Photo by Tamsin Ross Van Lessen
A regular touristy walking tour through Berlin will take you to the Brandenburg Gate. An ‘alternative’ tour will include some former squats and street art. But what about the violence?
That’s where RevolutionaryBerlin, founded by a young American calling himself Bill, comes in. The group’s three-hour walking tours centre on the riots that broke out in Kreuzberg on May 1, 1987, when a supermarket near Görlitzer Park was burned to the ground. Ever since then, street battles between demonstrators and police have erupted every May Day.
While a visitor might recognize only senseless, nihilistic destruction, a walking tour can provide context and insight into the city’s complicated anarchist/left-wing activist scene. The guides (one German, one American, both serious lefties) tend to be a bit one-sided – “demonstrators good, police bad” is the tenor – but their mischievous fascination can be contagious. The stories are padded out with plenty of entertaining anecdotes about the 1968 student movement, the Berlin Wall and even the occasionally violent clashes between different left-wing groups.
For good measure, they provide tips for would-be demonstrators eager to participate in this ‘extreme sport’. They also offer tours on the November Revolution of 1918-19 and Berlin’s little-known past as a colonial power. This is a much-needed alternative to the bigger companies trying to make a buck off Berlin’s seedy image, and it’s run by people who know their way around the city’s myriad revolutionary groups.