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?