Last night a bunch of German Mädels, a Parisian Mademoiselle and a girl from Bracknell found themselves dressed in white in front of the Berliner Dom. The event was Diner en Blanc: a Parisian inspired Flash Mob, involving white clothes, delicious food, live music and the utmost spontaneity (or at least feigned spontaneity). Participants organise a dinner party amongst themselves, including table decor, tables, chairs, cutlery, candles and, in some cases, mini-fire pits, then wait until the secret venue is revealed. It’s not entirely legal, which is why everything has to be spontaneous (in an organised way) and the identity of those behind the event is never revealed. Porta-loos appear out of nowhere, as do jazz quartets, choirs, fireworks and saxophonists, but no one really knows how.
At 5pm we were told to meet on Bürgerstrasse with our tables and picnic hampers. It was so fun to see everyone all dressed in their white Sunday best. Two of the girls from our dinner party had made floral headdresses for us to wear, which of course made us all feel magical and expectant. We then crossed the bridge over the Spree and headed for the green in front of the cathedral, where we all descended like white, floral fireflies.
Suddenly tables start going up, wine coolers get plonked onto freshly pressed table clothes, picnic hampers fly open and beautiful dinner sets start flying out with speed and delicacy. Tupperware is opened, sending wafts of summer salads, roasted meats and crusty bread through the air. Perfectly bourgeois grown-ups pop champagne and set-up hors d’oeuvres, toddlers run for the grass, so they can roll around and stain their white frocks and trousers. Students feel infinite and sophisticated because they are finally participating; a novel-like existence is playing-out before their eyes. Tourists flee lethargically, bewildered at the sight of hundreds and hundreds of white-clad dinner parties popping out of nowhere.
The chaos descends to a buzz of light-chatter and delighted gasps, as people begin to eat, drink and be merry. Our table is bursting with wine, bread, home-made salads, dips and quiche. Our Parisian tells us she feels decadent, the Germans feel alive and I just feel overwhelmed with contentment. Everything in that moment is perfect. There is community, adventure, good food, good wine, music and travel all wrapped up in one single evening. There is friendly chatter amongst the tables, we exchange a photo with our floral crowns for a fistful of sparklers, everyone wants their picture taken, everyone wants to remember the joy and the beauty that currently surrounds them.
When we can longer move and our stomachs start protruding out of our white frocks like soft, pregnant hills, we decide to take a walk through the tables. Everything is tightly packed, but refreshingly cool. We peer nosily over the fences of hair, hats and flowers to examine the table decor and choice of food. Some people have sushi, others have cake, most have bread and salad. We make it to the central patch of grass where a clarinet, trumpet, banjo and bass are plucking and hooting up a jazzy knees up. It looks like wedding, at which everyone is the bride. We excitedly join them, attempting to Charleston whilst holding on to our floral crowns, taking photos and giggling at the petals and leaves falling from our fringes. The sky turns a dusky rose and everything is tinged in a romantic haze. Somehow, it seems like the Cathedral is smiling. Everyone has a face full of hopeSuddenly the jazz stops jazzing and we float back to our tables to light candles, drink more wine and open up the desert boxes.
Conversation is merry and candid and dreamy. We go from white, to rose, to red wine and eat homemade tiramisu. The candles start dripping, sparklers spark hot and spicily over empty plates whilst a choir sings on the steps of the museum. We slowly start packing away our things, to the sensual sounds of a dancing saxophonist, then with empty containers, collapsable furniture and one full bottle of wine under our arms, we part jovially and nostalgically into the night. I wonder past the other buildings on museum island, serenaded by an ever persistent busker and his Spanish guitar, to the S-bahn feeling like a fairy queen, smelling like flowers and grass. I am sleepy, full and untouchable: Berlin has romanced me like never before. People smile, smirk and giggle at the dozing girl on the train, dressed in white, with flowers falling into her face. She doesn’t care, nor will others like her, because it’s nights like these that we live for.