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Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 11:33 am
Gözleme girls

I moved to the Neukolln neighbourhood I live in because of the market that happens twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. To give you some idea of the importance of this food and cloth market to me, I'll say that it can totally lift me out of the foulest mood, supply the kind of visual excitement I once got from Tokyo street fashion, and compensate for some of the limitations I run up against in other parts of Berlin. The most important adjective for the Maybachufer market is "Turkish".



Here are the gözleme girls from whom I bought my lunch yesterday at the market. They work at a window facing the street, three of them in a row. I find their pattern-clash muslim workwear style totally admirable. Gözleme is a filled, griddled flap of lavas bread, a recipe from Turkish mountain villages. You can have your pancake with spinach, cheese, lamb, potato or sweet fillings. Here's a video of someone griddle-baking the dough and adding the fillings:



There's a new "designer's market" which runs from time to time on Saturdays at the same Maybachufer location, but I have to say I find it super-lame. It's a product of white gentrification of a predominantly Turkish neighbourhood, and represents the "Boxhagenerification" of the Maybachufer (the Boxhagenerplatz market, like others in Berlin areas where the demographic skews white, focuses on slightly hip, slightly ironic goods). Stalls at this occasional, subtly menacing, designer's market sell vinyl bags with rounded 90s logos on them, models of the Berlin TV tower, twee hamster mousepads, pink t-shirts with "cool" slogans on them, perfumed soaps, and Jarvis Cocker glasses made of wood-effect adhesive. No gözleme are for sale, but sausages sizzle on grills.



The colours, smells, shapes and references of the Saturday designer's market are as "wrong" as the colours, smells, shapes and references of the Tuesday and Friday market are "right". They're "wrong" not because they're a culture I don't understand, but because they're a culture I understand all too well. After all, I'm one of the white people gentrifying this neighbourhood. Turkish people would just look blank if you said "Jarvis Cocker", but I know exactly what the cardboard Jarvis glasses and the cardboard Terry Richardson camera are about. They're references to a culture I'm part of. But it's a culture I wish would widen its horizons a bit, and love itself less.



The Wikipedia entry on Turks in Germany points out the ways in which Turks-in-Germany differ from the Germans -- and therefore, you could say, provide a corrective alternative to the limitations of life in Germany.

First of all, the Turks are younger than the Germans. Whereas 25% of Germans are over 60, only 5% of Turks are. This means that if you're living in a Turkish neighbourhood, it's going to feel a lot more youthful than a German neighbourhood. Secondly, the Turks are more urban than the Germans. They mostly opt to live in high density inner city communities thronging with small-scale commerce. This provides a bustling, lively street life notably missing from other parts of the city.

The Turks are working class, but also bi-cultural; they're likely to travel more, in a year, than the average German, clocking up air miles with cheap flights to and from Turkey. The Turks in Germany vote, massively, for the red-green alliance -- in 2005 90% of them voted for the socialists and greens. A majority of Germans, meanwhile, elected conservatives.

Turks were invited to Germany as "guest workers", and therefore there was no expectation, either from themselves or the Germans, that they would assimilate. Instead, they've integrated -- complementing German culture rather than reproducing it, becoming a syntagmatic element in the German sentence -- a qualifier -- rather than a paradigmatic one.



This is probably Freud's "narcissism of minor differences" at work, but if I hear music floating from a nearby flat into the evening air, I vastly prefer it to be Turkish music than anything from "my own" culture. And -- while it's nice to have art events, organic cafes and ice cream stores and trendy mobile coffee stalls in our hood -- I continue to be much more inspired by the style of the Anatolian gözleme girls on the Maybachufer than by people carrying vinyl bags with logos of the TV tower on them.

48CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 10:01 am (UTC)

So Westerners should be more outward-looking, while at the same time the Turks should stick to their pancake stands and ethnic get-up for good old Momus to come and have a gawk at every Tuesday and Friday. It's a very comfortable, none-too-strenuous experience of the "other", isn't it, Momus? There's a smooth line between hottentots in the zoo at the Jardin des Plantes and the simple-minded exoticism you indulge in. The "Gözleme girls" are no more real to you.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 10:11 am (UTC)

What part of "Turks are bi-cultural" did you not understand?


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 10:10 am (UTC)

I continue to be much more inspired by the style of the Anatolian gözleme girls on the Maybachufer than by people carrying vinyl bags with logos of the TV tower on them.

Momus in feeble hipster oneupmanship shock horror


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 10:19 am (UTC)

Anon commenter in feeble Humperson's Third Law-confirming oneupmanship shocker!


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 10:45 am (UTC)

I don't get the vitriol of your other anon commenters, but I do see some inconsistencies here. As an "early adopter" hipster, aren't you simply in the vanguard of a more general development that will end up with the Turks being squeezed out of Neukolln, as first the hipsters come, then the young professionals, etc etc., until you end up like Notting Hill? Your own culture bores you, you wish it would widen its horizons, but isn't what you like about other cultures the fact that their horizons are not wide? Do you wish that the girls at the Turkish market would also widen their horizons and start selling Jarvis Cocker glasses?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 10:56 am (UTC)

Well, it's all about balances, isn't it? I think I say that in the piece. I like organic veg shops, quality coffee stalls, and the other accoutrements of gentrification. But I don't want the neighbourhood to swing and turn into a place where those things become a monoculture, as they are in, say, large parts of Prenzlauerberg.

Similarly, I want the Turks to be bi-cultural rather than to swing to Western clothing and music. And I want Western white hipsters to be a little less fascinated by Jarvis and a little more fascinated by Jelal. It's simply a matter of incremental adjustments, but I do think that the dominant culture has a little more adjustment to do, simply because it's dominant. In other words, I'm a totally unapologetic asymmetrical multiculturalist.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 11:04 am (UTC)

is there a morrocan community in berlin too? how does it differ from the turks? here in orttrdam it seems the turkish feel much more "at home" here than the arabs, who very much stick to their own culture and keep to their own teahouses and restaurants, while the turkish are mixing more freely with the dutch (maybe because both are merchants!) and seem much happier. that said the arabs also have a bad name here (mostly through bad media coverage) which makes them more on the deffensive side.

I often eat in an arab restaurants around here but it always looks the same as a restaurant in tunisia or morroco only the men are slightly more grumpy and unhappy (while at the same time their rrestaurants look autenthic to the ones in morroco).

while in the turkish restaurants it is a lively mix of turkish families, dutch people, sometimes even asian couples! for the turkish it seems wherever they lay their bakclava thats their home!

maybe your love of the turks comes from the fact that they originally come form asia! (where the turks who staytre there are having horror times right now!)


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 11:20 am (UTC)

Neukolln also has Lebanese, Africans, Asians... it's the most ethnically-diverse area in Berlin. There are gang fights between the north Africans and the Turkish, actually, which has necessitated metal detectors being erected at the school doors on Weserstrasse.

Also on Weserstrasse a Lebanese pipe cafe was recently displaced by an architecture gallery, though it seems only to have moved across the road.

The non-Turkish groups exist in such small numbers here, though, that it would be difficult for me to talk about degrees of integration between the communities. The Turks are certainly the least hardline muslims ever. Their kids seem to have the choice of glittery disco wear if they want it, and even the "observant" garb is pretty colourful, with its own headscarf fashions and so on.

And yes, I do really feel an "Asian" density in the Maybachufer market. It makes me feel... effervescent. Density is a real pick-me-up, as long as it's combined with a sense of basic security. Insecure density is a nightmare.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 11:23 am (UTC)

Odd, you don't use the word 'authentic' but your comment reminds me of friends who love guitars but are almost nauseated by synths and synthetics, and who'd also never use words like 'roots' or 'authentic'!

I suppose the difference is that you champion 'the others roots' and they champion 'my own roots' but then .. this is the same thing.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 11:32 am (UTC)

WISH THEY ALL COULD BE ANATOLIA
I WISH THEY ALL COULD BE ANATOLIA
WISH THEY ALL COULD BE ANATOLIA GIRLS!



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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 11:23 am (UTC)

It's a shame that this has to descend into the dull hipster debate/stalemate in a matter of minutes.

Kreuzberg/Neukolln is inadvertently saved by the Turks. It won't gentrify in the same way or at the same speed as Mitte, P-berg etc because there is a large working class -Turkish- that won't budge, or at least not in a hurry. There isn't the same amount of empty property to fill with lefties and artists who after attracting the hipsters and yuppies, move on as they move in, so taking the trail of crumbs elsewhere. At the same time, it will gentrify enough that more money comes into the area, and I'm pretty sure you won't see Turks complaining about that in the same way the lefties do.

Maybe I missed something, but I thought your post managed to avoid the: Falafal + imbiss owner giving me a free tea = I'm down with the Turkish. Or: I don't earn much money either = Me and The Turkish, we understand each other. This is the essence of stuff I've heard in a number of conversations here in Berlin, and perhaps the product of there being only one significant population non-white immigrant group for the cool kids to desire being down with for all of 2 minutes once or twice a week.

Also, I don't think bags with Alex Tower motifs on them are very hip. It's tacky tourist stuff, sold by hipsters trying to make their cheap rent here. Maybe hipsters from other places buy it thinking it will look good back in London or wherever. Oh, and do I detect some Jarvis bashing, here of late? Or are you bashing those who follow the Cocker?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 11:42 am (UTC)

Totally agree that Kreuzkolln won't turn (in the bad sense) as a result of gentrification. Yes, it's the large Turkish working class population that saves it. It's also the recession.

I don't claim to be "down with the Turks" (although I do have one Turkish artist friend), but I have made the "I don't have much money either" argument, in my Wired piece about the area, and in The cosmopolitanism of the poor.

I think this economic-parity-despite-cultural-difference thing is one reason why neighbourhoods comprised of hipsters and immigrants are so successful and pleasant to live in. They lack the major Gini gaps, the sense of relative deprivation, which blight other areas. Layard, Oliver James and others have told us that dissatisfaction comes from these constant comparisons, these relative wealth gaps. Their absence is very important to good mental health. I instantly feel more relaxed when I arrive in Neukolln from Mitte. I feel the weight of class resentments, and of competitiveness, lift from my shoulders.


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viceanglais
viceanglais
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)
Beards of Death

Who knows what amazing altermodern hybrids will emerge when people escape the Abrahamic jackboot? It would be nice to see people unleash their suppressed Persian, ancient Egyptian, Gaelic et al.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 12:50 pm (UTC)

"They mostly opt to live in high density inner city communities"

That's a stretch. You make it sound like they chose this dense urban lifestyle, when I suspect they'd prefer a nice big house in the country side.


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aberranteyes
aberranteyes
I'm Mister Cellophane
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 12:54 pm (UTC)

I'm impressed. I was expecting the lame comments, but I figured they'd be less Oh, isn't Momus culturally patronising and more OH NOES TEH ISLAMZ R COMIGN.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 01:05 pm (UTC)

Regular Click Opera readers now realise when they are being tricked into a stale "Islam" debate.


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dabroots
dabroots
dabroots
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)

Lovely.

I'm reminded of our exchange some months ago about Manhattan's Ludlow Street. When I lived there in the early 80s, it was still heavily Dominican. I was among the first white settlers. And then the Dominicans were eventually driven out, so that now it's all white people with their predictable little bars and shops.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 06:28 pm (UTC)

I drank an Ayran today! Yes, it's served everywhere here. Salty and yum.


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hamadelica
hamadelica
$$$
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 06:40 pm (UTC)

the ottoman empire shall rise again.


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endoftheseason
endoftheseason
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
Herr Momus

With the bitter chill of autumn fast approaching, maybe it's time you faced your demons by embarking upon a leg of identity tourism that sees you descend into the gloomy shadowlands of sausage-and-accordion Germania.

Your diet will now consist of large quantities of beer and "traditional hearty fare such as Hendl (chicken), Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Haxn (knuckle of pork), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstel (sausages) along with Brezel (Pretzel), Knödeln (potato or bread dumplings), Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut or Blaukraut (red cabbage) along with such Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda (a fatty, spiced cheese-butter concoction) and Weisswurst (a white sausage)."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oktoberfest

It must be done.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Herr Momus

this sounds very exotic and folksy. very "other."


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 8th, 2009 08:28 pm (UTC)
Mooslems.


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subalpine
subalpine
subalpine
Thu, Jul. 9th, 2009 05:04 am (UTC)

at the far eastern end of the turkic spectrum, the uighur shops, stalls and neighborhoods were some of the few bright spots in the months i spent in shanghai.

japan is where i really wanted to be at the time (and i did treasure my big bag of surprisingly tasty tsukemono picked up on the way during narita layover) but the whole time i was in china i just felt completely drawn to turkic central asia, inspired by their approaches to food and music more than by anything else in that city.


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