Beer caps, Berlin

As a child, I often had dreams where I would find money, little coins scattered in the street, inside bushes or hidden in the sand. I would pick up these coins, delighted and exalted, and each time I’d 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 I’m walking in 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, 2 years ago, I found that it isn’t coins one regularly finds on the sidewalks here, 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 the park benches, in the trams and public transport, in the gutters, or in front of the public lavatories.

Colorful little objects, shining amidst the urban foliage, they would surely attract the attention of a curious raven, as they add an elusive colorfulness to an otherwise blank and grey urban landscape (Berlin is not the prettiest of Europe’s capitals.)

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. They are often left to rot in the streets, blotted and worn down only by winds and rain, and by the city people’s insistent march.

beer caps, we love beer

Some beer caps would still be there, languishing in the sun, resisting the sweeping rain, days after I’d first see them, as if someone had intentionally left them there, and they’re still waiting for his return.

A local wouldn’t see them, but to an outsider living in 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..)

 

They say no matter where you are in a big city, you’re no further than free metres away from the rat. The same can be said about Berlin and beer caps 

Everything that shines like gold is an invitation to… 

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