether it be CCCP, Muschi Obermaier or Le Cercle Rouge, a recent addition with a French twist. The owners, Anthony Durand & Fred Fredovitch Bourdil (a member of King Khan & the Shrines who also performs as Fredovitch One Man Band) have run popular spots in Pigalle and the Bastille, respectively. Daft Punk notwithstanding, late nights in Paris often belong to the rock crowd at places such as Truskel and the like. The down-home, red-lit Le Cercle Rouge tends to favor a similar trash-cult vibe, with topless go-go girl projections, mirror balls, a winged tiger statue at the bar and a psychotropic Vespa in the corner. The DJ roster often overlaps with Bassy, White Trash Fast Food and Wowsville – garage, 1960s R'n'B, easy listening, funk, exotica, punk, AM gold, a bit of indie and kein Techno, natürlich. The wine is surprisingly quaffable as well as affordable, while other drinks are par for the course for the more unpretentious new spots in the area – €2.50 for a beer, €3.50 for a Weißbier, €2 for shots. Only open for a couple of months, yet feeling older than its surroundings on Gormannstraße, Le Cercle Rouge seems likely to stick around.
Le Cercle Rouge | Gormannstr. 25-26, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Tel 030 9225 1444. Daily from 19
Deep in Moabit is a little neo-Gothic bazaar, the Arminius Markthalle. It's worth a visit, not only for the stalls teeming with Turkish and German specialties, but also for the beautiful architecture – vaulted ceilings, small-paned windows, intricate carvings – dating back to 1891. Yet recently, Berliners have been given a more divine reason to visit: a tiny booth offers a channel to higher powers. The Gebetomat – or ‘Prayer-o-mat' – is the work of German artist Oliver Sturm, who took an old photo booth and converted it into a fully functioning automated god machine. To use it, you step into the booth, insert a coin and make your selection on a touch-screen to listen to pre-recorded versions of more than 300 prayers in 65 different languages. For 50 cents, you can hear five minutes of “Our Father” in German, English, ‘American' or Low German. Or listen to Buddhist, Islamic and Voodoo benedictions. Or hear Aborigine devotional songs and the solemn chanting of an orthodox Jewish congregation. Most of the prayers were collected by Sturm, but some have been found in radio archives, like the recording of missionaries scratchily singing church songs in 1903 (find it under 'Christianity' – 'Historic').
Arminius Markthalle is the Gebetomat's ninth location in Germany – it's already been placed in Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Welt and
Radialsystem V– so see it now before it moves again. It will give you a bit of respite from the vulgarities of the contemporary world, and you never know: it might just save your soul.
ARMINIUS MARKTHALLE | Arminiusstr. 2-4, Moabit, U-Bhf Turmstr., arminiusmarkthalle.de, gebetomat.com. Mon-Thu 7:30-18:00, Fri 7:30-19, Sat 7:30-14