Photo by Cherie Birkner
I moved to Berlin from New York because of everything Berlin promises: freedom, liberty, affordability, creativity, internationalism, a nice dose of socialism – a real celebration of the artist’s life. It’s the party capital of the world with a burgeoning tech scene, a true city of the 21st century built out of the rubble of 20th century. For such a progressive, young and energized city, then, why do I have such trouble with internet access?
I’m not even talking about the dreaded download fines up to €1000, the IP-spying, the GEMA denials of YouTube videos “not allowed in your country”, as frustrating as these things are. I’m just talking about basic access to the amazing modern utility on our planet: the internet!
photo: Eylül Aslan
Dating in Berlin isn’t always easy, but certainly can be a dilemma, as you might have already read here on iheartberlin.de. The cautious approach to each another and one person feeling or interpreting more into the encounter than the other is part of those first acquaintances globally, though. Matthew David Morris wrote a short story about those different expectations when getting to know someone.
Dreams are made of magic, timeless, faraway places, faceless people, and sometimes clouds, beer, and music. Having lived in Berlin for a few months, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to briefly run my fingers over its cloudy grey skin, and dive into the depths of its rainbow colored soul.
About a year ago I moved to Berlin to finish my final semester in university, and it took me on a most overwhelming journey. It felt like being reunited with an old lover after so many years. Only, we hadn’t really met before. And though I was a stranger to this place, it felt strangely familiar from the moment I arrived. It had an air of nostalgia and mystery to it, like most surreal things do. And I wondered if I’d ever get to understand it, and see what lies beneath its many faces.
I’d landed on my feet and hit the ground running. I knew people. My pockets were lined with the contacts of DJs, photographers, film makers and the owners of bars. Before I had even arrived in Berlin I was told that Neukölln was the place to be; and here I was right in the thick of it. Purposefully unpainted, candlelit bars selling mezcal from Oaxaca, trendy vegan cafes which serve coffee in bowls, makeshift pop up galleries, neo-vintage clothes stores with humanitarian ideologies and hipster beards galore, it’s an orgy of artists and underground musicians not wanting to make the mainstream. Weserstraße operates as one of the main arteries. When I told people was staying there they looked at me differently.
photo: Chase Elliott Clark / CC
In my dreams I am always driving in the reverse gear. The car almost inevitably falls into a pit. And the brakes never seem to work.
Perhaps this stems from my insecurity of never having perfected the art of parallel parking. Or just the undulating shame of once having driven my dad’s car into an unguarded manhole. Episodes like these resurface in my head every time I commit a serious faux pas while driving.
A few weeks back I met with an accident. A minor car accident. Which inflicted a few minutes of amnesia. Or so I thought.
photo: Ingolf / cc
Ever since I could apply some of my German understanding into practice, I’ve been impressed with the BVG’s marketing strategy. Their hilarious billboards really embrace the city’s spirit that comprises lots of contrasts, like comely goth girls surrounding an elderly gentleman in an U-Bahn. Images like that are so successful with the public because we all can relate to this distinct image of an underground Berlin train: eerily empty on a Wednesday night, on Friday evening overcrowded to the extent that makes you think of the London Tube, often stinky, always about to become a venue for some busker’s performance. This is where the life happens. Or rather, this is where the life stops – just for the amount of time you need for your commute you can catch a little moment of thought before you’re back on the busy street, heading on to your destination.
After having amused myself with curiously observing the coincidental company I’d see come and go on my U-Bahn rides as well as having absorbed a good deal of the Berlin urban clichees, I’ve come up with this handy little guide to some of our favorite lines and their direct impact on our personalities.
Looking back in time it feels like ages since I moved to Berlin. Yet, it has barely been over a year. I keep trying to get my head around it, but I simply cannot explain it; especially since I have lived in other big cities, such as Barcelona and Athens, for a much longer period of time; maybe it is the fact that the life I have lived in Berlin has been so fulfilling; maybe it is the fact that I have experienced here so many things for the first time . In an attempt to express with gratitude what this city has so generously given me, here is what comes to my mind first:
photo: Stefan Schilling
The upcoming exhibition TACHELES 27 at the Klassenfeind Gallery in Mitte depicts a story of a monumental building that’s slowly but surely falling into decrepitude now, but used to be a vibrant center for creatives just a few years ago.
When I first started to wander around Berlin, some districts seemed to just merge together and I needed to put some effort into finding their distinguishing characteristics. Charlottenburg, on the other hand, has definitely always been a very distinctive part with a little nostalgic streets, fancy antique boutiques, and elegantly dressed people. And no wonder that’s the impression I got – up until 1920 Charlottenburg was an independent city to the west of Berlin.
illustrations: Ray Noland
Now is not exactly the best time to be an American expat. After the election results an Australian friend texted me “you had one job.” I knew he was joking but I could still feel the shame burning inside of me. Just because I wasn’t on the figurative plane as it barreled down to earth, my friends and family were, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it.
Sure, perhaps I could have done more; like engage the few Trump supporters in my family or skip a night out to make campaign calls in swing states, but like many others, I was pretty damn comfortable in my bubble. I never thought in a million years that an orange, under qualified tyrant would succeed, so I didn’t feel the need to go out of my way. Instead, I just sat back and watched the disaster unfold from the safety of my Schillerkiez flat.
Immediately after I heard the news that he won, however, I felt shame. I worried about how the rest of the world would view the US. I worried about the damage that Trump would do to the environment, foreign relationships, and women’s rights. I worried about the future of my niece.