I like to think of Tropez as the frugal mans version of Soho House. I mean, there are hardly any differences: You get to sit by a semi-clean pool with a good look at the contemporary Berlin art scene recovering from a collective coke hangover and french fries are the only thing on the menu that are not overpriced.
Haha, kidding. EVERYTHING at Soho House is overpriced! Which is why, for as little as 5,50€ entrance fee (or a seasonal club membership for 70€), Tropez, the new kiosk / späti / contemporary art center / Frittenbude / Jugendtreff at the Humboldthain summer pool (the official title is Humboldthain “recreational center” which is kinda like calling the Berghain toilets a luxury Spa) is my new favorite thing in Berlin.
Tropez is a space for art inside the public pool Sommerbad Humboldthain initiated by Nele Heinevetter. For the first summer exhibition POOL, artists, performers, musicians, authors, and curators will mingle with the guests of Berlin’s most beautiful public pool, among them Søren Aagard, Broken Dimanche Press, Creamcake, Sofia Duchovny, John Matthew Heard, Hervé Humbert, Michael Kleine, Kris Lemsalu, Zoë Claire Miller, Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Mary Audrey Ramirez, Jen Rosenblit, Starship, Markus Wirthmann, and Samson Young. Tropez is also a kiosk. Every day from 10 am to 6 pm.
First of all: the french fries are the best Freibadpommes in Berlin, period. Second of all, the concept of Tropez abides fully by the rules of my self-invented “only in Berlin lel” formula:
I should clarify that I have no idea what this means and there were no drugs involved in my visit at Tropez (at least I wasn’t involved, unless you count Frozé as a drug).
Tropez opened up a few months ago at the beginning of the summer season, and one must inevitably ask first: Who in their sane and right mind would open a snack booth in a SUMMER pool in Berlin? This type of font doesn’t have enough cuts to emphasize the “Berlin” and “SUMMER” part of my sentence, it needs more exclamation marks: BERLIN SUMMER BUSINESS!!!!!!!!. Literally, it’s been the shittiest summer since the dawn of time, and there is no high hopes for the next season to be better.
But Nele Heinvetter, the owner and creator of Tropez – and who apparently loves swimming – is probably single-handedly bringing summer vibes back to a deserted pool. She integrated her profession (irgendwas mit Kunst ;) with her passions and created a wonderful place in a very unexpected location.
And what a brilliant idea it is to revive the concept of the pool kiosk! Sure, it’s self-service and you’re surrounded by screaming children, but that’s as cheap as urban luxury will ever get. And I can appreciate it. Tropez might not be able to bring the summer heat back to Berlin, but it damn if the atmosphere isn’t tropical.
I went specifically for a reading at Tropez on an overcast day, enjoyed the ultimate summer snack trifecta of fries, frozé and filter coffee, and was impressed by HOW FUCKING AMAZING THESE POMMES ARE!
Crispy and golden on the outside, fluffy on the inside, with an honest slab of mayo and ketchup, no fuss and salted to the point. I know Pommes are making a strong comeback in the city these days, but Freibad-Pommes specifically play a very important role in any pool experience: being immersed in water and tanning or playing in the sun makes most people (me) starve to death already after 10-15 minutes, so the Pommes are crucial for survival. This season, the Frittenbuden at Prinzenbad, Columbiabad and even the Steglitz Sommerbad only served sad and soggy, traumatizing French Fries that invoked pity and made me hate other people. NOT WORTH STANDING IN LINE FOR.
But the Pommes at Tropez? GODLY, pure bliss. I am happy for the children with a Humboldthain-Sommerkarte and I am happy for myself because FRIES BEFORE GUYS.
POOL exhibition at Tropez
I haven’t focused on the art part of Tropez, because I feel predominantly ‘meh’ about art. But it should be said that readings, exhibitions, talks and music programs are lively parts of the schedule. The first exhibition at Tropez, POOL, went on for the whole season and is coming to an end next weekend.
My favorite Berlin thing, Creamcake, are also hosting one of the programs called “Europool”, a “… series of discussions by international musicians, artists, activists, writers, and cultural workers at the Sommerbad Humboldthain recreation center“. For the Tropez (and summer) closing season, Europool will “examine the bounds of music as a social and cultural apparatus for both subverting and supporting existing systems of influence in a globalised Europe.” Translation: people will be talking about stuff and there will be music.
My only ache about Tropez is that it hasn’t managed to blur the borders between the well-off expat community, rich in cultural capital and social mobility, who come to visit the shows and performances, and the actual regulars of the public pools, namely kids and apathetic teenagers and their parents. It’s not an easy task and I understand that, but Tropez is an island in a sea full of cultural differences. Berlin is already plagued by plenty of parallel societies, it would be a pity if this project, too, became secluded by cultural codes and a bubble of ignorance.
Next Saturday will be the last day of Tropez, a new enterprise that lasted much longer than summer itself, proving again how irrelevant sunshine is when you have a good idea and even better fries.