It’s funny, the international holiday for worker’s rights was something I never knew much about—that is until I started traveling. I still remember being in Darwin, Australia almost 10 years ago on a backpacking trip, stumbling into a May Day festival with live music and some small demonstrations. At the time, I didn’t think too much about it—just filed it away as one of those cool happenstance travel memories.
Over time, though, May Day has come to mean much more to me. The holiday is a big deal in Berlin—not just for Germany’s many political parties, but also as a celebration of springtime. The city shuts down, the people come out, the police show up. There are protests, manifestations, demonstrations. But there are also celebrations. There are barbecues and homemade snacks. There are street side vendors, families picnicking and buskers everywhere. There’s a life and an energy to the day—a propulsion forward.
An estimated 45,000+ people showed up for this year’s MyFest—allegedly Berlin’s most peaceful May Day in almost three decades. The festival often gets crowded in the early afternoon to the point that some of the nearby Bahnhof stations are temporarily closed to relieve some of the congestion. Visitors flock around Mariannenplatz in the Kreuzberg neighborhood where live music and food stalls set up for the day & night. Even just walking through, there’s a palpable energy in the area.
I spent most of my May Day celebrating in Oranienplatz and along Oranienstrasse where most of the live music is located. A friend’s new bar, Facciola, further south near Görlitzer Park also served as my hangout with some quality cocktails and good music. This is one of those holidays in Berlin that really can’t be missed. The day marks the beginning of summer, the beginning of all those summer festivals that make this city so unbelievably unique and special this time of year. It’s really quite hard to explain it. But that special Berlin “energy” really shows itself during MyFest. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
For a glimpse of May Day in Berlin, check out my photos below.
For more photos of this year’s MyFest, view my friend Cheryl’s photo essay.
May Day in Berlin looks so much better than in Seattle. Just in the past 4 or 5 years, “anarchists” come into downtown in a parade to damage property of corporations, like throwing a brick into a Starbucks window (3 years ago, ugh). When asked what they wanted… what they were fighting for by an interviewer for a local broadcasting channel, not one person in the group could think of a reason. (big eye roll) I’m all for protests and parade that have a positive energy though!
Oh wow Cynthia… I’ve always had an image of Seattle and protestors – so kind of not surprised I guess. Berlin has had its fair share of problems on May Day as well. There are even Neo-Nazi demonstrations in some places, though they’re often so marginalized now and not in the city center. There were a lot of police around this year, but overall the whole experience was rather calm and celebratory. Especially in the areas I’ve mentioned and photographed here.
The photo ladder is the epitome of why I love Germany. Someone thought ‘I wish I could get higher to take a photo,’ so someone brought a ladder. No questions asked.
Haha yeah – though the best part is they were charging 1€ to climb up to take your photos!