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.
Over 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.
Now 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.
And 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!