A Leipziger Haus

Hey crazy penguins, how are your igloos going ?

Your are certainly asking yourself why we are going through Leipzig to do Grenoble-Istanbul.

Beginning of may 2014, I ring at the door of the 125. Somebody talk to me in German from a window and come to open the door. I go up four floors before getting in the attic in which around twenty people are talking, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.

– « Hello, I am a friend of Fabian!»

– « Fabian? Who is Fabian? »

After traveling two months in Morocco with Fabian, a German guy I met in Chefchaouen’s Medina, he invites me to visit him in Leipzig. I have an address, and the number of Isa, a friend of him because Fabian don’t have a phone.

« Aaah you mean Blocki! ». After a little while everybody understand that I talk about Blocki, this is how he is called here. Fabian is not here, he’s at the hospital after inhaling to much dirt while cleaning the attic I am in. Isa went with him and everybody is waiting for them to celebrate the Isa’s birthday. And I am there, somebody gives me a beer. I just did Paris-Leipzig by hitchhiking, exhausted, I don’t speak much, and I look around me all those German talking to each other. And they are looking at me, not really understanding what I am doing here.

In the next days, Arthur joins me. Big preparations are going on: in fact, the tenants are in the house since autumn 2013 and after a lot of construction work they decided to organize a house warming party. But not one like you would organize in your 17m² flat. One that will last three full days and nights, there will be an outside stage with small concerts, a maze at night in the basement, an inside bar and an outside bar, a movie projection room, and many thematic rooms. Costume room, board game room, a room to play chess while drinking a little glass of wine, a dark room with non-stop trance-goa playing, the “Jam Zimmer” (Jam Room) populated with a dozen of music instruments for improvised musical sessions, the “Tea Room” to chill-out while enjoying a piece of cake. And of course a room playing punk bands and DJ all night. Big respect to the resident DJ Franz! Franz we love you, kiss kiss.

La Jam Room et son piano magiqueOver the extended week-end, there will be about hundred people hosted, a wave of black, green, blue, and orange sleeping bags polluting the attic. But be careful, don’t be surprised if in the morning you get woken up to leave the place for the band or the DJ who is going to play where you chose to put your little mattress. Don’t be surprised if you go down in the kitchen just to find a coffee, and that you end up cutting a huge quantity of vegetables. Don’t be surprised if once your coffee finished you open your first Sterni, local beer with an unbeatable quality-price ratio. In this alternative environment, everybody is welcome, the entrance is free, everybody is helping, the meals are always vegetarians, often vegans, and on donation. Your are not going to hear the same music as on the radio, the bar have a more than reasonnable price, no security agent, nothing is really official and the organization is collective. This you can find it in many alternative places in Leipzig like the collective kitchens (Volksküchen). During all the week in independent locations you can find meals cooked for a donation price. The parties are really different from what we are used to see: go inside an ordinary looking flat, and find a kitchen transformed into a bar, a living room into a concert room, and pay your beer by putting what you judge a good price inside a jar that lay on the bar.

In eastern Germany many houses and building were abandoned after the exodus due the fall of the wall (Mauerfall). In Leipzig among others, numerous projects are growing, like Berlin some years ago, which is now saturated. Many of those projects were first illegal (squats, events in abandoned places, etc…), some finding a way of surviving against the power of the state, others integrating it by creating associations for example. Leipzig today look pretty much like Berlin ten years ago.

The house we are talking about is not a squat because the tenants are paying a rent. They took this abandoned house, they repaired it themselves and are about to buy it. It’s a collectivity living place where each one is involved, where everybody can say what he wants. Since this summer, they are renting a field 30km away from the city and they prepare it to plant fruits and vegetables in order to be auto-sufficient as much as possible. They are going there every week-end to turn around the soil and plant trees.

The inhabitants of the house are students, future teachers, are doing small jobs to cover their small expenses, get minimal state money or unemployment money, are Djs, professional singers or amateur drinkers.

Après-midi de jardinageNow they decided to buy the house using a different way. To make it short, an association is made out of the house which collects enough money to pay the owner. The house tenants look for money trying to use as less as possible the banks. It is individuals, found thanks to their network or thanks to a small advertisement (flyers, website) that furnish most of the funds. Then through the association that is now owner of the house, the renters will pay regularly a rent to reimburse the different money lenders. Thus propriety is not given to individuals but to the association, allowing at the same time anyone to leave the house freely by finding another tenant.

The house has also a specific mention avoiding financial speculation (impossible to sell the house more expensive than the cost of buying) or to re-sell it for commercial purposes.

All these projects are helped and guided by a “house renting syndicate” (Mietshäuser Syndikat). More infos on: http://www.syndikat.org/en/

Since the house warming party in the beginning of may, the house changed a lot. Of course the 125 is not an endless party like described above and the rooms exchanged their board games and costumes to look more like classic rooms. But not that much classic though. The students are studying, the singers are singing, the lazy-ones are lazying, but all are sacrificing a big part of their time to the project, and particularly on the arrangement of the house and the garden.

Petits pots, petits déjsAnd with a well managed timing of the different floors, it is every morning possible to participate to two breakfasts at least. Often in the evening, the food is prepared in the first floor to be served on the third with the cutlery of the second one, or the other way around. Most of the time you can enjoy vegan meals because many of the tenants are vegetarians or vegans. But if you’re lucky, you can be on time for the rabbit day, where you find yourself with the meat eaters and the bad vegetarians to taste the animal coming from the local countryside.

This is why our route from Grenoble to Istanbul is going through Leipzig. Rémi already went there many times and it was the chance to see once again our friends in this special atmosphere. We can say that this place make both of us think and gives us ideas about our future way of living. We are now in Istanbul, and we wish a beautiful future to the “125”.

Tchüss geilo krass der Hammer!

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Let’s go for a ride!

   During the months of September and October, Rémi stayed in Grenoble in order to work on a website, it allowed him to smoothly prepare himself for the trip. Arthur did a bit of grape picking and some small jobs for his relatives. By the way I would like to thank all my sponsors, Auntie Anne-Marie, respect to granddaddy, Florence the best godmother (sorry again for the holes in you wall…), and of course my dad and mom without whom I wouldn’t be here today.

   Rémi couldn’t take any more the legendary slowness of Arthur and decided to leave at the beginning of the week (the 3rd of November 2014) by a sunny day that shortly turned grey after crossing the border of Grenoble. Arthur joined him on Friday the 7th of November after having destroyed a piece of wall at her aunt´s place trying to install a shelf. Not intentionally I precise.
So both of us left in direction of Leipzig, a city that already had the pleasure of hosting us in the past. In fact we have good friends there, 20 people living in one big and old house they repaired themselves and are carrying a project of living in collectivity (Hausprojekt in the local language). The program: cheap beers, vegan cakes,  unexpected evenings, field work, aweesomly cute nutrias, immersion into the germanic culture… We will talk to you about this in the next episode.

What happened to Rémi?

The week end before the departure was very busy. All week was full with the last preparation. Friday and Saturday night, we had a last party with parents and friends. My parents and Arthur´s got to know eachother a bit more. The Monday morning I joined my mother and my father in the city center after preparing my backpack, rather heavy. I bought a bit of food for the road, I saw a last time my parents, took a picture with them, my backpack on the shoulders. There are smiling, I think they understand.

It is already shortly after noon when I start hitchhiking at Porte de France, the starting point to leave Grenoble. I am goin in direction of Leipzig, Germany. It is not the first time I do this trip. This time I decided to have no board, only my thumb to prove to myself that Grenoble is really THE hitchhiking city. 5 minutes later a women takes me with a baby on the back seat. I told her that she is the first driver of my world tour, rather cool to say, and I gave her the address of our website. As usual I got easily several cars with a little struggle in L’Isle-d’Abeau to get to Bourg-en-Bresse. I ended up in a car to Paris and stop in Beaune. Small snack and let´s go again. I find a car with a cosmetic sales representative and seeing her at  first, I´d never had thought she would take me. That goes to show that one should always try! She dropedd me in Mulhouse, it is 6pm and already dark, that´s the problem with winter. I find a last car to cross the border until Karlsruhe. Unfortunately this rest area is not very busy, too bad I wanted to continue as late as possible. I waited until a bit after midnight, and then decided I will spend the night here. I started pitching my tent not far from the petrol station, too lazy to go further away and there the police comes, yahoo! In the end, they just wanted to check my papers in case I am an illegal migrant or a wanted person. To all so-called “illegal” migrants, pitch your tent a bit away from the petrol station. The next morning everything went fine until I´m dropped in one of the famous german Autohof, a petrol station not directly on the highway. There was a lot of local traffic, I jumped from the service station to the McDonald´s, asking everybody I could see, and assisting to a strange show of an entire bus full of American soldiers rushing in the McDonald´s. After two unsuccesful hours, I finally find someone going in my direction who was willing to take me. I drove half of what was left to Leipzig at about 200km/h (125 miles/h). He couldn´t go faster because he had snow tyres, that´s too bad. Dropped on a rest area, I found the last driver, sympathic environmental friendly business man in a wheelchair, with whom I talked a lot and who brought me into Leipzig. From there I found my way, took a bus, a tram and finally got into the “Leipzig house” where I joined my German friends, and I felt like home.

And what happened to Arthur?

For my departure, Mummy and Daddy came with me and brought me to “Porte de France”, the hitchhiking spot direction Lyon or Marseille. I added to my two backpacks the ukulele cover Rémi´s Mum gave me, full of different stuff, some useful and others a bit less. I also took my chocolat chicken “because you weren´t with us at Easter to look for the eggs”. As usual, the waiting time to get out of Grenoble is less than 5 minutes. “You are the first car that takes me in my world tour”, rather hyper cool to say… Thus here I am at the gaz station before the toll and I quickly find a firm manager to bring me at the petrol station a bit before Lyon.

Serious stuff starts now! I wait an hour and a half without much success. I start to believe that no one wants to go to Bourg-en-Bresse, that´s weird… Fortunately, the Michelin road map with all the French petrol station is here to save me: I´ll join the next toll, stop there and walk 3-4km to join a servo on the highway I want to take. Night has fallen and I have almost no chance to be taken on this unlighted countryside street. After a 10 minutes walk, I see a car going out of a house and I wave to it : jackpot, it is a roumanian lady bringing me at the aimed petrol station! I´m back in da game!!

I arrive in Mulhouse, it is a bit before midnight. I send my last free text messages and wait. At 00:20, I ask a relaxed polish guy with a nice big empty 4WD if he drives to Karlsruhe. He tells me yes. I ask if he goes to Nürnberg. He tells me yes. Excited, I ask if by chance he is passing by Leipzig?! He answers me yes!! However, when I ask if I can jump into the car, he tells me it is not possible… I don´t know whether it is a joke or not so I gently insist. But no way he takes me, so I found myself waiting again. At 00:45 it is a totally unexpected group of three guys from Berlfort going to “Karlstrou” that take me (Karlstrou is apparently the Belfortian way of pronouncing Karlsruhe). I then spend an hour and a half pretending drinking vodka-red bull with a nice compilation of Jul, a french rapper, doted of incredible music skills and beautiful songs such a “Sors le cross volé”, “J´oublie tout”, “Briganter” or in a featuring with Kenzah Farah on the track “Problèmes”. Mama, don´t worry, the driver was not drinking. I remember what we talked about: if the driver drives like an asshole, I pretend I´m about to throw up to get out of the car.

I thus spend my first night with my new sleeping bag at the petrol station before Karlstrou, alarm is put at 7am. Now, for some unexplained reason, I only woke up at 10… The way to Leipzig goes without problem thanks to 5 cars driving not less than 130km/h (viva Allemania and the no speed limits!!).

It is 5pm, I found the great atmosphere of the “Leipzig house” again and I already feel like home! Yes, I say exactly the same as Rémi ´cause I´ve got no creativity. Actually, I wrote his text before him, so he is the one that copied me.

Here for our first article. See you at the next episode! From Germany with Love

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