Boxhagener: The Platz To Be

Unscene Berlin is currently penniless (thanks, Ibiza) but that didn't stop her having brunch and taking a cabaret (read: puppetshow) for free in Boxhagener Platz, Friedrichshain.  Read on to find out how...

A breezy, polite hippy in a tidy ponytail came up to my friend and I in Boxhagener Platz, today.  Leaning over us and smiling, he said, "English or Deutsch?"
"Depends what you're selling," I quipped.

This is an ingrained reflex... I work in the Mitte, after all, which is home of Berlin's biggest 'Speak English?' begging community.  But the hippy dude recoiled like I'd tarnished his idealistic credentials, and cried, "We are selling nothing! I only wanted to invite you to have some free food, if you like."  Then he turned to my mate and explained, in German, that he is part of a group that collects brunch-buffet munchies (brunchies?) from the cafes and restaurants surrounding Boxhagener Platz, and hands them out for free  to anybody who's hungry.  Every Sunday.

The feeding of the five dozen people that were there started just after four p.m. which is the time when most of the brunch buffets in the area seem to end.  We took a look at the offerings - quark, potato and pasta salads, regular salads, beans, breads, couscous, chicken.  Then we filled up a plate (my friend's was roughly five times the size of mine, which is weird because I'm roughly five times the size of her).  We sat on the grass and quatched with each other and to a character from San Francisco who announced that he'd slept rough in every major city in the world.  He confided that Frisco was the best place to crash in a doorway though.  Something to keep in mind when I'm booking my next global tour of the world's rough-sleeping spots.      

My smart mouth aside, everybody at the buffet seemed like genuinely down-to-earth and non-judgmental people.  A good crowd to chill with in the park on a Sunday afternoon.  Having just gotten back from Spain (a sometimes-harsh contrast to Berlin's self conscious, affected cynicism) it was really nice to see people in the city who were doing something wholehearted-ly unselfish and helping each other without any preconceptions.  And it was nice to be reminded that Germans do apply their all-or-nothing approach to the good things that they do, as well as the bad.

Speaking of good things for free: Saturday July the 5th from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. I will be helping to organize a free street festival in Wedding, on Schererstrasse.  It will be put on by the employment and welfare rights group Basta.  It's totally non-commercial as well, so you don't need any money  to join in.  Basta will provide free food, non alcoholic drinks and a swap shop, as well as free music, talks and info about joblessness, welfare and homelessness in the city of Berlin.

Hope I see you all there!

(By the way: if you see this guy in Boxi be sure to give him a tip, yeah?)

A DIY puppet show for the kids in Boxhagener Platz



  1. Love to know your thoughts on the frankly offensive prices of ibiza, especially coming from somewhere like Berlin. I stopped going to the white isle about 5 yrs ago because I just got angry being ripped off. But good to see you posting again!

  2. Hi Ian, sorry I didn't answer sooner! Thanks for your encouraging words :-)

    Ibiza prices seem to be going down but I suspect that they were probably mad before Spain's economy went into decline. One thing I've noticed over time is that development on the island has been very slow and minimal, thanks to all the environmentally conscious natives. Since Ibiza seems to not add many new hotels or rooms I guess their way of dealing with the high demand is just to raise prices... but that trend has started to reverse now. My big money saving tip is to stay near (but not in) San An because it's the cheapest town on the island for everything (they even have a LIDL there, haha!) My other tip is to resign yourself to drinking nothing but a single bottle of water in the clubs, and find 'another way' to stay up all night. Drinking on the rocks outside Mambo, people watching, or sitting on a beach with some tunes while sunbathing is fun enough on its own... in my humble opinion, it's possible to do this sort of holiday for under 200 euros a week.

    This is the first time I've been to the White Isle and come back with money in my pocket though. Tough to do!


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