The throbbing sound of the oversized dice cup turns silent as soon as it hits the surface.
You have to play before you can leave.
Tattooed fingers, skull rings and a grim smile frame the owner of the Zuckerladen who has been running this mecca of candy with his wife Marion for 34 years. Marion the sugar fairy and Jürgen the point-blank magician.
Unlike Berghain in Berlin – sheltered in between grimy industrial concrete walls – the Zuckerladen (translates to candy store) is located in the scenic old town of Heidelberg. One would not expect this kind of whimsical wonderland here, but Highdelberg’s underground candy culture should not be underestimated.
Located just far enough away from Heidelberg’s main street – that has been run over by tourists with lots of bags and no time – the Zuckerladen is quietly hiding on a little side street waiting for customers – or not.
As in Berghain – a techno club infamous for its bizarre and grotesque edginess- people are desperate to get in, desperate to indulge in some kind of anarchic hedonism. Unlimited pleasure versus unlimited candy. Leather fetishists on drugs versus kids on sugar.
Behind the door lies some offbeat wonderland – a darkroom filled with candy. A mannequin reaches out its hand to welcome you to candy culture. Hidden behind a cringeworthy tree, that has a chopped of head and a skull in its branches, lies a cow slowly chewing grass. A sign above tells you not to take pictures inside.
“Hi- I’m here for the article.” I greeted one of the owners- the Sven Marquardt of candy. “Why so shy?” he replies. His fingers covered in tattoos – he won’t tell me his name. “My name is not important- anyways it does not match my personality.” He doesn’t want to be photographed. “I need to be calm inside to be on pictures. Today I am not. You can write it like that!” I am told. Sounds legit. Authentic and straightforward with some lovingly grotesque edginess that mirrors the interior of the store.
Candy and knick-knacks from life go hand in hand. Memories of existence. Chocolate and candy. A marionette dangling down the cupboard and a shark – both looking towards the store front. Cut out newspaper articles on the ceiling freeze the time. A female mannequin lingering behind a paper umbrella and ET pointing up in the air.
“He talks when you press his finger,” Jürgen tells me with a smudge smile.
Surrounded by seemingly infinite jars of colourful candy and strikingly interesting conversations I find myself spending almost four hours inside.
The more I walk around this sugary scenery, the more I find. Hearts with “dickface” written on, salted caramel from Sweden, endless stacks of Pop Rocks, lollipops, chocolate with tomato flavour, penis shaped marzipan- You name it, you find it!
The phone rings and a girl introduces herself. She is talking fast and is apparently looking for a cake made out of sweets. “Alright, what budget are we talking about?” she is asked. Not being prepared for this question she insecurely mumbles something.
“You know I am not in the position to ordain your money,” she is told by Jürgen and insecurely answers it with laughter to then ask her boss. Followed by a more formal language she gains back confidence and delivers instructions. “Now this you said beautifully,” Jürgen concludes “now we are talking.”
Once you`ve entered the portal to candy dimension time stands still. According to google stats the average duration of a visit is around 30 minutes.
If you enter in a rush you will find yourself in the wrong place.
Inside you are not a customer, but a person. And you better bring some time.
And just as the purple-haired transvestite in a leather suit expresses herself on the dancefloor of Panorama Bar, once you pass the doorway of the Zuckerladen in Heidelberg you better be yourself at the core of your heart.
A straightforward attitude, a bit of dry humour paired with authentic interest in people are the main ingredients found in this unusual candy store.
In a world full of empty words many more people would be well off to try out this recipe.
As soon as seven more people enter the tiny store Marion is ready to fill up each red paper bag with sweets. “Can I have candy for 5 Euros?” a little boy asks. “Sure,” he is answered with a smile as Marion flies around the shelves filling the paper bag with tiny and colourful pieces of sugary happiness. Coins cling on the table and dice roll around. With a big smile on his face and some extra candy won in the game, the little human dances out of the Zuckerladen with a content smile.
“Why candy?” Marion has often been asked. With sweets there comes the lightness of being. Sweets are not about practicability or reason. Sweets are for pleasure and joy.
Sweets are a way of putting responsibilities on hold- the same way you move on the dancefloor: freely with pleasure and joy.
Back home I open the gift bag I got and inspect the sparkling black liquorice skulls before I drop one on my tongue. Tiny salt crystals melt in my mouth followed by some sweet and sour spiciness. What on earth is that? I ask myself and some gloomy giddiness overcomes me – something I hadn’t sensed since entering Berghain for the first time.
Now we are talking.
HEIDELBERGER ZUCKERLADEN Opening Hours: Tue-Fr. 12pm-7pm Sat. 11am-5pm closed Sunday & Monday Adresse: Plöck 52, 69117 Heidelberg