I’ve been to flea markets before, but never one so festive and absolutely overflowing with stuff. I would describe Berlin’s Sunday Flohmarkt am Mauerpark as a weekly festival. As well as stalls which appear to go on forever, selling a wonderful mix of old and new goods, there are musicians performing in the open grassy area with people dancing and having picnics. And then there is the famous public karaoke amphitheatre where anyone, no matter what their skill level, can have a turn in the spotlight, singing to hundreds of supportive spectators.
Mauerpark literally means “Wall Park”, because it used to be part of the Death Strip – the no-man’s land of the Berlin Wall. When the wall fell in 1989, the area was designated as a public space and made into a park. A section of the graffiti-covered wall still stands in the park, one of many pieces of the wall around Berlin that serve as a reminder of the city’s history. The flea markets began in 2004 and the karaoke sessions began in 2009.
Walking through the endless stalls, I said to my fiancé “wow I really wish I could furnish and decorate a whole house just from these markets”. There was new and old furniture, light fittings, artwork, candelabras, pretty vintage china – you name it, you can find it. I also felt like if I lived in Berlin I would never need to go to a regular clothes shop ever again, as there really are stalls selling every type of dress, shoe, hat, jumper, trouser, warm coat etc that anyone could ever want. If I didn’t have tight luggage restrictions, I would have been tempted to buy a whole new (recycled) wardrobe of clothes (and maybe an actual wardrobe). Costumes abounded – I saw wigs, military uniforms, and dirndls. Other random things for sale included old car number plates, old street signs, bikes, a lot of vinyl records, and vintage costume jewellery. There were also some really cool craft stalls including hand-made jewellery and clothes.
I think I could have spent the whole day at Mauerpark. Wandering around, there is always the smell of a food stall just around the corner. There were the staple Berlin currywurst sausage stalls and Turkish food stalls, as well as freshly baked pizza-like cheesy tarts, traditional German baked goods, and something new for us – quark. We saw people walking around with coloured layers of yummy-looking stuff in a cup with fruit on top and decided we needed to try it. We found the stall which looked like an ice cream stall, but instead of many flavours of ice cream, it had many flavours of quark. I chose coconut, banana and white chocolate, with fruit salad and white chocolate pieces on top. It was delicious. It kind of tasted like creamy thick Greek yoghurt, but less tangy. Wikipedia says it is made by heating soured milk until it starts to coagulate then straining out the liquid. I’ve seen plain quark used like sour cream on jacket potatoes. My fiancé also got a beer and we went to the karaoke amphitheatre to see who was singing.
Hundreds, maybe up to a thousand people were crammed into the stone amphitheatre seats watching brave contenders come out and sing live. The first girl we watched sang “Yellow” by Coldplay. She started off quite quiet, but the audience cheered her on and she gradually got more confident and started to really get into it, albeit a bit off-key. The audience just loved the next girl, Natalia, who strutted her stuff and moved her hips to “Toxic” by Britney Spears. She made a good go of singing it too. A suavely-dressed French guy was up next and sang “Life is Life” by Opus, a song popular at sports games. I’m thinking maybe next Sunday I might have a go myself!
Flohmarkt am Mauerpark is on Bernauer Straße 63-64 and is open every Sunday from 8am to 6pm. The closest station is Bernauer Straße on the U-8.