When I see an alley it immediately presses my curiosity button. What does it lead to? What will I see? Who will I see? Will I get murdered? These are just a few of the thoughts running though my head before I take a creep through the unknown.
Hackescher Markt in Berlin is a labyrinth of alleys leading to all kinds of interesting things to see and do but the most exciting one can be found on Rosenthaler Straße, by the side of Cinema Café. Once you’ve walked through, you’re welcomed with a courtyard filled with street art and doors leading to exhibition spaces, cafes, bookshops and a curious basement called MonsterKabinett.
MonsterKabinett is a basement filled with bizarre ‘monsters’ made from machinery, and apart from a few dimly coloured lights it is otherwise set in the dark. This assault to my senses added to the trippy spectacle – honestly, I didn’t know what the hell I was looking at the whole time. Well, that’s not completely true, I knew what I was seeing – metal monsters that moved around squirting gas and making noises – but it felt more like a weird dystopia where robots rule the world. To see the monsters you have to go on a small group tour that lasts for about 20 minutes and costs 8 Euros, it’s definitely pricey but the money goes towards the artists who create it so I didn’t feel ripped off. Instead I left feeling dazed and confused which isn’t a bad thing every now and again.
I’ve visited this alley on two occasions, once at the beginning of 2011 and again in the summer of 2013 and I was surprised to see the street art on the walls had completely changed. If anyone knows whether they get changed on a yearly basis or just on random occasions then let me know…!
During the summer a bohemian atmosphere fills the courtyard as musicians perform to people drinking and talking amongst themselves. I struck up a conversation with a man originally from Vietnam who had been living near the courtyard for over 20 years; he said most days he wandered through the alley to play chess with a group of locals. He also said he came to Berlin because he was attracted to the laid-back atmosphere and the affordable rent was a bonus. It’s not an expensive city unlike most of Western Europe’s capital cities and I’m sure most visitors who come to Berlin are surprised by this. However, I’ve heard other cities in Germany are more expensive so bare that in mind if you’re planning on travelling around Germany.
When you find this alley make sure you open up every door in the courtyard to see where it might take you. There’s one door in particular that you shouldn’t leave until you’ve seen what’s behind it because it leads to a stairway covered with a crazy amount of street art, well, I would say it’s more graffiti than street art but because it’s behind a door it doesn’t feel so destructive as graffiti can sometimes be, and it fits in with the creative energy that comes sweeping through the alley and mysteriously remains. If you follow the stairway to the top you’ll find a spacious bookshop filled with all kinds of books and magazines dedicated to design, art, photography and illustration.