By Andres Pachon
A. Pachon, a journalist and skateboard addict, is a full-time writer for SHIT® Magazine.
Berlin was destroyed and then rebuilt, and from those ashes two cities emerged as two antagonists holding the same people but on different plains. A nation was divided for 40 years and inside its capital city a silent and cold war was waged within two sides of a fence, where people struggled to reunite with their loved ones or escaped to a better life. The Berlin Wall was once the symbol of the world’s bipolarity through the 20th century until it was undone for good. The German people nowadays stand together in unity, looking forward without any fear or stigma from previous nightmares. Skateboarding now sprouts and blooms everywhere you go in Berlin, making it one of the leading skateboarding cities in Europe where you can even trace back its inception during the mist of the Cold War.
Skateboarding In Two Germanys
Photo: Mikael Cho (Unsplash)
After the formation of both the Federal Republic of Germany (Democratic West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (Communist East Germany), it would take some years before the appearance of the first skateboarders in West Berlin and then in East Berlin. Even though West Berlin had more flexible and liberal politics it took a while that skateboarders could roam free in the street. East Berlin however was a harder nut to crack, for the authoritarian and repressive government saw skateboarding as a foreign meddling in people’s affairs, for it was prohibited and banned.
Many German skateboarders from the East resisted this, and during the 70’s and the 80’s the growing number but heavily persecuted community shredded in secrecy. Their stronghold was Firedrichshain, a neighborhood in East Berlin where skateboarding culture was the strongest. One legendary skateboarder from those days known as Panik led many of his brothers against the oppression by grinding streets and buildings without be seen or captured by the infamous and brutal East Germany police. The best way to catch a glimpse of this is watching the documentary ‘This Ain’t California’ of Martin Piersel, whose portrait of the skateboarding history in East Germany matches that of the skateboarders who brought counterculture and resistance against the tyrannical regime. The community became so strong that the authorities couldn’t control them, and when the reunification came, they knew they’ve won the battle.
Skateboarding Berlin Today
Photo: Mikael Cho (Unsplash)
Now united, Berlin is one city as the skateboarding community is one brotherhood. The communist era might be gone, but the traces it left are still visible to this day. The legacy of the skateboarders who struggle against the regime are pulsing through the veins of the streets, monuments and buildings every second, quaking with the rolling of the wheels that a deck and person bring with them. In Firedrichshain they got now the Skatehalle, a monument and site consecrated for the victory of skateboarding and its eternal presence in the city.
Other spots worth mentioning are the mythical Grünbergerstrasse avenue, the Kulturforum, Warschauer Straße, the Vogelfreiheit skatepark, Lohmühlenbrücke skatepark and the Heidelberger Platz, where skateboarders honor they predecessors and leave a new path for others like them to follow into an unknown future but with a certain Berlin ahead of them.
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