Everyone joins in Berlin parade
The instructions were simple for Berlin’s second annual St Patrick’s Day in the capital’s alternative Kreuzberg neighbourhood.
“You are the parade,” announced organiser Dara Drea O’Neill, founding owner of Berlin clubs Loftus Hall and Kleine Reise.
And off they went, a raggle taggle crowd in home-made green outfits parading through the scruffy streets of the sunny German capital.
“It’s alternative, it’s non-corporate, the young of Berlin are here - it’s everything a St Patrick’s Day parade should be,” said Daragh Queenan, up for the day from Frankfurt. “I’m positively surprised that everyone’s taking part.”
And everyone really was taking part with inventive outfits. Drawn first place were two roommates dressed up as shamrocks and 30 year-old Berliner called Sebastian who, on a dare from an Irish employee, donned all-over green polyester bodysuit covering even his face.
Children wore tricolour wigs, teenagers ran around with Jedward posters while an older crowd brandished faces of Irish celebrities, from Gay Byrne to Sinead O’Connor, mounted on sticks.
The Kreuzberg hipsters lounging around, enjoying the first spring day, weren’t sure whether to stare, ignore or join. Many opted for the latter.
And so, like an Irish version of the Pied Piper of Hameln, the green-clad gang paraded around the grungy Görlitzer Park to the melody of “St Patrick’s Day”, played by the Berlin Pipe Company.
“I’m a hybrid player, I learned to play from Irish and Scots,” said the kilted Gunther Haußknecht, who founded the club in 1983.
“People don’t know the pipe tradition from Ireland so that’s why we’re here today.”
A huge number of the crowd were Germans who’d heard about the parade online and had, it seemed, decided to put on every Green garment they owned - at the same time. Interestingly, many had never been to Ireland but, caught up in the infectious, laid back good mood, were mentally making plans.
Berliner Frederik said he was in love with Ireland since going there for a university exchange.
“The main thing is that, whatever happens, the Irish keep on believing in themselves,” he said.
“We just love the culture and the positive attitude,” said Berlin Tim (26) a hulk of a man in an Irish rugby jersey.
Teammate Bryan from Newbridge, living in Berlin for two years, said: “It’s a fantastic change, much bigger than the first parade last year. I was here in 2007 and spent St Patrick’s Day in an empty Irish pub.”
It was Green everywhere you looked yesterday in Kreuzberg, right up to the Irish Green Party’s international chairman Tommy Simpson.
“It’s great craic, even if the pipe band kicked off with a Scottish tune,” he said.
“Today Berlin is Green,” said Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall to a cheering crowd. “The challenge to the Irish in Berlin is to match the parade in Munich and make it the biggest in Europe in the coming years.”
Roommates Sophie, from Ireland, and Elena, from northern Germany, were up until 2am creating their giant shamrock costumes from a green golf carpet.
“You just feel proud,” said Sophie, “people aren’t just walking around being Irish, they’re celebrating being Irish.”