“Thanks for the bailout,” cried a girl in a leprechaun hat, holding a placard featuring Jedward.
“Careful now,” yelled a boy at her, tooting his plastic horn. Ahead, the Berlin pipe band continued its drone and children dressed in Viking hats danced a jig.
It’s 4 pm in Goerlitzer Park in Kreuzberg, a district in west Berlin. The Irish “parade” is making a haphazard round of the park. “St Patrick,” tall, thin with a long brown beard and a wooden cane is in front. A paper dragon is floating beside him, held up by three girls in green felt, dressed as shamrocks.
I joined in just as the gathering entered the park. There were a few hundred Irish at least, bottles of Weissbier in one hand, and mini tricolours in the other.
Thick country accents initiated a rendition of “The Fields of Athenry,” which rippled a few rows up before it gave way to traditional songs I had never heard before.
I had no idea that there were so many Irish in Berlin. I was hoping for a similar-minded awkward loner, with which I could strike up a friendship. But it wasn’t to be. The people were already tipsy, and, dressed in leprechaun hats, moving only in large groups.
I found myself behind the Irish ambassador to Germany. Actually, when I come to think of it, thats’s just who I think he was. But, if circumstantial evidence stands, he was the only man in a suit and green tie with a well-groomed wife in an emerald outfit by his side.
Despite being lonesome on such a day of festivities, I went into a bar decorated with green paper shamrocks. I asked for a Berliner Weiss but they said “nicht hetute.” So I got a Guinness, for the day that was in it. It cost twice as much as the other beers, and tasted foul.
It came in a plastic cup, which I took back to Goerlitzer park.
I sat on top of a hill and watched the people around me.
Next to me was a group of six teenage boys. They were taking drugs of some sort. At one point two of them put their faces together, cupping each other’s mouths as if they were going to kiss in secret. They stayed like that for a few seconds and after, the blonde boy’s face broke into a gloriously pure smile, like that of an infant: ecstasy.
Lower down the hill, a couple was playing chess on a magnetic travel board. She had a long flowing skirt and three dreadlocks, and he was bald apart from a floppy green Mohawk hanging limp to one side.
A woman in a dirty black leather jacket and a face entirely obscured by scraggly hair, stumbled to the couple and asked “Hast du eine Zigarette?” The man had a bag of tobacco, which he pushed towards her. She fumbled in it and then flopped down beside the girl. The couple continued to play their game of chess. The woman in black began writhing beside them, and moving closer to the girl, until her head was resting on her lap. Every once in a while, she would raise her feet and kick the air.
When the couple had finished their game, they got up gingerly and said “tchuess” to their dosed-up friend.
She didn’t hear them, and lay alone, her head in the grass.
I finished my Guinness just as it was getting dark.
On the way home I got off at Alexander Platz, the former centre of east Berlin.
There I saw the iconic television tower, glowing green. I looked up at it for a while. Then I disappeared underground again and made my way home, where the cat was waiting for me.
A lone and very special four-leafed shamrock amidst hordes of ordinary three-leafed ones. Only the outsider can look in and see what remains obscured to the ones within.
Very impressed by the Fernsehturm in Green!
It looks cool, doesn’t it? It was quite an Erlebnis, from the sidelines.. I just edited out the stuff about being alone though so you and your Patrick were the only ones to see the original!
Amazing as usual mein katzi; but I bet the “Fields of Athenry” wasn’t as good as the version we heard in Danny Boy’s!
Nothing could ever equal that rendition on the harmonica and the silence that danced between that couple like barley in the wind in the fields of Athenry. 🙂 Du bist ein ledgetasche.
Enjoyed your rendition of St Patrick’s day in Berlin tremendously. Going to check out the parade in London later today. Maybe I might try something like yours. See if there’s any difference in a different country.
Speaking of which, what’s your horoscope – I read that bit about you thinking about things out on your own. I respect that alot – and from an element of interest of mine – does your horoscope happen to be a saggitarus?
Would love to hear what it’s like in London, but I wonder why it’s happening today rather than yesterday, which was St Patrick’s Day? curious!
Hehe, you read the bit before I deleted it.. typical of me since I thought I shouldn’t “share” my loneliness bit work through it myself! I’m not a Sagitarius, but close: I’m a Scorpio.. Do you believe in horocscopes? They’re always fun to read.. 🙂
Not sure though, there was a magazine distributed detailing the parade but it didnt state why. Strange!
Scorpio! I typed Sagi though I was thinking of Scorpio. Typical me! And reason why I said that was because I have friends who belong in the same horoscope group as you and they think in the same way!! Or similar. It only struck me when you started writing about thinking stuff out on your own and stuff. Somehow I am attracting Scorpio friends= scorpio magnets;)
Haha, maybe you are! I only ever read terrible things about Scorpios.. we’re jealous, intense, good friends, but terrible enemies.. We are after all, all the same.. 😉 What starsign are you?? 🙂
I vote that bit about good friends, the rest I am not too sure. Pisces – dual personality, very sensitive and imaginative! Sounds a little overwhelming, doesnt it? 😉
I wished I would have been with you. Said that you had to celebrate alone but I like the last sentence. So hopefully Cauchy welcomed you with a green hat and a green “Berliner Weiße”!
I remember my first Paddy’s Day away from Ireland. I’d just landed in Seoul, literally the day before, and needless to say ended up in an Irish pub courtesy of the well wishes of some co-workers. By the weekend, when Paddy’s day is really celebrated over here (no day off obviously) I ended up at an all you can eat and drink nine hour running buffet of debauchery. I lost my jacket and couldn’t account for two quite large atm receipts for my credit card. I’m sure it was good craic though.
Still I read your post and was quite inspired to write you a reply, even though its a week later. I’ve never been a big fan of Paddy’s Day personally (ironic that I now help organise an entire festival for it in Korea), but I likened how you felt to how I’ve felt around other times of year where we celebrate it differently than it is here. Christmas being one. Not so much now, but I used to try to avoid it altogether or just sit on the sidelines and observe.
I’m sure you’re grand mentally with the whole ordeal, but it can be tough when you’re used to celebrating something differently and then you have to completely readapt to suit your current environment. The longer you’re there the longer you get used to it and find your own ways to make the most of your situation.
Lovely to hear about your experience in Seoul, Conor. For me, the difficult part was really being around so many Irish people, yet not fitting in. In fairness, I came to a mad parade all alone and sober so it’s no wonder I didn’t make life-long friends!
At the moment, I have no idea how long I’ll be here. My Internship finishes at the end of May but after that my life is a mystery.. I am always open for suggestions!
I taught a lot of Korean students back in Dublin and they seem to love Irish culture. Have you had this experience too?
Yeah, never a good idea to turn up to something like that the first time, knowing no one, and as sober as a nun… I’ve only ever taught two people who have been to Ireland. It’s a bit sad really… of course if I had students who went to Ireland I’d never stop talking to them about how great Ireland is etc. and then as soon as I get back start giving out again 😉 I’m the say way with not knowing how long I’ll be here. Kind of reached the highest point my chosen career will allow me. It’s a bit depressing when I think of it. Now considering options. If you know anyone offering a job…
Ha, you and me both! We’ll keep an ear out for each other! I think I’d like to return to Ireland, even though I love it here. I spent my last day walking down Dun Laoghaire Pier in glorious sunshine. And now, even though I rarely went to the beach in Ireland, I seem to miss the sea. All psychological really. How long have you been in Korea?
Yeah I mad nostalgic for stuff I never did when I was there before I came to Korea first. My wife encourages me to do other stuff than go to the pub when I’m in Ireland now, which is great! I’ve been in Korea since 2005 with a break in 2008 where I spent a little over a year and half in Ireland and the UK doing a masters. Been back here since 2010. The two periods have been very different.
Ireland does have so much to offer, it’s just (and I think this all the more since being in Berlin) the supporting infrastructure just isn’t there. I mean, if I want to go to the sea in Dublin I think okay… how long will I have to wait for the bus, then the dart. Here I just hop onto the underground and I can be anywhere in minutes. It’s just an example but I think the inefficiences contribute to the sense of defeatism.
Do you plan to return to Ireland for good ever?
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