Kladow Casino: Betting on the winds of change

Filed 18/5/2016 |
Germans like nothing better than telling you what you aren’t allowed do. It’s the national pastime, always has been. It’s no coincidence that “verboten” is the most frequently used word in the German language, beating the likes of “das,” “ist” and “Scheiße,” the second most frequently used word.
Das ist indeed Scheiße, but the point remains – Germans love telling you what to do, or what you shouldn’t do.
It’s why some pedestrians will yell at you if you cross a red light when there’s a child within 100 meters of the crossing – they’ll foam at the mouth and spit utter indignation if you cross a red light with a child, try it, it’s great fun! – it’s why the Ordnungsamt brought summary proceedings against a seven-year-old’s parents after she drew with chalk on the road (unerlaubter Bemalung der Straße), and it’s why they’ll always go out of their way to inform you of your dastardliness if there’s any hint of you having broken some rule, even an obscure rule that they may not be altogether sure of.
That’s why Merkel couldn’t resist letting Erdoğan having a go back at a comedian who annoyed him. Fuck free speech, rules is rules, and if there’s a forgotten rule saying you can’t criticize publicly paid political leaders, then that’s that, verboten ist verboten. Any other leader would have told him to crawl back into his castle but not Merkel, doing her best to woo to the despot to keep refugees out of sight.
Of course not all Germans have this religious propensity for telling people what they can or cannot do. Some Germans, most of whom live in Berlin and are therefore not really German at all, are indeed happy to let other people live their lives in whichever way they want without trying to impose their own restrictions as long as those people’s lives do not adversely affect their own.
Live and let live it’s called in some enlightened countries. Erdoğan is unaware of the concept.
Where’s this going, you ask? I’m glad you asked. On a bright new day not so long ago, I brought the young fella to check an abandoned place beside the Havel River in West Berlin, an old casino apparently.
It’s just a shell now, a sorry shell left near the shore as if by some ungrateful creature of the sea. It was surrounded by a fence that had been knocked down like a stack of dominoes, inviting us in. We accepted, walked over it and in. There was rustling and banging from someone out the back.
“Shush!” I told the young fella, pretending to be concerned. “We gotta be quiet so we don’t get caught. We don’t want to end up in jail!”
He tiptoed around appropriately as I took photos. Then we both forgot about it. He was running around, chasing ghosts, while I was chasing instants, snapping away at what I thought was the past, some sort of history.
“History, which is a simple whore, has no decisive moments but is a proliferation of instants, brief interludes that vie with one another in monstrousness,” Roberto Bolaño wrote. Quite.
I snapped away without thought for future or present when suddenly a man popped out from behind the wall.
“You know you’re not allowed here?!” he shot, holding the verboten bullet for the next round.
I told him I was just taking photos of a clearly abandoned place, asked what was the problem.
“When there’s a fence around a place it means you cannot go in!”
“You mean the flattened invitation that we walked over?”
“Yes, it’s a fence. You cannot just walk over fences.”
It’s verboten of course. I asked him what the place was and what was to become of it.
He looked wistfully across the Havel and said it used to be a restaurant and that it would be a restaurant again.
“But the wind keeps coming, the wind destroys it,” said he, looking toward the sanguine river as if it were the raging Atlantic.
He was clearly nuts. In the end I even helped him put the futile fence back up, the fence that had as much chance of keeping the wind out as anything else.
Newspapers say it wasn’t a restaurant at all but a casino, built in the 1950s to plans by the architect Norman Braun. It’s not anything to be proud of – Braun was illustrating architects’ lack of imagination long before the current crop of architects had a chance to display their incompetence.
Apparently some €2.9 million is to be invested to turn the ruin into a dining and cultural extravagance, hopefully with a few windows to shelter you from the wild winds of the Havel, or the Havel Hurricane as your man probably calls it.
The only winds Berliners know anything about are the winds of change. They howl like there’s no tomorrow in these parts, but of course there’s always tomorrow, as change knows only too well.

A 1950s casino, abandoned in 1995 for reasons I wouldn’t like to bet upon. Some people are gambling on it opening again, though not in its current sorry state.

Mascha-Kaleko-Weg, Kladow, 14089 Berlin, Germany.

How to get there
It’s not quite so easy, being on the other side of the world and all that. If you’re not cycling, you’ll need to get a bus, the 134, 697, N34, or X34, to Neukladower Allee and walk the rest from there. It’s not too far to walk, but best to bring a few beers and sandwiches for sustenance. Here it is on a map so you don’t get lost.

Getting in
Just walk over the fence. It couldn’t be easier. It’d be harder if there wasn’t a fence.

When to go
Daytime if you want to look around, though there isn’t much to see that isn’t scenery, or nighttime if you want to have a party. Just make sure the crazy caretaker isn’t around if you do.

Difficulty rating
2/10. It would only be 1/10 if it wasn’t for the journey.

Who to bring
Bring a boy or a girl (depending on your preference) for a romantic evening in front of the river, or some friends if you want a party.

What to bring
Beer, food, spirits, a good outlook on life, tolerance and understanding. Perhaps a bicycle if you fancy a riverside spin. You can cycle down to Krampnitz from here. Technically there’s nothing to stop you cycling anywhere from here. It’s quite scenic.

The wind, if you were to believe the caretaker. Watch out for him. Apart from that, just the usual: Polizei, nosy neighbors, nosy passers-by, anyone with a nose too big for its own face.

Many thanks again to Mark Rodden for proofreading and concern (ignored on this occasion) over long sentences.

West Berlin 3574155918138041978


Looks great. Thank you for sharing! While reading on your journeys i always wonder what goes through your little companion's head, will he remember these adventures when he grows up :)

There is free speech in Germany, you are even free to criticize who you like, but you are not free to insult anyone pubicly although it might be a very very, very unpopular person in the german public eye. It's fine but important difference an outsider might not get when reading the wrong news provider.

An alternative way to get there would be to take the F10 ferry from Wannsee to Alt-Kladow. The ferry's part of the BVG network and is covered by an AB ticket.

What a hoot! You never cease to make me laugh. The little-un must have such fun along the way, too. Lucky chap. Even some comments are 'intiguing', no this one....

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