‘How much for this? What?! It’s junk! Who would ever buy it, anyway?’
In Berlin the second-hand market is still thriving, and you will find more than a few authentic markets. At Moritzplatz, the second hand market has a permanent spot at the corner of Prinzenstrasse and Prinzessinenstrasse, and it is one of the more original ones. Here, the market culture of the many Turks, Russians and the German bargain hunters extends to western Europe’s set-prices system. It’s perfect to train your bargaining skills, to overcome your reluctance for embarrassment, your eager tactics of underpricing, remaining insensitive to the ‘insulted’ Turk’s curses.
A small accordeon is to cost € 40, when hesitant the merchant pushes the accordeon in my hands, ‘go ahead, try it,’ he tries to establish an emotional attachment between me and the instrument, but when disinterested the merchant urges me to name my price. A small iron candybox should cost € 0.50, but without cutting off from the price it’s ‘just junk,’ while a fixed up bike goes for € 100, yet € 50 is out of the question, neither of us is interested to strike a deal.
If I would have lived permanently in Berlin, I would for sure be found on these markets every few weeks, buying old camera’s to try and see how their pictures turn out, now I have no real use for them in the last two months of my stay here. Most of the clothes are unsorted, and as Germans don’t dress very good to start, also the second-hand clothes are nothing but worn-out ready-made clothes. A young slim Turk offers no more than € 2 for a pair of children sneakers, ‘What 2? Give me 4!’ the merchant loudly demands, shouting outloud over the market place, in an attempt to embarrass the client. But the client stays untouched and says with a a calm expression of mercy: ‘No, just 2.’ Again, the merchant clamours to inform the world about his lenience: ‘Give me 3!’ ‘No, just 2,’ is the soft-spoken result of his sacrifice. The man places the pair back on the table, the merchant’s colleague steps in and says: ‘okay, take them for just 2.’ Now, with the same tone of voice, but with the bodily gesture that reveals his mocking, the first merchant repeats enchantingly: ‘2.30! Give me 2.30! 2.20!’
Walking from Moritzplatz, via Kotbusser Tor, along Kottbusser Strasse, you pass along the West’s rejoinder to the people’s housing projects of the communist DDR. The West’s view of housing for the poor is certainly worse than the that of the East, although those are the blocks that are being replaced currently, erasing the traces of communist welfare. The main traffic artery here is surrounded by shapeless dwellings with plastified, darkbrown hardboards shielding the balconies. From the area around the Landwehrkanal southward architecture improves, while the canal itself is a pleasant stroll area for locals. You will find people jogging along the shore, where others have found a place to picnic.