The first thing that struck me when I got into Aydin’s taxi was his choice of music. Usually, if there is any music playing at all in a taxi it will be one of the local pop or rock stations, or none at all, since many passengers prefer silence or have their own music plugged into their ears. But a taxi ride with Aydin means being treated to a mini classical concert. “I can’t identify any of the composers like others might be able to. I just listen and enjoy it. It relaxes me.”
Aydin migrated to Germany 30 years ago from Turkey with his parents and the family set up a bakery in Neu Köln. Bakers by trade and long tradition, it was primarily a father-son business, both men offering the local community the traditional bread and pastries from the homeland, and learning several of the local German breads in the process. Aydin did an apprenticeship with a German baker before returning to work full time with his father, during which time his mother had also joined the business.
The young Aydin eventually took over the business and his father stepped back from the baking and was the main salesman, doing what he enjoyed most, talking to the customers, chatting with everyone as if they were all family, and making the bakery a meeting point for old and young alike. A bakers life is not easy though, and the working hours are the pits. As Aydin put it, “It was a vampire’s life, working at night when everyone else sleeps or my friends were just coming home from parties. I never had that opportunity.” Loud classical music blasting through the bakery kept him going through the lonely nights, and he learned to appreciate the great classical masters.
Changes in community, stricter new laws and increased taxes catapulted Aydin and his family into debt. With the father falling sick, the mother ageing, and children of his own to send to school, Aydin found himself falling deeper and deeper into debt and depression. Closing the bakery was painful both for him and his father, causing an inevitable rift in the family. He turned to friends for support and landed in the taxi world opting to be a simple employee on the day shift, although he could have become an independent operator. “I am too old now to go back to school and learn all about the business, it is simpler this way and I get to spend more time with my family. My children were not happy working in the bakery anyway, none of us liked being vampires. It was a thankless back-breaking job.” His father has since re-openned a small shop to sell baked goods, but not of his own creations. When I asked Aydin whether they had considered the catering business or accepting special orders, he retorted with a resounding “NO! That part of my life is shut down forever. The Berliners want to buy the cheap bread from the big chains and we can’t compete with that.”