The best of Berlin in February

Exberliner, Berlin’s leading English-language magazine, in February finds feline luck, tests a new French watering hole in Mitte, and gives an automatic prayer booth a try.

The best of Berlin in February
Photo: Exberliner

Lucky felines

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, 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.,, Mon-Thu 7:30-18:00, Fri 7:30-19, Sat 7:30-14

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.