I grew up in Bonn but have been living in the Südstadt (the south of Cologne) since 2006. Out of our 13 band members, ten of us live in Cologne – five of us even on the same street! Even though it’s not exactly a small city, there’s a very local feel where everything seems to happen right outside your window – or at least that’s the case where I live. Maybe because the Südstadt is the best neighbourhood of them all! There’s a great mix of people living here: as well as the old folks sitting gossiping outside cafés, you have students, young families, artists and the former squatters who helped to build this district so you can’t help but feel like you’re in the middle of it all.
While other bands sing about the more buttoned-down aspects of Cologne, we like to shake things up by saying that it’s the rough edges that really make Cologne what it is. Barbarossaplatz, which has featured in one of our songs, is a part of the city that I see as being extremely genuine. Unlike the ring road, the Cathedral and the Old Town, which aren’t the real Cologne if you ask me.
There’s nothing I love more than walking through the city streets. It’s also where I get the inspiration for our lyrics. Even though you might be able to get there a few minutes faster by car or tram, walking leads you to bump into people unexpectedly, or to discover new places or rediscover old ones. My favourite walk is the Brückenrunde – the bridge route – which takes in some or all of the city’s bridges: the Südbrücke, Hohenzollernbrücke, Severinsbrücke and even as far as the Rodenkirchener Brücke and back over to the other side of the Rhine.
For me, the perfect night out involves picking up a bottle of Kölsch beer from a kiosk and heading off for a stroll. Then we’d grab a pizza at Caminetto on Eifelplatz and sit on the little wall in the Volksgarten park to eat it. There’s also a fantastic new beer garden at Lotta – a no-nonsense, politically sound bar on Kartäuserwall and one of the driving forces behind the “No Kölsch for Nazis” movement. Schnörres and Das Scheue Reh are also great bars, but they have more of a hipster vibe going on. Sometimes we sit on the kerb near Schnörres and chat: on long, balmy summer evenings when the streets are full, there’s a real Mediterranean feel to it. There are cool indie parties next door at Tsunami, where my favourite DJ works his magic on the decks. I don’t know him personally but his name is every bit as sensational as his music: Drunk Walter Steinmeier. Good alternatives are Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld and YUCA. The owners aren’t afraid to mix things up sometimes, which doesn’t happen all that often on the club scene. They have such impeccable taste that you know you can go to any concert there, even if you haven’t heard of the band that’s playing. Sadly, a handful of superb locations have had to close for good, which has left quite a hole in Cologne.
In my opinion, the most authentic espresso bar in the city is Formula Uno on Zugweg. I love those moments when you’re sitting outside a café, watching the hustle and bustle of the world go by. Odeon on Severinstrasse is a great cinema that also shows arthouse and independent films. I’m also a huge fan of the Kunst gegen Bares (Art for Cash) series at the Artheater club in Ehrenfeld, where talented young artists battle it out, the audience can bet any sum they like on their favourite and the winner goes home with a pot of money. A brilliantly creative idea to support artists.
Jojo Berger is the singer in Cologne band Querbeat, whose new album Radikal Positiv was released this summer.