As a child, I often had dreams where I would find money, little coins scattered around in the street, in the bushes or hidden in the sand. I would pick up these coins, delighted and exalted, and each time I would uncover one there would appear another one, then many more.
These recurring dreams had only stopped when I was in my teens, but to a certain extent I still relive them in my adult life, whenever I find myself unknowingly staring at the ground while walking the streets or talking on my cell phone and gazing downwards at the advancing pavement.
I hardly ever find anything, but the occasional coin or bank note will keep me going for a little while longer.
When I moved to Berlin, some 23 months ago, I found that it isn’t coins one regularly finds here when staring at the pavement, but rather beer caps, many beer caps.
For beer caps, I’ve come to learn, form a vital part of the Berlin landscape. They’re everywhere, competing only with cigarette butts. In the middle of the road, on the walking curbs, on park benches, beneath park benches, in the trams and public transport, in the gutters. Everywhere.
These beer caps are often left to rot in the streets. They get stepped on, worn down by the tide of feet
The bottles are (mostly) retuned to the kiosk or minimarket they were bought at, in return for the modest pfand they are worth, but the useless beer caps are thrown away, seemingly with no afterthought.
A local wouldn’t see them, but to an outsider visiting Berlin they are all but invisible.
That Berliners drink a lot is a given. But that so many beer caps could be found all along the streets of Berlin, rather than next to kiosks and supermarkets, presupposes that many Berliners walk around with cap openers in their pockets or bags. And by the looks of it, the streets here never get cleaned (I’ve hardly ever seen any street cleaners here..)