- Buyer's Guide
Berlin Muse :: Operation Dackelrennen & the ONA Brooklyn
Toting the sleek leather ONA Brooklyn camera satchel, this month Berlin Muse and HK venture to south Berlin for the 36th annual Lichtenrade wiener dog races. Does it get any better?
It was to be my Kentucky Derby, my journalistic watershed. Forget the Wall, the war legacy, the creative boom, the bars, the cafes, the galleries. All that had been done. We were in Berlin to document something crucial, something fresh, something era-defining.
On a Sunday morning, far too early to be awake let alone travelling anywhere, HK and I head 45 minutes south on the S2 overground towards Blankenfelde, where suburban forest punctuates pockets of industrial concrete and solar panel yards and Bavarian-style apartments with terracotta chimneys. Morning sun pools through the train windows. Conditions are perfect out. First race is slated for 10.30am. We’re right on time. Today, we are off to bear witness to one of Berlin’s lesser known festivities: the annual Dachshund racing tournament—this year, the 36th annual—to drink beer, eat cake and watch short dogs run very fast (or possibly become confused and forget to run at all).
Arriving to the gates of “Lichtenrade Dackelranch”, HK slides her SLR out of the cosy hold of her brown leather ONA carry satchel, as I pose for a pic by the Dackelranch sign, imagining the glories inside, a kind of luxurious dude ranch for diminutive, low-to-the-ground canines. The ONA bag looks as striking as always in the morning glow, even more pleasant on the eye than it is functional. Dog race or not, the ONA is the camera tote for all our Berlin projects and it comes with us everywhere we go.
“The ONA bag looks as striking as always in the morning glow, even more pleasant on the eye than it is functional”
ONA have established themselves as a true innovator and leader in the ‘photography style’ carry market, offering a variety of thoughtful, aesthetically beautiful carry options to get your serious camera gear out and about. Specialising in shoulder bags, messenger bags and backpacks, ONA strives to strike the balance between ‘functional’ and ‘stylish’, using superior materials in their designs including full-grain cowhide leather, closed-cell foam and waxed cotton canvas. They’ve managed to hit the mark with this leather satchel, a perfect fit for HK’s Canon 5D SLR and a secondary lens, strong silver latches holding it neat and tight in the hold of its foam inlay (though it could also be said that a slightly more weight-bearing strap wouldn’t go astray).
“ONA strives to strike the balance between ‘functional’ and ‘stylish’, using superior materials in their designs including full-grain cowhide leather, closed-cell foam and waxed cotton canvas”
For a camera bag, the ONA is super subtle. Most stereotypical black camera bags scream ‘expensive goods!’, which is a safety risk as well as an aesthetic shortcoming. You can jam the ONA full of expensive goodies and no one will be up on it. Plus, considering HK’s other case is a rugged hard-shell that looks like a bomb out of a 1980s action flick, the ONA was a pleasant and easy-access alternative when on the fly.
“For a camera bag, the ONA is super subtle“
ONA’s essence is embedded in their name, a Swahili word meaning “to feel”, “to believe”, and “to experience with the eyes”. A pertinent mantra for this morning; we’re about to experience, see and feel something truly special.
Inside the Dackelranch, hot sun coats a clipped green lawn. We see canines en masse: sausage dogs, wieners, dackels, teckels, hairy ones, bearded ones, shorn ones. It’s a literal sausage fest, chock-a-block full of floppy ears and casual arrogance. A 50-metre racetrack has been fenced off with fluoro orange roadwork mesh. A lone white poodle shivers by it nervously, wondering why the hell its owner has brought it here. The champion’s dais sits nearby, a three-tiered wooden box in the customary Olympic style. I’m told later that the winning dog at last year’s event wasn’t able to climb it without human assistance. The dais is set next to a glass trophy case, and as well as generic silver plastic varieties, two in particular stand out: a blue glass ‘pechvogel’ bird for ‘most unlucky’, and a glass snail for the ‘slowest’.
Falco’s ‘Der Kommissar and ‘Da Da Da’ by Trio pumps out of a PA system as hefty German men pull breakfast pints at a bar. I smell bratwurst charring on a grill. The Dackelranch kuchen appears to be going off too, a wooden house where middle-aged women dish up tasty cake slices and sweet traditional treats. One lady wanders out with her two dachshunds; she wears flared black leggings with iron-on dachshund transfers. We witness much hairspray, and a lot of circa-1980s plumage.
As sausage dogs socialise reluctantly by trestles and benches where their owners chat cordially to one another, a middle-aged MC cuts the kraut pop and welcomes us all to the day’s event. He is dressed in a fishing vest and orange shooters’ specs: the Walter Sobchak of the Berlin dog world. He hands over to a plucky woman with a Madonna headset microphone, the race caller. She’s brusque and witty but this crowd needs little warming. Everybody is ready for the action to come.
We hold position by the 25-metre line. This is the line where each dog’s owner is permitted, in order to keep the attention of their dachshunds and coax them down the track. The first is a blonde woman in her thirties, her dog ‘Belle von Beutzelvold’ somewhat disoriented at the starting line, held in the gentle arms of the line official, a man who wears a buttoned down short-sleeved shirt, with a gold dachshund pendant dangling out of it.
The race caller bellows through the Dackelranch. “Bereit, fertig, los!” The Dackelranch cheers wildly as Belle von Beutzelvold barrels down the field, a blip of flopping ears and little moist eyeballs. The crowd swoons. Belle overtaking her owner, reaching the finish line in a pace-setting time, a strong start to the morning. But her pace is soon matched by number two sausage, ‘Picasso’; whose owner, a man in buzz cut, moustache and lederhosen shorts, pulls out his secret weapon: a squeaky rubber chicken dog toy on a string. “Bereit, fertig, los!“ shouts the race caller once again. Buzzcut squeezes the life out of the rubber chicken; Picasso takes heed, barrelling towards his owner, with a sweeping bolt to the end of the line.
“A man in buzz cut, moustache and lederhosen shorts pulls out his secret weapon: a squeaky rubber chicken dog toy on a string”
The bulk of the morning continues in this fashion, single heats only, no head-to-heads – pitting the dachshunds against each other too early in the morning only makes them more confused than they already are. It doesn’t seem to make any difference for dog #3, ‘Pixie’, of Dusseldorf, a tiny ball of hair who, instead of running, wanders gingerly from the blocks to sniff and lick a few fans on the sidelines. She finishes, reluctantly, in poor time.
And so it goes on – new dogs, long ears flapping, slender bodies bolting, dogs barking from the sidelines, elated dog-loving people downing beer, chomping on sausages in small bread rolls, bonding over a mutual love of elongated pedigrees. Nervous poodle continues to shake anxiously by the bar, in hopes that someone will buy it a drink.
We huff down a bratwurst, capture some more of the morning and slide the camera and lenses back into the smooth hold of the stylish ONA. With winners not announced until 6pm, it’ll be a long day of sausage at the Dackelranch. Too much for us.
As we stroll out of the gate, we learn that the Dackelranch is far more than just a haven for dachshunds. It’s a dog precinct in its own right. Two ladies in skivvies discuss the upcoming pug racing championships. As I envisage flat-nosed pugs hyperventilating down the Dackelranch racetrack, I think to myself, perhaps it does get better than this after all.
*Photography by Honor Kennedy
Check out Cam and Honor’s photo and word project on Instagram or #CHKBerlin