Arvind’s Travel Journal: Berlin


Kabaret in Berlin

Walking along further, I came
across a "kabaret" sign. I had heard the street to be famous pre-war
for its cabarets. I hadn’t seen one and was interested. I recalled the
not-so-fond memory of having to strip down to an underwear, wear a towel over,
and perform what seemed like a cabaret in my 11th grade as part of ritualistic
"ragging". If there was anyway to kill the ghost of that memory, it
would be by actually watching one, I told myself. I walked in.


The show was to start in a few
minutes. The ticket woman barely spoke English but managed to convey that the
kabaret was in German. No problem, I thought; I was there to see more than
understand. I bought the ticket. I was
surprised to see many old German couples in the performance seating area –
cabaret hardly seemed like of interest to couples, much less older ones – I was
expecting to see more young guys. But hey, this is Germany, maybe things are
different here.


My seat was on a front row table,
with a fairly attractive 30-ish young woman as my table mate. We started a
conversation in English.

"I from a radio
station", she said, taking out a mike and a voice recorder, "and I am
recording the show".

"I am a tourist, and I don’t
speak German", I replied.

"You don’t speak German, and
are watching a kabaret", she seemed surprised.

"Ummm… yeah, should be
interesting to see how much I can make out without the language", I said
trying to look confident, while still surprised by her surprise. Maybe she
doesn’t know what guys look for, I told myself.

The lights went dim, and on-stage
walked two male artists acting. More surprise for me, but maybe it was just an
appetizer before the real show. Scene two, still similar: my hopes were failing
me. Scene three, and I had given up. I wanted to leave, but couldn’t – I didn’t
want to embarrass myself in front of my table mate overly my stupidity after
acting so much in control earlier. Plus, what if the performers picked on me
leaving – I won’t even be in the position to respond!


Next scene was particularly
testing. One of the actors was dressed like a beggar, with a bowl in his hand,
and somewhere in the middle of the scene, started bowing before some visitors,
rattling the coins in the bowl as if asking for money. On no response, he
persisted, even haggled, till he got his coin. I was scared – what if he came
to me? I didn’t have to wait long – he did, and did the same gesture. I was
reluctant to part with any useful money, and didn’t want to throw in a small
denomination in case he reacted adversely to it. I quietly took out my wallet,
and as a gamble, took out a quarter (most currency exchanges don’t exchange
coins), and tossed it in. Whether he picked me up because I looked least German
and so he could have fun easiest at my expense, or whether it was just
coincidence, I do not know. All I know is that I was very relieved when he
walked back. I exchanged a few glances with my table mate immediately after,
and she smiled at me, as to say "Good job!" In spite of the
encouragement, I left at the interval.


"Cabaret (show); (satirical)
show" is what an the German-English dictionary had for
"kabaret", confirming what I had taken more than an hour to learn
that evening while still giving me the comfort that my common sense wasn’t
totally off!


Let this fiasco have no one
believe that there is no real young nightlife in Berlin. On the contrary, a big
chunk of Berlin’s population is young, and the clubs here have far more
impressive designs than anything I have seen in Boston – the kind that will put
our Avalons and Axises to shame. Honestly! And then, all the new stylish
construction happening – take a walk around Potsdamer platz, where Berlin wall
run through not very long ago, and you will see what I mean!

Born and brought up in India, Arvind is currently a graduate student in
Boston, MA, USA. Even though his study area (Computer science) doesn’t really
have much to do with travel (except for conferences),
he likes to travel and
write about his travels — usually packing his trips with as much event and
adventure as he can. You can contact him at

Image: Carefree