Saturday marks that time of the year again, when Karli (Karl Liebknecht Straße) transforms.
It feels like carnival. People dance in the street to various kinds of live music. Stages line the sidewalks. The smell of street food wafts from the outdoor stands. They even make a mean caipirinha (which is no easy feat).
There are different acts in front of many of the Karli restaurants and bars. Last year, I watched a clown with a bunch of children. He put a smile on my face, for sure.
The non-profit behind Karli Beben – the name of the street party – seems to be trying to rescue Südvorstadt’s coolness and sense of community. I wish it were like that every weekend. Well, except for the crowds that make you barely able to move at some point, the drunk idiots, and the slim but actually existent prospect of pick-pockets.
If you live in on or near Karli, like me, it’s hard to avoid this party. If you live elsewhere in or around Leipzig, you may be wondering whether it’s worth going to. I’d say yes. I’ve been to it twice and was only disappointed the first time.
With some of the lessons I learned, I made my second time there better. At some point, I thought I was not in Germany, but in Latin America, with all the dancing to Latin beats on a warm September evening. I hope to help you make the best of it, too, if you do decide to go.
Karli Beben tips
Know when to arrive and leave
For my first experience at Karli Beben, I set out in the morning, about 10:30. Big mistake, as there was nothing going on yet, and I was bored. I left and returned at around 8 p.m. But by that time, it was very crowded, and also too late to get in the mood.
The following year, I arrived in the early afternoon, about 1:30 or 2 p.m. It was a good time to go, because it was still pretty chilled out, but starting to pick up – we were able to ease into it while still being entertained. I took a break by going for a dip in one of the lakes around Leipzig with friends, only for about 2-3 hours. We came back refreshed and early enough to be able to buy drinks and food without waiting too long, and even found seats outside a bar to comfortably enjoy the live music.
By 10 p.m., the music was really pumping, and we had gotten in the mood for it. That’s when my friend and I started dancing in front of an outdoor stage on one of the side streets. We went home at around midnight, when too many bottles had been strewn across the pavement and drunk people were starting to act crazy.
Karli is generally safe, but there was a robbery there on a recent night. This could happen anywhere, but better be safe than sorry. I’d say, don’t carry your phone in pockets or purses from which it could be easily stolen. Avoid carrying a lot of money. Bring as little as possible with you, and consider having a designated money and phone carrier who won’t get too drunk.
Do not resist if robbed. Call the police immediately, or ask someone to call (#110).
Broken glass from bottles, and groups of rowdy drunks (or of people with extreme views) are other hazards to watch out for.
Have a reference point
During last September’s edition of Karli Beben, I had a friend visiting me from abroad. I wanted to show her Feinkost, so that’s where we went first. That was useful, because we weren’t going up and down the street aimlessly, hoping for a good act to start soon, at some bar. We browsed the market’s colorful ware and ate and drank a little something. When we stepped outside, the clown I mentioned had started performing nearby.
I’ve found that area, around Südplatz, to be the main hotspot and a good reference point. It was there also that we saw my dear friend Dolus Mutombo perform with his band, at Acapulco.
Dolus and The Free Spirits are doing it again this year. Another fellow expat performing at Karli Beben is Róisín Ní Leathlóbhair, in her acoustic duo with Jan Kohnert (at Big Easy).
I mean to say that if you know some of the acts you’d like to see beforehand, it may also make the experience extra enjoyable. The Karli Beben Facebook page has the full program, teasers and some specific suggestions, which you may want to check out yourself, for the 22 April edition.