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“The best hours in Ehrenfeld are at the crack of dawn” — Martin Bechler is singer in the band Fortuna Ehrenfeld | Photo: Thomas Schäkel
“The best hours in Ehrenfeld are at the crack of dawn” — Martin Bechler is singer in the band Fortuna Ehrenfeld | Photo: Thomas Schäkel

A day in the life of Martin Bechler

|   day in the life

The singer tells us how he likes to spend a hungover day in his beloved Ehrenfeld

Good morning, Ehrenfeld!

Famous last words ... We were only planning on going out for a few beers, to the Tag des guten Lebens (Day of Good Life), a street festival where a group of idealists tries to put forward creative counterproposals to the suits from the city’s urban planning office to make life in the neighbourhood more bearable – mainly to try and get rid of all the goddamned cars.

But of course those “few beers” turned into a few more and before we knew it, it was suddenly half five in the morning! If there’s one thing that Ehrenfeld is good for, then it’s staying out late boozing, I can promise you that! Perhaps the best hours in rough-and-ready Ehrenfeld are at the crack of dawn when the takeaways have closed, but the mobile phone stores and 1-euro shops aren’t open yet. As one of my songs goes: “The night paints the hours and the day grinds them down again”. Despite everything, Ehrenfeld is still home for me. It grounds me and, more than any­thing else, provides me with inspiration. Always lurking on every corner is the next story that I can turn into a new song.

Like many other gentrified neighbourhoods, Ehrenfeld is undergoing some major changes. Formerly a run-down workers’ district, it was buffed up by immigrants and students into a cultural feel-good supernova that is now well on its way to becoming upmarket, overpriced and – even worse – boring. Just like everywhere else.

But I’m not one of those people who sit bawling on the pavement, staring at the mess that “city planning” has made of our neighbourhood. I’m a firm believer that change always brings opportunity. And most of the valuable time spent trying to improve something is wasted by the supposed non-hipsters pointing the finger at the actual hipsters and blaming them for all the hipsterrific structural changes that are being made.

But Ehrenfeld still has a few good years left before everyone buggers off to the cheaper neighbouring districts, so let’s send it off with a bang!

Culinary speaking, aside from a few high points, Ehrenfeld is still lagging behind the rest of Germany. But you’ll be pleased to hear that the more motivated places – where long overdue notions of sustainable nutrition are introduced into Cologne life, past the noses of the criminal food lobby – do actually exist. But you don’t need me to tell you where they are – just look online. I think that if you were to ask a bunch of restaurants here if they could guarantee that any of their dishes contained no factory-farmed meat, I would estimate around 95% of them wouldn’t be able to. Smiling politely, you can then tell them that they can eat that crap themselves! Don’t worry, you don’t need to hold back – Colognians have a good sense of humour. After all, only where there is friction can there also be movement, dialogue and art.

Did I mention how great Ehrenfeld is? If you hammer for long enough on a dilapidated garage door on Körnerstrasse, a guy called Martin will open up his excellently stocked second-hand vinyl store to you. In the corners and side streets, you will still find precious remnants of life without all the franchise shit; rehearsal room rents are expensive enough to deter any Red Hot Chili Peppers cover bands; Ehrenfeld’s popular coffee roastery (Heilandt) sounds like the German word for ‘saviour’ (Heiland); and the self-mixed shot in the local dive bars goes by the name of ‘Rosa Luxemburg’. What could possibly go wrong?