Berlin Diner en blanc, 2011

Now, I have never taken part in a flashmob…something about the whole idea, while theoretically maybe interesting, practically they appear rather douchbaggish…but a flashmob with the goal of eating? Now that’s an idea.

So we met at the arranged staging point, all dressed in white as we were, and with our picnic all packed up. As the appointed hour struck we all moved to converge on Berlin’s Gendarm Market Square.

And lo, the crowd just kept coming. News Media reported between 1500 and 2000 people. Everyone in white, everyone with a basket of food.

“A basket of food,” of course, while it might describe what we and the other less-professional types brought, does not do justice to the ornate and lavish set ups that some groups were able to hump with them and set up on the square. Several larger groups (one needs much people-power when carrying what amounts to a whole restaurant) brought not only tables, chairs and food, but also fine dishware, candlesticks, and everything they needed to set up what appeared to be near five star dinners.

Personally, I was glad we packed a light basket–cheese, wine, olives, hard sausage, French bread–because I wanted to be ready when the police decided it was time to shut ‘er down. I know…I know, I’m a party pooper, but I don’t like to mess with candelabras and fine glassware when the tear gas starts flying.

But regardless of how fancy your get-up, everyone greeted each other with open arms…the wine was passed about between tables, the luxury diners soon mingled with the student thrift-store snackers, and a grand time was had by all.  Police, as a matter of fact, never once showed. Not even to say ‘hello.’

Apparently a bunch of people dressed in white, eating cheese and drinking wine, are not considered threatening. Which, of course they are not threatening…but the Diner en Blanc did not pay any fees, did not register with authorities, did not reserve the square, didn’t support any thing really, except all the thrift stores in town which were undoubtably happy to finally get rid of all their white clothes.

What the Diner Blanc did do was disturb the normal touristic earning potential of the well-visited square, it savagely broke several regulations on use of public space without proper papers (I mean, this is Germany, right?), noise regulations were surely offended, health codes undoubtably infracted, and a handful of other municipal codes, to be sure. My God.

It was…

Pure Chaos. Anarchy. Brie with a dry red!

(here’s a clip of when things really got out of hand!)

In America, the cops would have come up with some reason to kill the party. If simply for “having fun publicly.” We aren’t even allowed New Year’s parties…for christsakes.

If I was still not sure if the Germans understood the capitalism thing, now I really worry.

Alas when the sun had finally set, everyone packed up and disappeared, leaving the Gendarm Market quiet and clean, ready for tomorrows tourists.  I only hope they can recoup their losses from today.

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About Andrew Flohr-Spence

Something about the sound and the word. Was a singer/bassist for five years, a German major for five, an English teacher in Germany for another five, then a journalism major in Denver for 5 more, and now I'm back in Berlin (for a while, I intend).
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