Profet and Lula in Germany
A Short Vegan Punk Rock Guide to Hamburg and Berlin
Profet's Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström sums up his travels to Germany with pop group and Profet Friends Lula, always with a Vegan perspective on things.
Day I: Harbouring in Hamburg
Does a bad reputation sometimes suit a city? Stopping for a night in Hamburg on our way to Berlin, me, rattle rockers Lula and our driver Pune experience the place where The Beatles had some of their wildest pre-fame moments. Lula are booked to play a show at Neue Libe in Berlin on Friday, our third day upon arriving in Germany. Prior to their performance, I am on a mission to find out exactly how vegan friendly Germany is, and to see if Berlin is as terrific as I’ve imagined in interviews like »A Tale of Two Cities« , »The Deerleader« and »A Walk Down the Soundpath« .
Hamburg strikes me as a broken city when we step out of the car in a square in front of the central train station. Restless souls are purposelessly roaming the streets, the past and present hardships visible in their withered faces. Drinking freely is of course permitted, or just not cared about. The local Polizei station seems to have been closed for a couple of months, if not longer.
We’ve ended up in a Turkish neighbourhood, where grocery shops sell severed pig’s feet, deer hooves and what looks like either chicken hearts or bull testicles. At least the music blasting from the shop’s speakers is remarkable, some Anatolian folk songs flowing through the store. I do love Turkish music, as many of you have read in the article series »Det Turkiska Musikundret« and since I dream of once going to Istanbul to buy records, I’m pleased to be in a part of town catering to my musical preferences.
The rest of Hamburg does not apply to me, it doesn’t even meet me halfway. Me, the band members of Lula and Pune take the train down to St. Pauli, because we know it’s Norwegian band Turbonegro’s fan club headquarters. More than that, we don’t know. As many others, we end up on Reeperbahn, the street leading from the St. Pauli train station parallel to the harbour where we came from on the ferry from Denmark. Every step we take along Reeperbahn we see one conspicuous sex club after another, advertising women for cheap prices like the Turkish grocery stores trying to sell bundles of leak or carrots. What is actually going on in these clubs is unclear, and we see no one entering or leaving them. Maybe it’s too early, at 21:46 pm, for the regular customers of the clubs to come out of their shells.
I do feel disgust as I walk by the clubs, sometimes seeing a brief second of a half-naked dancer in one of the windows, perhaps twirling for one of the few guests that have arrived this early. What is the purpose of having such a street, where tourists stroll and glance momentarily at decay and marketing of humans? These travellers happily pose at the Beatles-Platz, a square where impious man-sized monuments have been placed; four outlined figures in cold, hard steel supposed to represent The Beatles. I can’t report for exactly what Ringo, Paul, John and George entertained themselves with during their stays in Hamburg, apart from playing ferociously in the city’s music clubs, but I truly hope that the mess Reeperbahn has become didn’t exist when they first came here. All the bouncers (who are rather the opposite since they try to throw you into a bar instead of kicking you out of one) approach us hungrily, like wolves closing in on its pray, actually scaring me more than subconsciously inviting me.
Finally we leave Reeperbahn after a few beers in a smoky bar at the end of the street, one of the few ones not selling people, and head down toward the harbour. This is where Hamburg is starting to go my way, with beautiful architecture and quiet Kneipen (traditional German pubs) where the locals seem to socialize. Walking home again, we get to see the stillness of a strange city at sleep before continuing onward to Berlin.
PS. Generally speaking, after a mere 24 hour stay in Hamburg, being vegan here is as hard as being at the Reeperbahn for longer than half an hour without feeling the need to vomit at the thought of what humans put each other through.
Day II: Krazy Kreuzberg
Dashing into Berlin, trying to forget Hamburg, me, Lula and our driver Pune settle down in Kreuzberg, preparing for Lula’s forthcoming gig on Friday October 19th in Neue Liebe in Admiralpalast, Fredrichstraße. Upon arrival on this Thursday afternoon, Berlin is calm as we walk through the vivid borough of Kreuzberg (also the base of a large Turkish population, just like in Hamburg) on our way to Tiki Heart, a charming punk rock burger joint with delicious vegan options. Compared to Hamburg, Berlin is a vegan haven, where restaurants clearly advertise whether they offer vegan food or not. The rest of the world should learn from this, and spare us poor souls endless searching for proper restaurants.
The punk rock kept on coming at us, when visiting the city’s Ramones museum, a real treat for a Ramones aficionado like myself. Collected in the truly spartan gallery are precious artefacts like Dee Dee’s credit card and the bass amp that he used for years and then gave to CJ upon quitting the band, Johnny’s shoes worn on the first album cover, furniture from Joey’s apartment given by his brother Mickey Leigh and various original lyric sheets.
The Ramones Museum in Berlin
Drifting is easy in Berlin, especially when you think you have somewhere to be. We all agree upon a party song of the trip, a certain track we always can pick up when the mood needs heightening (Sturm Café’s »Koka Kola Freiheit«) and David Hägelstam, Lula’s bass player and Profet’s constant content consultant, suddenly gets obsessed with the idea of finding a certain sausage bar he had been to during his latest Berlin stopover.
As you may imagine, I was not at all amused with the thought of an establishment devoted to this primitive, insensible form of food, but due to peer pressure and David’s legendary persuasion skills, I followed all of Lula and Pune in the search for this God forsaken sausage bar. The hunt went on for what felt like hours upon hours, pillaging through the back streets of Berlin with the occasional stop at corner stores for a »Fußpils« (a.k.a »Wegbier«, a well-deserved beer to-go).
The infamous sausage bar was nowhere to be seen, but what we found instead was a million times better: K19, another smoked down pub, located in what must be a squat house in Fredrichshain. This absolutely lovely place is covered in graffiti inward and outward, the bartenders smoke constantly and play punk music at a wonderfully deafening volume. Best of all, when we asked for whisky and cokes, the punked up tenders looked at us confusedly, saying they had no ice in the house. Instead, our drinks were spiked with pieces of pomegranate, and I’ll tell you, there is nothing better than a squat kneipe unpretentious enough not to carry ice.
Empowered by the pomegranate grogs, we finally found the sausage bar, which apparently didn’t even sell sausages after all (that’s Berlin for you, some pubs don’t have ice, some sausage bars don’t have sausage) eventually leading up to a first night in Berlin ending in pleasant oblivion, where one of few things remembered was us meeting a Danish boy who seemingly had drunk his spine away.
Day III: All in Admiralpalast
Lula finally takes the stage at Admiralpalast club Neue Liebe in Fredrichstraße, after me introducing them in my best school German (»Meine Damen und Herren, ich heiße Filip Lindström und ich bin der Chefideologe für die Schwedische Musik Magazine Profet. Ich wünsche für ihnen präsentieren, eine sehr tolles Band, meine gutes freunden – aus Schweden und Australien – LULA!«), giving the crowd a great set of their trademark rattle pop (as seen on Profet’s Instagram ).
Except for of course getting to see Lula perform once again, especially my favourite tracks »Bright Eyes« (known as »Hellen Augen« in German) and »Makeup«, I am delighted to find the bar serving a classic German treat, pickles and brezels.
On Fredrichstraße, we pass the most mysteriously beautiful creatures I’ve ever witnessed, a foursome of Berlin club kids floating down the street all draped in the darkest shade of black there is. Their skins are neatly moisturized and glistening like pale diamonds, slim from a strict diet of oxygen, cigarettes and unidentified substances. These beings don’t lower themselves down to eating pickles and brezels, they probably haven’t had solid food in years. Every single head on Fredirchstraße is turned and every jaw is dropped as they hoover by, heavenly as a quartet of fallen angels.
Later, meeting up a couple of friends from Dresden and Hamburg, our feisty group blast »Koka Kola Freiheit« and leave for yet another punk rock bar with smoking rooms (I might be starting to see a pattern here), the Oberbaumeck in Bevernstraße, where a large and important portion of the night is spent. Most bars are open very late in Berlin, meaning you don’t really have to worry about having to leave sooner than you’d ever want, and there’s always another place open even later when you actually decide to leave. During weekends, there is always the mystical all-night-all-day club Berghain to (try to) go to. The Techno institution is notoriously difficult to gain access to, which of course adds to its worldwide reputation. Your chances of getting in are all decided by renowned bouncer Sven Marquardt, and a long list of rules on how to dress, act, speak and be.
We decide to not even try, and instead go to OHM, a warehouse club in Köpenicker Straße where we’re invited to a party where DJ and producer T KODE is presenting Stratosphere Records (with rules for entering less strict than Berghain’s).
The venue is stunning, if you enjoy entering through what once could have been an up-and-running factory of some sort – which I do. Now, the entrance is run down, with huge factory doors screeching as we force them open. The music is furious and so is the dance floor. We have fallen into the rabbit hole leading to the real Berlin.
Day IV: Leaving Lula and Berlin
Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström on the way down to Berlin
My time with Lula, and our driver Pune – a period of nearly three and a half days – is over, with the fourth day beginning with a panicky check out from a Kreuzberg hostel after sleeping a bit too long. The boys are leaving for punk rock festival Affentanz in Weilburg and I’m staying in Berlin for another 12 hours before taking the bus to Copenhagen and then the train back home to Stockholm. »Why not fly and save yourself from the pain of being crammed into a bus and a train for 14 hours?« you ask. Well, dear reader, we have to decrease our flying, even cease it all together, and think about the environment when we have the chance.
To pass the time, I first meet up with my childhood neighbour, now living in Neukölln (a borough I instantly fall in love with, beautifully dressed in autumn leaves) and then later with Profet Friend Eric Maltz (interviewed in »A Tale of Two Cities« ) in another part of Berlin. Slowly but surely I get around the city, and see sides of it I haven’t yet went through. Every borough has its charm, and its particular angle to it, simplifying your direction based on what you’re in the mood for. Though they differ from one another, of course I’m happy to see that there are vegan friendly restaurants in most corners of the city. One of these kneipes is called Tak Tak, a Polish deli located on Brunnenstraße 5.
On my very long way there, I take time in a wonderful record store called OYE Records, on Oderberger Straße 4, where I find Turkish rock star Cem Karaca’s immortal live album »2.2 1973 Ankara« with Mogollar on fresh vinyl, and a promising CD-collection of British Trip Hop. OYE is the place to be for electronic music enthusiasts who are into vinyl, with most of their supply being well selected House, Electro and Techno. I myself only DJ with Compact Discs, but I had to buy the tremendous Cem Karaca record just to have it (for wealthy fans of Turkish rock, OYE also have an original pressing of Bariş Manço’s gem »2023« on sale for €180).
My long awaited meal at Tak Tak is worthy of being my last in Berlin. To start I dig into a simple but splendid Polish vegetable soup with beans and a Polish lager while listening to my new Polish favourite band Behemoth. As a second, I take fried pierogi filled with buck wheat and spinach. Compared to the ingenious veggie soup and my expectations, these Polish dumplings aren’t Tak Tak’s best item, as they border on dry and are in need of salt. What I could have taken along with the pierogi, which I instead chose to devour separately, is a straight-up red beetroot broth served in a drinking glass. Sounds plain, but this dish blew the others away with its musty character and tangy taste. I recommend ordering a couple of dishes (all four vegan ones on the menu preferably).
So, after all I’ve written about my dreams of Berlin, how do I summarize this trip with Lula and Pune? Was the city as great as I imagined it to be in all my interviews with Berlin personalities? Well, the experience was different from what I expected, and more intense than I would have thought. If I were to move here, as I’ve contemplated in all of these before mentioned interviews, I’d surely find my place, the right borough for me where I could feel more secure than I have, rambling around trying to find my way. I think Berlin could be my city, my place on Earth, if I only find the right part, because I think there is a right part of Berlin for everyone.