TETOVA, REAL or FAKE?
Updated: Jul 5
October 31, 2020
I took a subway to Neukölln. I decided to make the mappings update of the Albanian social spaces’ clusters in the neighborhood. We’ve been drawing the maps over the last few weeks and eventually I needed to compare the materials with the field. The first thought that came to my mind after almost one year of the thorough insight into the area of Nord-Neukölln was the transformation of visual landscape. I entered Nord-Neukölln from Hermannplatz, with the subway line U7. I felt challenged and, as usual I decided that we will make it in an intuitive way, without prescheduling much the directions, just visual mapping. It reminded me of the mechanic ways of making tourism, what I once heard as an anecdote, from a friend of mine, about Asian or American tourists traveling to Europe, who spend most of their time mechanically photographing everything, without reflecting. Instead, as it was explained to me, they re-experience it indirectly, by watching the photos and re-enacting memories. It is a good way to make it mechanic photo-documentation, I thought to myself, so I kept on spotting the social spaces with my iPhone camera. I took a big camera, even if I was pretty much sure I will not use it. I was watching the neighborhood life, my partner was watching after me, and I felt the ‘neighborhood’ is also spotting us. On the other hand our actions were part of everyday practice in Neukölln, we haven’t done anything to intrude the daily life of the neighborhood.
We turned left from Karl-Marx Strasse and passing a small street we turn right again into Sonnenallee. It was Saturday and the street was very crowded mostly with families doing shopping or locals spending a slow afternoon with friends, drinking coffee. I enjoyed the hectic atmosphere, it bring me back to my experience of Balkan cities, mostly Tirana, where I spent couple of years. After a while on the right side of the street, we reached the first Albanian space, after a long line of Arabic and Turkish places. Cafe Tetova. It was quite warm that day, so a lot of people were sitting outside. I said, I would like to stay here for a while, so I will just get in, to see if there are any free spots inside. The place was one of these traditional rural Albanian coffee spots exclusively for men. The only women, except for me was a bartender — the wife of the owner. It was around noon and the place was quite empty inside. It had a quasi modern interior design in Albanian fashion, with double-head eagle, TV set playing Albanian music, some gambling machines, and opposite the bar almost the whole wall was covered by a colorful painting in the naive style, reminding a bit kitschy Albanian ‘landschafts’.