Cassiopeia, a combination nightclub/skatepark/performance space in Berlin, is a standing proof that childhood pipe dreams can actually be realized.
I was probably around 8 years old when I first heard about the Make-A-Wish foundation. My response was probably similar to any other healthy kid who heard about the concept for the first time: I spent the entire afternoon fantasizing about the idea of having one of my many childhood dreams fulfilled. To me, the whole idea of terminal illness seemed irrelevant, so I was much more focused on the wish than on the thought of chemotherapy or having to do my math homework in a hospital bed. My list of wishes was extensive: I wanted a pet snow leopard, a motorcycle that I could ride on water, and especially to be a member of the X-Men. Though I would have gladly exchanged my health for any of these wishes, nothing was as enticing as my wish to have a membership to The Foot Clan’s central headquarters from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m convinced that Cassiopeia in Berlin is the closest thing to The Foot’s Headquarters that I will ever be allowed to set foot into without having to steal a television to prove myself.
If punk rock mentality were radiation, everyone would grow an extra limb upon entering the grounds of Cassiopeia. Like many places in Berlin, Cassiopeia rose from the ashes of an Axis military hub—originally an old train station that was heavily bombed during WWII. This post cataclysmic aesthetic is something that Cassiopeia manages to keep very alive in every aspect of its property. The first thing that you will notice going into Cassiopeia is the lawless amount of street art that decorates every possible surface in the compound. Cassiopeia seems to be a very public scratching post for some of Berlin’s, and the world’s, best artists. If you are a young, up-and-coming street artist, I’d be willing to bet that you could develop some chops at Cassiopeia, and maybe even ask some of your favorite artists for some help.
The social epicenter of Cassiopeia is an old WWII warehouse that has been converted into the largest indoor skate park in Europe. As you approach the entrance, you’ll inevitably be introduced to the warehouse by attractive, cigarette-smoking hipsters standing outside the front door. Then, you will then enter a bar/café, which leads into the skate-park. Obviously, this is where the crux of my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comparison comes from. If you remember the scene in TMNT1 when you are first introduced to the Foot Hangout, you see teenagers skateboarding, spray-painting, smoking cigarettes, drinking booze, and practicing karate, all within about 28 seconds of screen-time. As you enter Cassiopeia’s old warehouse that holds the skating complex, it is likely that you will see all of the above—don’t hold me to the claim that you’ll see karate, but don’t be surprised if you do. In the Foot hangout, the hoodlums were skating on sort of quarter-pipe slalom. Unfortunately Cassiopeia lacks any such slalom, but it does have a 15-foot half-pipe and more than enough rails, boxes, stairs, etc. for you to destroy your entire facial structure on. I’m guessing that some of the best skaters in the world have done exactly this.
In the physical center of Cassiopeia, there is a giant bomb shelter that has been converted into a climbing wall and boulder like playground, analogous to the Foot’s martial arts training facility. It is also possibly the most punk rock thing that I’ve ever seen. Nothing says “fuck off” to the government more than climbing all over something that was once used for military defense. As is the standard protocol for Berlin, there is also a nice beer garden beside the skate park and climbing wall. Fitting metaphorically between the old bomb shelter and visible rubble from the war, it’s a good place to pretend you survived the apocalypse, and are living on a punk rock commune. If you are highly photosensitive, are a vampire, or just a dedicated hedonist, you can skip all of Cassiopeia’s daytime shenanigans and head straight for the nightclub. Though I can’t personally attest to the quality of the music, from asking around, Cassiopeia features quality dub-step, hip hop, electro, and minimal nights. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even catch a “hip hop from 1990” night and really bring my TMNT analogy to life.
Even if you aren’t interested in the street scene that Cassiopeia is flooded with, it’s worth a visit. Apart from the fact that it is the embodiment of my childhood dream, Cassiopeia is a great example of a very unique and important aspect of Berliner culture. As I was watching people climbing the giant conical Nazi bomb shelter like children on a play set, I had a sudden sense of hopeful revelation. I was sitting at a picnic table, surrounded by slabs of broken concrete, and drinking a beer quite literally in the rubble of the aftermath of one of the worst tragedies the world has ever seen. Cassiopeia is the embodiment of the Berlin revival, a testament to the ingenuity and tenacity of those who brought about this rebirth in the face of destruction. And as far as achieving my childhood pipedreams, it’s a good start—the next step is finding that snow leopard.
By: Ben Majoy