It’s not always tuneful, but Sunday afternoon karaoke is a Mauerpark institution on what was once the ‘death strip’.
I’m in Wall Park or Mauerpark in trendy Prenzlauer Berg. Once upon a time, the Berlin Wall stood here and not even its electric fences and border guards stopped so many trying to escape into West Berlin, risking death – hence the name, the ‘death strip'.
It’s a much happier – and less deadly - place now. After reunification, it has adopted more traditional park behavior with the easterly patch a big leisure area, and a flea market on the western side. Graffiti artists, street performers, market traders and world cuisine vie for attention but for the people-watcher, there’s no place better than the stone amphitheater.
Since 2009, one Joe Hatchiban has been running his Bearpit Karaoke sessions here, in the heart of Prenzlauer Berg, accompanied by his portable, battery-powered boxes and trademark sense of humor. Most singers – although some voices fall significantly short of that title - rock up around 2pm. Some have even been scouted by Joe on his travels by bike around Berlin.
With his gently critical, always entertaining compering, Joe’s the real star. This may even be the only time even karaoke-haters enjoy karaoke. I’m not brave enough to enter the bearpit but I’m not missing out. This is cool, laidback Berlin at its best – and funniest.
Want to catch some Mauerpark magic on a Sunday? There's a great little hostel nearby. Check it out!