Berlin: A Day at the Races

Posted on June 21, 2006

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by michael scott moore

Hoppegarten on the outskirts of Berlin has cut-rate horse racing every several weeks in the summer, and today, on an all-blogger field trip that included Ed Ward and Bowleserised, I won just about enough for a cup of coffee. Ed remembers Hoppegarten from the days when it was virtually still a DDR track, and Bowleserised is a horse expert.

All I could do was nod my head. In my triumphant fourth race, Romantic Man pulled ahead of River Woods to surprise everyone and hand me a winning ticket; but here I think we’re watching Pushy Guest shove in front of Tassilio and Miss Anita for a Sieg in the second. The track has its own stud farm, and most of the horses are local, although some come from Poland and Sweden and even the United States.

Photo Credit: Spurlos

Horses have raced here for almost 130 years. Nazism and Communism managed to kill the glamor of the place, but Louise Brooks remembered the track as a high-society attraction as late as the 1920s. The context — since we’re quoting Brooks — is sex: "Sex was the business of [Berlin]," she wrote. "At the Eden Hotel, where I lived, the cafe bar was lined with the higher-priced trollops. The economy girls walked the street outside. On the corner stood the girls in boots, advertising flagellation. Actor’s agents pimped for the ladies in luxury apartments in the Bavarian Quarter. Racetrack touts at the Hoppegarten arranged orgies for groups of sportsmen."

It ain’t like that now, I’m afraid.