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A Turkish Store in Kreuzberg Signals Progress in Integration (March 2005)

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“Three hundred sixty” says his son, too; and like his father, he also has to scratch his head when he adds things up. And yet Cihan Akgül skipped eighth grade; Cihan even got into to the Lessing Gymnasium a long time ago, and they don’t take just anyone there, certainly not every Turk. They took him; in two years he’ll graduate. Nonetheless, in the afternoons he is often still in his father’s shop, makes the same stupid jokes, because stupid jokes are the best ones, anyhow, and makes a math mistake because his eyes had just followed someone who passed by the window. But for every mistake he immediately comes up with a perfect excuse. That bespeaks someone who is learning something in school.

“Next year Cihan won’t be in the store anymore,” says the father. “He’s going to get his Abitur.” You sense the pride, even though Tacettin Akgül says it matter-of-factly while organizing the newspapers. He’s been here for 25 years now; he has three children. But he hasn’t learned much German. Barely the headlines. He knows just enough to plunge into Germany’s bold-print life. “Gysi’s in hospital, did you read that?” Or: “Möllemann’s parachute didn’t open.” Or: “The Germans have too little sex. It says so right here!” A newspaper vendor, says Tacettin Akgül, “is something like a news vendor. In the old days they used to announce news from the tower.” So you see, newspaper vendors are always up-to-date.

The only time Tacettin and his son weren’t the first ones to know something was when the Americans discovered Saddam Hussein in a hole in the ground. A customer came with the latest news. “Really?,” Cihan asked and at first didn’t want to believe it. After all, most of what’s said between the newspapers and the grocery shelves shouldn’t be taken so seriously. Then he said: “That’s good. This guy dragged our religion into the dirt!” Even though Cihan isn’t a religious or a stern person. Actually, he’s always smiling. Like his father. Or Özgur, the cousin who also helps out sometimes. Or the friends of the two, who hang out with them in the store in the evening. Sitting next to the refrigerator, rocking on a chair, downing some kind of energy drink and explaining to the customers why Becks is no longer available in cans. The young man gives a short lecture on the connection between the deposit on cans and the economy and predicts that it won’t be long before Becks is sold in cans again.

In the evenings there is generally someone around to talk to. The father is only alone in the mornings. Then everyone comes in in a hurry to get papers, cigarettes, Nutella, and of course the fresh rolls. They’re better than the ones from the baker around the corner. You see, Mr. Akgül’s wife bakes them. In the new bakery that the Akgüls bought at the other end of the street. Now they have a store, the bakery, and three children. Every morning at five or six she sends the first rolls over to the newspaper store right away. That makes the pensioners happy, the old early birds who can’t wait until seven or eight.

That’s how they live on Eylauer Street, the Germans with the Turkish store. They live with each other. Not next to each other. Not on Bergmannstraße, not on Oranienstraße, but of all places on the small, triangular Eylauer Straße! Without parallel. From five in the morning until late at night, midnight. In the newspaper store.

Source: Peter Lachmann, “Tacettin Akgül’s Shop” [“Der Laden von Tacettin Akgül”], Kreuzberger Chronik, March 2005, edition 65.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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