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Twenty-five years ago, the Iron Curtain was torn down. Ten years ago, eight post-communist states joined the EU. But what do we really know about our neighbours beyond the border?

EUROPE UNCURTAINED The Iron Curtain has been history for 25 years now. This is a good thing because without it, young Europeans have been able to grow up without travel restrictions, ideological warfare or the fear of nuclear war. However, this also means that the events of 1989 are receding farther into the past. The historical significance of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Perestroika movement suddenly seem to no longer be pertinent. For many young people, a divided Europe is simply unimaginable. Cafébabel, the first online magazine for the Euro generation, didn’t want to celebrate

the 25th anniversary of 1989 with boring dates and blurry black and white photographs. That’s why in March of 2014 we developed the reportage project BEYOND THE CURTAIN. Young journalists from Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia set out in search for personal stories from both before and after the Fall of the Iron Curtain. Their reportages, which were published through Cafébabel, reveal a unified yet contradictory Europe: young Austrians, Slovaks and Hungarians dance together to the sounds of electronic music at the Waves Festival; German youths rediscover the Fall of the Wall and outspokenly warn against the new walls that are emerging on the eastern borders of the EU; young Czechs and Hungarians emigrate to Austria to seek work or an education. By contrast, comparatively few Western Europeans choose to spend their Erasmus year in the “East”. An iron curtain between East and West certainly no longer exists, but although the Soviet Union fell 25 years go, there still remains a divide between western European and postcommunist states. Overcoming this divide, which really only exists in our minds, is the goal behind BEYOND THE CURTAIN. Our authors, photographers and documentary filmmakers travelled in binational teams to the former borders to cast the relationship between East and West in a new light. With these reportages, we strive to foster a Europe that comes together not only on paper, but also in the minds of the people.

LILIAN PITHAN, Editor-in-chief of Cafébabel Berlin


A NEW VIEW OF HISTORY One hundred years since World War I, and 25 years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall: the year 2014 stood as a year of a remembrance. Politicians recalled historical events, eyewitnesses spoke up, and members of society discussed the significance that history holds for our current times. Although they never personally witnessed the Fall of the Wall in 1989, many young people

are showing an interest in the turmoil of the years 1989/1990, especially when the topic is adequately addressed. Cafébabel have taken upon themselves the task of recounting the historical events in Europe, thereby establishing relevance for the present. Last year, the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/bpb) honoured Cafébabel with an award through the competition “25 Jahre Mauerfall: Geschichte erinnern – Gegenwart gestalten” for their reportage project BEYOND THE CURTAIN. Through this accolade, 25 people, organisations and projects focussing on historical-political education were honoured – all of which performed, through exceptional strategies, a great service to society in their portrayals of 1989. The present e-magazine displays the current reality in the countries surrounding the former Iron Curtain, 25 years after its fall. It is a vibrant, international reality, in which borders hardly seem to play a role. Young people are open towards the people and cultures on either side of the former Iron Curtain. And it is exactly this attitude that Europe presently needs.

THOMAS KRÜGER, President of the German Federal Agency for Civic Education





VIENNA PG. 8 - 9

BUDAPEST PG. 12 - 13




10 - 11

GÖRLITZ, COME FROM THE DEAD Emilia Wanat Christina Heuschen





12 - 13

Eva Proske Ráhel Németh

Martin Maska Tomáš Mrva 8-9



14 - 15

Linda Tóthová David Tiefenthaler

A SILENT FAREWELL TO THE POLISH MARKET Aleksandra Łuczak Johanna Meyer-Gohde


EDITORS & TRANSLATORS Daniel Stächelin (English) | Christina Heuschen (German) | Róża Rozmus (Polish)


LOGO Adrien Le Coärer

PUBLISHER Babel Deutschland e.V., Liebenwalder Str. 34a, 13347 Berlin | Copyright © 2015. The rights for individual contributions are maintained by Babel Deutschland e.V. and the individual authors. Rights to photos and illustrations are as indicated.


TEXT Martin Maska & Tomáš Mrva

Over the past couple of years, Bratislava has become a party hub. Slovakians and Austrians rub elbows with each other in the city’s many underground bars and clubs. Could cross-border clubbing become a major trend in the future?

We go underground, literally. Although a statue of a sitting Buddha overlooks the bar, the atmosphere is anything but ascetic. Almost everyone is holding a cocktail or beer, the loud music leaving no room for meditation. But it’s not so noisy that we fail to notice partygoers speaking English and Spanish, in addition to Slovak. Cheap flights and drinks have turned the capital of Slovakia into “Partyslava”. For several years, it has primarily been a popular destination for British tourists going to stag and hen parties. But a couple of years ago, we heard for the first time that an increasing number of young people from Vienna go clubbing in Bratislava. We meet Richard and Bernadette, two young Austrians from Hainburg—a small town right on the border of Slovakia—who have considerable cross-border clubbing experience. Richard, who now works in a theatre in Vienna, has been to bars in Bratislava several times. He first went there when he was 17 years old. “I was pretty bored because all bars were the same in Hainburg. That’s why we crossed the border”, he tells us. “There are many young people in Bratislava who are open-minded and cosmopolitan. We simply went there without any knowledge of the bars.”. For people from Hainburg, getting to Bratislava is really easy. Taking bus number 901 of the Bratislava public transportation system, the journey takes only 22 minutes, and if you’re


under 26 years old, the bus fare is only 75 cents. Drinks are also much cheaper than in Austria, so it makes sense that people from towns and villages near the border prefer Bratislava to Vienna. What are their favourite venues? Richard tells us that they often go to the Sky Bar near the U.S. embassy: “You can go up to the roof, and they also have a good drink menu.” Irena, a Serbian who lived in Vienna for a while before moving to Belgium for an Erasmus exchange year, is another crossborder party addict. Shortly after coming to Vienna, she met a Bosnian guy and asked him about what places in Vienna were good to go out to. His answer? “Hmm, to be honest, all my best nights out while living in Vienna were in Bratislava”. She laughed and he promised to take her along on some of his party trips. They usually went five or six times a year, mostly to Cirkus Barok, Nu Spirit Bar and RIO. “The clubs may not have the most amazing designs, but the atmosphere is generally more spontaneous. Guys also find girls better looking than in Vienna”, she smiles.

or other Austrian cities. “It’s like Vienna, and there’s also a lot of nice graffiti”, says Bernadette. “It’s a growing city, so I don’t think it’s really too different”. But first impressions of Bratislava can be mixed. When you arrive from Austria, the sight is not spectacular; the Petržalka housing estate, with its 150 thousand inhabitants and dozens of Soviet era apartment blocks, is considered an eyesore. “The bus station and bridge are weird, but the statues are super fun and cool to take photos of”, Irena tells us. What about the people? Richard seems convinced that, “people in Bratislava smile more and are typically more open, whereas people in Vienna are always in a hurry”. Bernadette’s view is a bit more nuanced. “I

think in Bratislava, you’re just more aware of your surroundings, which is why your first impression may be a bit distorted.” And how does Irena compare people in Bratislava to the Viennese? Historically, relationships between Serbia and Slovakia have typically been very good, so her answer doesn’t surprise us. “People are friendlier, are open to making contacts and talking with strangers. They’re louder, wilder, less formal, less snobbish and more into partying than posing”. It might still take a number of years before all differences fade away entirely, but even today the borders seem to be little more than lines on a map. Although the famous tram from Vienna to Bratislava that was operational from 1919 to 1945 is a thing of the past, today bus number 901 connects people from both sides. As for Bernadette and Richard, we’ve asked them to let us know next time they’re partying in Bratislava. And when Irena returns from Belgium, she’ll be invited too. Partygoers of the world unite! Our thanks go to Cafebabel Vienna for their great help with our article.

Bernadette recently joined Richard and a group of friends to celebrate a friend’s birthday in Bratislava. It was her first “party trip” to the Slovakian capital. “Bars are different there, and sometimes we simply want a change of scenery”, she says. Although she has been to Bratislava’s clubs only once, she knows a lot about the party scene of the Slovakian capital. Her brother is a drummer and plays in two international jazz bands—jEzzSPRIT and the Gabo Jonas Trio—that perform in Bratislava. “I’ve heard of some great concerts from updates made by Austrian bands that play there, so I’d like to go check that out, too”.

Despite four decades of both countries being isolated from each other, neither Bernadette nor Richard considers Bratislava to be too different from Vienna


More than 25 years ago, it seemed inconceivable. Today it’s as common and natural as using smartphones: everyday, hundreds of Slovaks cross the border to work in the Austrian capital Vienna, just 60 kilometres away from Bratislava. David and Linda woke up early enough to catch the early bird train, in order to take a closer look at Slovaks’ motivations, feelings and attitudes surrounding their cross-border lifestyles.

Border Hopping to Vienna DIRECTED BY Linda T贸thov谩 & David Tiefenthaler




Over the last two decades, Görlitz and Zgorzelec, like many cities post-1989, have undergone rapid changes. On the German side of the border, parts of the city are derelict. Now, young people are figuring out what to do with all the empty spaces. Zgorzelec appears like any other Polish city—a mixture of old, beautiful buildings amidst ugly billboards. The main street is crammed with small tobacco shops, and leads to the Pope John Paul II bridge over the Nyssa River. It’s a typical Polish mix of the sacred interwoven with the profane. As soon as you cross the bridge into Görlitz, which serves as a symbolic border, you can sense a difference. And it’s not just the Germans’ love of order and the archaic Gothic fonts on street signs: Görlitz’s streets are mostly filled with pensioners and school children, the main street seems like the set of a Western film and shopfronts with their missing windows appear as if looted by cowboys.

TEXT Christina Heuschen & Emilia Wanat


people fled in search of a better life in the West. But since the collapse of communism, the migrants’ numbers have exploded, and Görlitz is no exception. East Germany has now lost nearly two million inhabitants, or 13% of the population. As industry and infrastructure crumbled, lots of old factories and municipal buildings became derelict. “Sometimes people break into abandoned buildings just to steal old door frames”, says Daniel. Zgorzelec, on the Polish side of the border, has fared slightly better and doesn’t have to fight brain drain and migration to the same extent.

The reasons for this have their origins in the Fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago. “You

To stop vandalism, break-ins and

would definitely notice if roughly 10 000 people were to suddenly leave”, says Daniel Breutmann, chairman of the association goerlitz21. During the communist era, many

dilapidation in Görlitz, Daniel Breutmann and his association take part in the online project Leerstandsmelder, which is located throughout Germany. Its online platform


allows people to not only report empty spaces, but also search for them. Goerlitz21 serves as an agency that processes formal requests to use and rent spaces. Some have come from the German-French television channel ARTE, as well as from the Babelsberg Filmstudios, one of the oldest film studios in the world. But there have also been commercial requests for shops and storage spaces on Leerstandsmelder. “Aside from well known empty spaces in Görlitz, such as the city hall, the RAW train yard in Schlauroth or the capacitor factory, there is a lot of hidden commercial and private real estate”, Daniel explains. The Kühlhaus, for example, was built in the ‘50s and was just being renovated when the Berlin Wall came down. The monumental building, which was used as a means of refrigerating food, wound up becoming a ruin. But recently, the Kühlhaus has risen from the dead. In 2008, young people from the area were looking for a space where they could organize events. In contrast to cities like Berlin, Warsaw or Vienna, Görlitz lacks the kind of venues that would appeal to artists, hipsters and partygoers. The Kühlhaus seemed the perfect place—it’s outside of town, but connected by public transportation. The space is enormous and has a large garden outside that’s perfect for hosting open-air events. But its interior was in complete disarray, the floor was overgrown with grass and weeds, and the windows and roof looked like decaying pieces of refuse. “We‘re using the past to create something new”, says Nadine Mietk. “Like right now, I‘m repairing and painting window frames.” There are about sixteen volunteers like her, people who are helping with the renovation of the Kühlhaus. The air is filled with the smell of paint and solvent. A shelf that’s propped up against the wall has been brought here from a local school. With retro furniture and an old school radio, the entire space looks like a vintage collector’s dream. Ironically, abandoned buildings like the Kühlhaus may be just the opportunity for Görlitz to come back to life. “These empty buildings are great outlets for the creative economy as well as for young people”, says Juliane Wedlich, one of the Kühlhaus managers. “There are enough cheap and free spaces here that can be used for alternative projects in culture and

business”. In 2012, the team organized the first MoxxoM-Openair—an electronic music festival that’s grown into a three-day event. And as of 2015, they’ve been receiving a large sponsorship from the Robert Bosch Foundation.

With their project Jugend.Stadt.Labor Rabryka (Youth.City.Laboratory Rabryka, Ed.), the local organisation Second Attempt has an equally positive impact on the cityscape of Görlitz. Through its cultural and artistic workshops and projects, Second Attempt aims to mitigate the hopelessness that the youth in Eastern Germany feel. “We believe that we can guide young people to start their own initiatives”, explains Erik Thiel, one of the project volunteers. “They need to participate to shape their living space and to actualise their dreams for society, apart

from simply being consumers”. Rabryka was developed by a group of young people at the Fokus Festival, where young Germans and Poles—not just from Görlitz and Zgorzelec, but from all over Poland—gather together. Rabryka is now located in the Energiefabrik, a former factory used to meet industrial demands for yeast production. Although industrial barrels and train rails are reminiscent of the factory’s past, its large and elaborate graffiti are testimony to its modern uses. Whether through renovation, horticulture or musical projects, Rabryka aims to develop new ideas for urban development. “It’s an experimental laboratory


through which we want to bring the city back to life“, says Erik. To achieve this, they network with youths, sponsors and local municipality. But there is also cooperation with organisations across the border in Zgorzelec. “Most of the events are bilingual”, says Inga Dreger, who is a board member of Second Attempt. “However, the primary emphasis shouldn‘t be put on the GermanPolish relationship because that should be taken for granted in the borderland”. However enthusiastic the project managers and volunteers of Leerstandsmelder, Kühlhaus and Rabryka might be, bringing a whole city back to life isn’t an easy feat. The number of organisational and bureaucratic obstacles can seem daunting, but they’re not insurmountable. “Over the past few years, cooperation with the local municipality has clearly improved”, says Juliane Wedlich. “There are some reconsiderations taking place, although we sometimes feel it takes too long. We hope that city officials realise

the great opportunity that these empty spaces offer, and with this a chance for young and creative people to thrive”. Erik Thiel agrees: “Space always holds possibilities, but it also entails problems such as building stock, reducing noise emission or making arrangements for fire safety”. Still, Erik, Juliane and the others are doing their best to resurrect Görlitz from the dead. Maybe one day in the near future, the city’s main street won’t feel like such a Wild West ghost town anymore. If you listen closely, you can almost begin to hear the saloon doors of the Kühlhaus swaying back and forth to the bustle of partygoers.

Melting Pot in Budapest DIRECTED BY Eva Proske & Ráhel Németh



The number of people with foreign passports living in Hungary has steadily grown in the last ten years. That’s why Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been trying to toughen his country’s immigration laws. Above all, he seems to be frightened by the prospect of “parallel cultures”.

The largest migration group in Hungary are Germans, comprising roughly two per cent of the Hungarian population. We met up with a number of them in Budapest and came to learn that the concept of a German “parallel culture” doesn’t hold weight. Rather than staying solely amongst themselves,


Germans are very curious about the Hungarian culture and society. Many have heard about public German get-togethers, but have never gone. Despite what people may assume, Budapest doesn’t seem to be the “next Berlin”. So, what does Viktor Orbán have to worry about?


At the beginning of the ‘90s, finding cheap prices on goods—from cigarettes, garden gnomes, knockoff perfume, among other things—was as easy as going on a trip to the “Polish Markets” in Słubice. Is business at the bazaars still booming, 25 years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall?

TEXT Johanna Meyer-Gohde & Aleksandra Łuczak

PHOTOGRAPHY Johanna Meyer-Gohde

“Here comes the Poland bus!”, calls one of the retirees at the Frankfurt (Oder) railway station. Shortly after, a group of elderly people squeeze their way into the vehicle. Its doors close after the last rolling walkers, wheelchairs and suitcases with cat embroidery are stowed away. The passengers’ mission is written on the bus’s side windows in a bold font: “Travelling to Słubice for cheap prices” and “Off to Poland for extra goodies.” Many of the retirees have travelled the extra 100 kilometres from Berlin, taking advantage of special offers provided by the Deutsche Bahn railway company. Their shopping lists read, “visit my hairdresser”, “blue pills for my buddies”, “coffee” and, of course, “cigarettes”. The bus navigates the tower block district before steering in the direction of the Oder bridge. Although the border checkpoint buildings have in recent years been torn down, and there have ceased to be inspections, one can sense a border. A large number of gaudy billboards spring up out of the ground immediately after crossing the bridge: “Cigarettes 24 Hours”, “Super Cheap!” and again, “Cigarettes!!!!!”. The small town of Słubice, with its 17,000 inhabitants, seems to be blanketed with smoke shops. There are two bazaars here, both of which Germans like to call “Polish Markets”. The larger of the two is a few kilometres outside of the city centre. Weekend tourists are able to get everything here, from wailing puppies to knockoff Thor Steinar clothes—a brand hugely popular with neo-Nazis. The smaller bazaar, which is just a few hundred metres away from the Oder bridge, is considered an insiders’ secret. It consists of an easily navigable number of roofed corridors. Small shops are lined up next to each other, packed to the brim with a vibrant mishmash of goods: kitschy frilled curtains next to sparkly tiger print blouses, pirated Andrea Berg CDs next to fishing tackle, garden gnomes and plastic dolls, fruits, vegetables and chocolate pralines. Following your nose, you wind up at the very heart of the bazaar: the Bar Appetit. Bratwursts and chicken legs dribbling with grease are piled up behind the counter. The small room is already packed in the morning with small groups of elderly people, who sit at plastic tables and go to town on their breaded schnitzels with plastic silverware. Ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard are on standby in XXL squeeze bottles.


Marysia, with her red apron, short red dyed haircut, and friendly but stern demeanour, serves drinks. “In Poland we actually eat later in the day, around 4 p.m.”, she explains in a fluid German with strong Polish accent, “but here lunchtime is from 11 to 2, just like in Germany”. The 56-year-old opened the small bazaar tuck shop more than 20 years ago. Today, she only occasionally cooks and serves, her youngest daughter having taken over management a couple years ago. Before the Fall of the Iron Curtain, Marysia was a seamstress at a local factory that was forced to close—like many state companies in Poland—after 1989. Like her, many Poles used the newly won economic freedoms that the collapse of socialism offered them to open their own small businesses. Further down the corridor is Zofia’s flower shop. “Cigarettes would have brought in more money, but I thought flowers better suited a woman”, says the mid 60-yearold as she bundles pink anthurium flowers into a bouquet with green grasses. The bouquet is intended for one of her regular customers: Dieter. He runs errands while his wife is getting a haircut next door. Chatting with Zofia—in German, naturally—is part of the bazaar experience. Like so many other Frankfurters, Dieter’s Polish skills are limited—even after all these years—to words like “please” and “thank you”. “If he had gotten a Polish woman in bed, then I’m sure his Polish would be better”, Zofia jokingly says after he leaves her shop.

Of all her customers, 90% are German. “They really like things to be comfortable”, says the experienced saleswoman. In Poland, it’s not at all common to put flowers on the table. “It’s not really worth it, because they only last a few days”, she says. She’s noticed over the past couple of years that the customers have increasingly been older people. “Young people shop in all those evil monstrosities”, she says, meaning discount stores, supermarkets and shopping centres. “Besides, there are constantly fewer people

living in Frankfurt. Just look at all those blocks of flats. Many of them are either empty or are being torn down”. The number of residents in Frankfurt, just like many other East Germany cities, is in fact sinking. While there were 86,000 residents directly after the Fall, that number has reduced by roughly a third. Even a demographic shift has been noticeable; young people under 29 years old make up less than 26% of the city population, while the number of those over 45 steadily increased to 60% in 2012. Frankfurt has been unsuccessful in the fight to reverse this trend. Regardless of the fact that it has a university, many students would rather commute an hour to Berlin, a city that in terms of jobs and recreation is hard to outmatch. The amount of customers at the bazaar has also been decreasing, because the prices on both sides of the Oder have been catching up with each other over the past couple of years. Nevertheless, the preconception in Germany that everything is cheaper in Poland is still widely spread. This is a reflection of the reality that existed in the early ‘90s. Back then, the price difference was so huge that Germans went in droves to the bazaars to find wholesale bargains on goods. Now products in Polish stores cost almost as much as they do in German stores. And because the Polish Market is geared toward the German wallet, many things in supermarkets and discount stores are even a little more expensive. “We never go to the bazaar”, says Joanna Pyrgiel. The energetic 38-year-old, who is responsible for foreign collaboration at the municipal office, has lived in Słubice for several years, and has been to the bazaar only once. In contrast to Frankfurt, Słubice is seeing a steady increase in population. The possibility of living in Poland and being able to work just across the border in Germany is attracting Poles to the Oder from the country’s every nook and cranny. “Over there”, salaries are higher, and there seems to be a lack of skilled employees. After the border controls were done away with in 2009, the relationship between Frankfurt and Słubice intensified. What was considered unimaginable a couple years ago is the norm today, like the bus connection over the Oder, or the German-Polish schools


and day-care centres that have sprung up. And there are even collaborative cultural events and festivals. Young people from both parts of the “double city”, as Pyrgiel so describes Frankfurt and Słubice, meet up in numerous clubs and bars throughout Słubice. For the residents of Słubice, the bazaar exists more so in the periphery of their awareness. The merchants of the small bazaar aren’t creating illusions for themselves about the future of the “Polish Markets”. Should their country join the Eurozone in the not-toodistant future, they could lose their price advantages. “The Euro will come, old nans will die out, then the merchants, too, and soon after there wont be a bazaar at all”, says Zofia in a sober tone. It’s now 3 p.m.—time for Zofia to take her bouquets out of their vases and store them in her shop. The vegetable merchant to the right and the praline merchant to the left are also busy packing up their goods, while Marysia wipes down her tables. The corridors are empty around this time. The last remaining customers leave the bazaar through the eastern entrance, where a discount store, whose parking lot is packed at this time of day, awaits them. Here, the shopping has just begun.

DAVID TIEFENTHALER Vi en n a Student (politics & journalism)



B e rlin /Po z na ń Student (interpreting & Eastern European History)

NÉMETH Bu d ap es t Student (translation & interpreting)

LILIAN PITHAN Be r l i n Journalist, editor & translator





B ratislava Freelance journalist, copywriter & translator

Be r l i n Student (Central & Eastern European Studies)





B e rlin Graphic designer & Illustrator

Be r l i n Journalist & copywriter


EMILIA WANAT C rac o w Freelance journalist





Davis, C alifo rni a Translator & journalist

Vi en n a/C h o t e b o r Treasurer for European Youth Press (EYP), documentary filmmaker

LINDA TÓTHOVÁ B ratislava Executive Search & Business Psychologist

EVA PROSKE Vi en n a Freelance journalist

RÓŻA ROZMUS Warsaw Student (Applied Linguistics)

We would like to thank Sébastien Vannier, Alicia Prager, Adrien Le Coärer, Katharina Kloss, Kait Bolongaro, Katarzyna Piasecka and Alice Cases for their help and support in assembling the reportage project, as well as Christiane Lötsch, Ines Fernau, Yvonne Röttgers, Zofia DziewanowskaStefańczyk, Christian Schnalzger, Rebecca Dora Kajos, Fleur Grelet, Alice Grinand, Mathias Markl, Lucie Chamlian and Kamil Exner for their fantastic contributions to our online magazine. We would also like to thank Thomas Krüger, Miriam Vogel and Daniel Kraft from the German Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/bpb) who made this reportage project possible through their financial support.


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