I Spent 24 Hours in Berlin’s Busiest Drug Market
What's a lingering problem to some is a hotspot of Berlin nightlife to others. Is Kotti the cesspool of Berlin or a multicultural paradise?
This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.
When I get out of the U8 train at Berlin's Kottbusser Tor station at 5 AM on a Thursday, three men dressed in rags raise their beer bottles to greet me. "Is this a nightcap or a good morning beer?" I ask. They don't answer but grin at me with the few remaining teeth they have. The sun is rising over Kotti (as the area is affectionately called in German), reflecting on the satellite dishes and the windows of the surrounding kebab joints and bars. There are hardly any people in the square—it's basically me and a guy manning a 24-hour vegetable stand. But the rubbish from last night that's still lying on the street tells stories: Someone spent the evening with a needle and a Capri Sun juice box for company; a few feet away is an installation made from an empty sparkling wine bottle and a mini bottle of chardonnay. Additionally, I count 17 empty vodka bottles; the brands are so cheap that I don't even recognize them from my days as a student.
The street cleaner, who begins sweeping everything up just before 6 AM, merely says: "It's dirty here. But for further inquiries, you have to turn to the mayor's public relations office." Kotti has been in the press a lot recently. In April, the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote that Kottbusser Tor is Berlin's hardest drug market: "It doesn't really get more bleak than this." Two months earlier, the Tagesspiegel ran the headline: "(Kottbuser Tor) Is Too Crass Even for Kreuzberg Standards." According to the police, the number of muggings increased by 50 percent between 2014 and 2015. Theft increased by 100 percent.
Photo: Grey Hutton