When walking around Kreuzberg some months ago, I stumbled across a new gastropub in Spreewaldplatz with a strange name, that rolls off the tongue like some Dada word-play, as some chance operation: Hallo Machen.
Inside, posters from vintage Turkish films cover the walls, above a long sleek bar and airy tiled interior. On the ground is an object that seems to have come from another world–– it belonged to Café Marx, which used to occupy this space––an enormous black bust of the Communist theorist.
At the bar, I make hello with Gözen and her husband Cem. A DJ and musician, Gözen had a radio show in Istanbul and an underground music project, ANADOL. Cem is a documentary filmmaker, known for Remake, Remix, Rip-Off, about how the Turkish film industry prolifically remade Hollywood classics from the 50s to the 90s (Imagine what a E.T. or Star Wars might look like in Turkish.) They are part of the ‘New Wave’, a group of immigrants often overlooked in Berlin.
Now you are going to laugh at me: Turks overlooked in Berlin? Isn’t Berlin the world’s second Turkish capital? Aren’t there more Turks here than anywhere outside of Turkey? Well yes, but usually we are talking about Turks whose presence originated with the 1961 Guestworker Treaty––those third and fourth generation Turks who are already well established in this country.
The ‘New Wave’ are easy to overlook, because new arrivals from Turkey can blend (for some people) easily into the greater background of the ‘second capital’. But they are generally more metropolitan in origin than the working folk who came as Guestworkers (most new arrivals come from Istanbul rather than Eastern Anatolia and the Black Sea region). We are talking about academics made redundant during the purge of Turkey’s universities, artists who are resisting… a mix of professionals working in music, film, IT, business, what have you, who’d rather live in exile. These young people––fed up with Turkey’s political situation and the authoritarianism of Erdoğan––see little future for themselves in their home country.
Cem still makes films and Gözen still makes music. But they also––now in Berlin––have opened what already seems like the headquarters of the Turkish ‘New Wave’. It’s not exactly a meyhane in the classic sense. It shares with the meyhane an emphasis on food, drink, and socialising. Come here to drink raki and eat (wonderful homemade) meze, or small plates. It’s a kind of socialising that will feel familiar to people from all over the Mediterranean. But note that this ‘New Wave’ kitchen cooks only vegan and vegetarian, and maybe expect an awesome DJ playing at the bar. Hallo Machen programs an eclectic program, from Rockabilly events to parties for the Turkish LGBTI community and friends (note the rainbow flag in the window).
I’ve since been to Hallo Machen a number of times, and start with a drink, maybe sitting outside watching Kreuzberg go by. The interior is blissfully non-smoking when the kitchen’s open, and I’ve tried almost everything on the menu now: the Piyaz bean salad was on special yesterday, but the yummy Börek had already sold out. A mixed plate of patates salatası (Turkish potato salad has happily no resemblance to the Berlin variety), hummus, aubergines in tomato, spiced olives… They buy products in Markthalle 9 and are good at suggesting the right raki, ouzo, tsiporou, beer, or wine…
I’m so happy here that it’s easy to forget that this bar––by now, at 10pm, very busy with a young Turkish-speaking crowd––must be filled with people who carry with them (just how many?) stories that are rather less celebratory.
Or maybe precisely for that reason, Hallo Machen is a place worth celebrating.
Joseph Pearson (1975) is writer and historian based in Berlin. Born in Canada, he was educated at Cambridge University, UK, where he received his doctorate in history in 2001. Since 2008, he has written The Needle, which has become one of Berlin's most popular blogs. His portrait of the German capital, Berlin, for Reaktion Press was published in 2017. His second book, My Grandfather's Knife, was published by HarperCollins and the History Press in 2022. He is also the essayist and blogger of the Schaubühne Theatre, one of Berlin's best known state-funded institutions. His writing has appeared widely in the press, literary and academic journals, and has been translated into Italian, German, French, and Arabic. Having taught at Columbia University in New York City, he lectures in Berlin at New York University Berlin (since 2012) and the Barenboim-Said Academy.