Busker finds cold comfort with igloo

 

WITH BERLIN covered in snow and ice, a homeless man has decided to make the best of the situation by building himself an igloo.

Horst Holtfreter began work last weekend on what was supposed to be a snowman but, as the pile of snow grew, he decided to turn it into a temporary home – “for a laugh”.

With his toothless grin and punk haircut, Mr Holtfreter is a familiar sight to commuters at Berlin’s Nollendorfplatz.

Most ignore him each morning as he dances wildly in front of the train station with a radio clamped to his ear or with a harmonica at his lips.

But his two metre (6.6ft) high igloo topped with Christmas tree branches has attracted the attention of even the most jaded Berliners.

“It’s super – no money for rent and electricity – nor, as you can see, a fridge,” said Mr Holtfreter, a civil engineer by training who fled East Germany in 1988.

Strengthened by his daily four litres of sangria and a small bottle of rum, he said he shovelled together the snow for the igloo by himself and earned praise from passersby.

With hundreds of Berliners slipping on icy pavements daily, commuters say they are thrilled that Mr Holtfreter has gone to the trouble of clearing the pavement outside the train station.

So far, police have taken a relaxed attitude to the newest resident on Nollendorfplatz, the 1920s home of author Christopher Isherwood and the setting for his famous Berlin novels.

Employees of the train company though are not as enthusiastic.

“He’s not just cute,” said one U-Bahn driver. “When he’s drunk, he runs after people with his shovel.”

However there’s little danger of that happening any more. “I was going to add an emergency exit,” said Mr Holtfreter, “but my shovel was stolen.”

Despite weeks of sub-zero temperatures and a forecast of more snow today, Mr Holtfreter spends his days outside the igloo, playing Russian songs on his harmonica for donations from passersby.

After acquiring a sleeping bag, he plans to spend his first night in the igloo on Friday. “I’ve invited my friend Gerd and his dog,” he said. “It’s going to be a real party.”