Books and Art at Café Moskau

‘Don’t you dare to spill that Jim Beam and Cola can all over me! DON’T YOU DARE!!’ I thought silently while angrily eyeing the man who was standing next to my seat and was slightly swinging from right to left as the already over filled train that was taking a turn just in that moment.

The horror of being on the train, surrounded by already slightly drunk Hertha soccer fans on a Saturday morning only lasted till the olympic stadion station.  The fans were getting themselves into the mood by drinking from their beer or Jim Beam Cola cans, singing songs in support of their favorite team. As the doors opened at the olympic stadion and as the crowd started to slowly get out of the enclosed space, it was finally possible to take a deep breath of air.

A few minutes later I was already walking down Alexanderplatz, where the Christmas market was already in full progress despite daylight still being out. Seagulls screamed and circled high above my head (yes, seagulls in town. You read it right), while I was leaving behind West Berlin, getting lost among the remains of Stalinist buildings that lead into the Karl- Marx- Alley in the east.

In front of me emerged what used to be the number one meeting point for the youth of East Berlin, the café Moskau (Moscow).

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What used to be one of the most famous ‘party’ locations was now hosting an art and book fair.

I am not so sure whether the Café Moskau still serves its original purpose, or whether it has been re- made into something else while keeping its name, just as it happened with the Karl Marx Bookshop further down the street in 2008 . I entered a room, its stagnant air already sensible before one actually entered. In front of me I saw a sea of tables, books and people, the last of which moved slowly up and down like waves.

It may not have been any comparison to the book fair in Frankfurt on the Main or Leipzig but nevertheless did this exhibition have something unique of its own. It was a fair of books that at the same time were more art items than books alone. Whether that was due to the strange names of some of the books or their contents is up to debate.

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Some of the books were similar to catalogues of antique poster designs or similar visual projects while others dealt with philosophy or addressed more or less controversial issues in society. As you can see, probably nothing like the average book fair one might have expected but nevertheless did the young authors, artists and publishers (that probably no one has ever heard of before) do their best to attract the curious customers.

DSC05008 Walking around and looking at all of these books that seemed quite mysterious to me, I heard all sorts of languages. Starting with the regular German, going over to English, skipping to Russian and Arabic and ending in something like Chinese and Czech.

Towards the end of my round through the crowded hall, I passed by probably the funniest product of the fair. I don’t remember the exact name of it, but the longer I look at the pictures, the more I am tempted to call them ‘grammar meds’. The items went under the umbrella term ‘Word Pharmacy’.

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conjunctions, articles, adverbs

The idea behind this originally Dutch product is that the boxes are labelled like the packages of meds that you get in a pharmacy. However, instead of actual pills, there is only a package leaflet that explains the rules and the usage of what the product stands for. So if you buy a pack of adjectives, you will find a leaflet that will explain to you the usage of adjectives in German with examples.

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‘Look at this’, the vendor told me, pointing at a line on the white sheet of paper.’Here it says that, on children below the age of three, adjectives are only to be used with the permission of their parents.’ What a joke, I thought to myself. Is there any better way to hint at the overly protective behavior of today’s German newly minted parents? I mean nowadays you probably even can’t get near a small child without his or her parents turning into protective furies. At least some of them.

Grammar medicine- ideal for those struggling with the odds of German grammar. Quick recovery guaranteed. 🙂

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