photo: Neil H / CC
When I travel to foreign continents and get asked where I am from, my answer is often: “I am from Europe”. I never really thought about what this means until last week. It’s not that I don’t want to say that I am from Germany (because whoever asks is probably going to demand a more precise answer anyway and I will give it). It’s not a lack of national pride; it’s more a sense of international unity within my own continent. I am happy to be German, but I am proud to be from Europe. Being born and raised in an isolated country like the GDR, the sense of freedom after the reunification was amazing.
I grew into an adult benefiting from the bond that the European countries had formed with one another after being in conflict for centuries. For me this became the status quo. I could travel, study, live and work in all of the other countries without problems, which many of my class mates actually did, going to France or the UK after school. When many of the countries even started to share one currency it became even more united. Going to Madrid or to Rome over the weekend to visit friends or just have a good time, this no longer felt like taking a vacation in a foreign country. It felt like something else…
photo: Natalia Kepesz
At a certain point, you know the difference between sitting at a Späti, at a Kneipe next door and at a nice bar. All three of these places demand a certain willingness to let go of your everyday routine but in a slightly different way. The Späti-night will first seduce you with being totally unpretentious and only a short term affair, a temporary solution. But after spending all night there, you know how your head will hurt like it was hit by a „Bierbank“ the morning after. The adventure to a Kneipe is a more serious challenge. The funny Kneipenlady you’ve heard rumors about will get all of your attention with all her dirty secrets, but while you are there, sitting at the counter, you realize that you are trapped like in the rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland. You can’t escape as long as her shift or your finances end.
Last but not least, entering a fine bar is a nightlife pleasure of a special kind. A bar and its bartenders are a place of illusions and fantasies. And where fantasies and nightlife meet for a drink, I want to be there too (just to write down my experiences for this blog of course… )
Therefore I was more than happy to represent the digital media world as a judge at the World Class Competition 2016 in Berlin. Hosted by the Diageo Group the event took place in several locations in Berlin. 17 Bartenders from all over Germany competed with each other for one spot to go to Miami to the World Class Global Final competition. I had the pleasure to not only observe their skills from up close but also to taste some of the most fantastic drinks in my entire life. Being the judge of the hospitality challenge, I had to pretend to be a guest at a bar for a whole day and try out drinks from all 17 different bartenders. What sounds like a funny theater play was quite the intense job where a lot of accuracy of observation was required. But as each of the bartenders made their appearances in front of my judging seat, I had to wonder:
What are the special ingredients that make a bar a place of such magic and enchantment? My deep insights from this dive into the bartender world in a not-so-serious listical after the jump.
photo: Andi Weiland:
It was one of the quietest Saturday nights of my past 12 years in Berlin. Without any particular expectations a friend and I drove with the bikes from Kreuzberg to Brandenburger Tor while the sun light slowly started to decrease as the evening went on. As soon as we were there I felt my heart change in speed. The whole place was packed with men, women and kids. Some faces seemed familiar from late nights, parties and bars spend in the queer scene. Others I recognized from my everyday life in offices, cafes, bakeries or pharmacies. Does it matter who the people are who mourn for the victims in Orlando? Does is matter if they are young, old, gay, straight, black, white, trans or cis? For me it didn’t. I saw a place filled with heartfelt sorrow. With tears and cries and shattered minds, not able to understand and not able to forget the latest attack.
Nightclubs are a special place in the LGBTI world. On the first look they just seem to be a place for easy flirts, pumped bodies and shallow excitement. An arena of hedonism and a vanity fair. Where broken hearts and sucked dicks exchange numbers just to never actually call each other. But beyond the surface you might find out that nightclubs are a unique place for self exploration. Where first kisses are exchanged and drag stars are born. They offer safety and comfort under the shine of the disco lights to the ones who get discriminated and mistreated in their daily life just for not fitting in.
The shooting in Orlando hit the LGBT communities all around the world by attacking this safe haven. As Berliners we know the power and magic of nightclubs and could feel the horror on our skins, while reading the news about the deaths of the Orlando victims who just wanted to spend a night out with their friends or lovers.
On Saturday night the Brandenburger Tor for the first time in history was illuminated in the colors of the rainbow. But what matters where the radiant hearts of the Berliners that came. Under the collective mourn I felt a community that was not necessarily connected by the same experiences of discrimination or shared sex preferences. Berlin showed the world that its inhabitants are out and proud. Not afraid of hate and not afraid to love.
As the gathering slowly dissolved I felt so happy to be part of this community and at the same time so sad that it took such horrible event to bring us all together. Our impressions of the memorial after the jump.
Berlin is generally known as an easy going, relaxed happy place to have fun and take things slow. As much as we enjoy this reputation, it’s not all roses and unicorns here after all. We have our moments of struggles as well, some are Berlin specific and some are the same as in many other big cities in the world. It’s a part of life I guess. Sometimes you just have to stay strong.
The new campaign of the yogurt drink Actimel is all about these moments when people have to bite their teeth, make the best of it and stay strong. It’s quite a relatable sentiment, but as diverse as our world is, everyone gets to these moments quite differently. So the guys from Actimel asked us: when do you have to stay strong in Berlin? The question made us immediately think of the hilarious illustrated comics of Sophia Halamoda who showed us how to get into two of the most impenetrable institutions of Berlin: the notorious Berghain night club and the feared Bürgeramt. So we extended the question to her and together we came up with a list of some typical struggles that we face here in Berlin. We’ve all been there at some point! After the jump you’ll find 7 moments when you have to stay strong in Berlin.
photos: Linus Ma
Seven months in the US tore me away from the beloved city at the Spree, and showed me my very own version of the “American Dream”, although I still don’t really know what that truly means. I got dropped into the shiny swirl of the City of Angels and just thrown out again, unprepared and unarmed. Suddenly, I am back in Berlin, and what was once familiar, now seems weirdly odd. So I have to find out all over again: What makes this city desirable? Here is a story about waking up from pink dreams and falling in love with Berlin again.
The only logical response to hate is love, and more love. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of responding with equal hate – it seems like a natural, instinctive reaction. But that’s only gonna make the hate even bigger.
Berlin always felt like a big safe bubble to me. I felt that my life was never affected here in a negative way. How lucky I am! The LGBTQ community is big, strong, well connected, diverse and very opinionated. Of course there have been incidents of attacks or discrimination against LGBT people here as well, but they seem to be much more rare compared to many other places in the world. I have heard heart-breaking stories of people that come from smaller towns and other countries, and of course you hear all these terrible news of horrific tragedies in the most conservative corners of the world. It’s these stories that make you question your own safety. And it makes you realize even more that you are living in a bubble.
photos: Ilsa Hellman
Berlin is not only your home, your playground, your friend, your lover, your nightmare. It can also your teacher, if you let it. We all came here at one point, with different backgrounds, different experiences. And unless we were born and grew up here and have never lived in another city we all made the discovery that Berlin is different, it tells you a different story, it shapes your life in a different way. We can learn so much from it, if we are smart enough to pay attention, because some lessons can only be read between the lines.
Finnish photographer Ilsa Hellman submitted her portrait project Neu in Berlin to us a while ago and beside the beautiful photos that she takes of New Berliners what fascinated me about the project were the stories that the portrayed people where sharing. Regardless if they had just arrived or lived here for many years, almost everyone seemed to have received some sort of lesson or wisdom from the city and we would like to share some of those with you along with Ilsa’s photos.
photo: Franz Becker
From a bird’s-eye view you’re watching, wondering what life might bring
The city’s sleeping in a cloud – summer came by and got right out
What are they dreaming, these sleeping heads, lying in their tiny beds?
Is that a smile upon their face, looking forward to another day?
From the rooftop you see the couple brushing their teeth
The older lady with a cat and a book on her knees
The manager about to work, the party people still up with a smirk
The student studying for an exam, the musician playing a joyful jam
They all are living in this house, this backyard, this street
And somewhere you can still hear a beat…
One year in Berlin, an anniversary of sorts. This is my story of this utterly relenting city. A tale comprised of four distinct seasons, three apartments, numerous jobs, countless fleeting friendships and one difficult language. It is about a city of immense density caught between the heavy weight of its past and the inexplicable light and freedom that shines from the darkest of places.
This city that I now call home is something extraordinary, an anomaly. It has progressed into its next chapter, following the contours of history, flourishing into a liberal and cultural hub. It has changed from all recognition and proliferated into a city of tolerance and acceptance, a place where people are free from judgement, and even freer to express themselves. Yet I have felt Berlin’s depth.
This is my time in Berlin.
So you finally made it into the club! Now what?
After spending hours reading blog after blog about how to get into <insert your favorite Berlin nightclub>, you are finally ready to put on your dancing shoes and experience Berlin nightlife firsthand. Your outfit is on point (aka black). You managed to queue for over an hour without cracking a smile, much less breathe. You researched who was DJing and successfully memorized enough German to confidently tell the door guy how many people were in your party (Ich bin allein, danke). Congrats! You’re in. Now it’s time to have some fun.
Wait, not so fast. Just because you managed to fool the staff into thinking you’re a regular doesn’t mean that you’re ready to hit the dance floor quite yet. Before you pat yourself on the back, I encourage you to take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the following Berlin nightlife etiquette tips.