I love Berlin.
I know that’s probably commercial and trite to say that by this point in 2016, but I can’t help it. I just love the cute little bastard.
And I say bastard, with nothing but love, because really, it is the odd one out in Europe. It stands out from other German cities with its grit, from other European cities with its sense of order. It’s still at odds with itself, too, at least a little bit. East vs West weakly manifesting in street-light colour, trams and graffiti. A lot of contrasts. It’s usually super mellow but easily annoyed. It’ll drive a moderately expensive (and responsible) German car, but eat a 3 euro döner for diner. It can wear what it wants, but it always ends up wearing black.
It’s a bit complicated, but it’s always ready to put up with your or anyone else’s shit. It’s a good listener. You gotta respect that.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m late to the Berlin train, or even the Europe train. I’ve been mostly in Asia for the last 15 years, but from the few cities I’ve seen in Europe, I’d have to say Berlin is my favourite by far. For once in a long time, It made me feel like I could fit in, or that anyone could fit in if they just spent some time there. I spent three weeks in July/August 2016 sharing an apartment in Friedrichshain, on a quiet street, with a few bars and a park with a soccer pitch. Two doors down was an Wagenleben (Car living?) commune called Rummelplatz, that sometimes held shows to raise money for expenses. (Being German, they have a website, and a schedule posted online.) Next to that was an art gallery, and what I think was a tech company. Suits and dreads mixed with the occasional soccer team, and everyone seemed to be fine for it.
Just as long as you didn’t walk in the bike lane. That’ll get you yelled at, and maybe assaulted. Seriously.
In the city, there’s always something or someone to see. The above photo is from the Museum of Rescued Letters, a project documenting signs and signage fonts in Germany and around the world. It’s in a series of cubby holes under one of the S-Bahn lines. I wouldn’t have known of it without the help of Atlas Obscura. And the whole city is like that. Every corner has something new and weird. Like a store that only sells stuffed dolls in the shape of deli meats. (This is real. It’s on the south side of Boxhagener Strasse 1-3 blocks east of Simon-Dach Strasse.) Or a rail yard storage facility converted into a city of bars, clubs, and open-air movie theaters. (Cassiopeia is amazing.) Or play houses that only seat like 10 people.
Dörte, my music and photography connection, told me something to the effect of “Berlin sucks up all your energy, or you’re doing it wrong.” She’s right. I left exhausted.
Hopefully I’ll get to go back soon.