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.
photo: Schall & Schnabel
Perfect, care-free, enviable: these used to be the three adjectives that would come up in my mind the moment I would take a look at the shiny profiles of my acquaintances on social media – one cannot really call them friends, right? There would have been plenty occasions in the past, where I would start wondering what my life lacks and is not as “cool” as theirs.
Taking insecurity to a brand new level I would even catch myself feeling sad, if my new post had not received the expected number of likes; choosing my new profile picture would demand a full-fledged strategy, that would put even the most acute Brexit negotiators to shame. However, I would still sense that this is not enough. There would always be someone flaunting various parts of their life they would be most proud of ranging from abs and new pieces of clothing to luxurious holidays – I still refuse to believe the existence of hashtags, such as #moneyisnottheproblem – and partying in the most talked-about clubs.
photos: Alejandro Arretureta
The countless attempts at interpreting what we know now was David Bowie’s parting gift, the album “Blackstar”, reflect our yearning to get closer to the mind of this sublime artist. A yearning which is all the more compelling as it can never be fulfilled. For over a decade now, David Bowie has let his art speak for itself.
The admirable, yet silent dignity of Bowie’s final years, together with his incessant creative pursuits, always rich in fascinating cultural references, forces one to simply marvel at the intricate structure of the whole career. For it is clearly the acting part of it, namely the appearance in 1976 “The Man Who Fell to Earth” , that is the key to grasping the essence of the music video for “Blackstar”, and also “Lazarus” – the Broadway musical which Bowie was working on.
Last January, a lot of people experienced an overwhelming sense of confusion and disbelief. Not only did we lose a man who influenced the way we viewed the world, but also, just two days before that, we got another stunning glimpse at his genius. Literally, the last chance to genuinely appreciate the man.
photo: Susanne Nilsson / CC
In the small town where I’m from, verbal interactions in any language other than Polish are an extremely rare occurrence. After I started high school in Warsaw, I have become exposed to a little wider range of foreigners, but not quite to the extent that would really meet the demands of my thirst for the exotic. So when in 2014 I got a chance to spend my summer vacations at my brother’s in California, I couldn’t contain my excitement at actually being able to use English on an everyday basis. But it wasn’t before I experienced Berlin that I really got to know an environment truly fitting for a cosmopolitan spirit; I’ve realized that my typical day in Berlin comes with more linguistic challenges than I’d face in an entire year had I not moved here.
For me 2016 was actually a great year, even though I almost don’t dare saying it out loud. A lot of sad and terrible things happened in 2016, yes, but there still was a lot of good stuff that I think needs some more attention: Small and big moments in Berlin that showed what a great city this is and what amazing people live here. We should focus more on these things, at least for a moment, and take these positive memories and feelings with us into the new year.
Here are the most happy moments and amazing happenings of 2016 in photos and videos.
photo: Rowena Waack / CC
The year is coming to an end in just a few days; there is often a sense of relief in the atmosphere, as if we are truly excessively happy and grateful for the new year; it seems that every year there are some of us who will claim that that specific year has been horrible either because of personal mishaps or rather due to unfortunate developments that affected the entire world. Along with the good-riddance vibe many of us feel like making new resolutions, setting goals, promising to themselves that they will finally lose that extra weight, start learning mandarin, take more yoga classes or make their wildest dreams come true etc. It is, as if we automatically reset ourselves becoming concurrently confident that it will be different this time, we will not forget our goals and remember that we neglected them as soon as the following year comes to an end as well.
Whether it is Christmas, New Year’s Eve, holidays in general or a simple Saturday night, we have all had this friend urging us to go out, forget worries and problems and just let ourselves loose by partying and….having fun. It has recently dawned on me how bizarre it is that a term as vague and broad as fun would be strictly and exclusively defined by very specific activities, such as hanging out in bars and clubs. Should you ever opt for doing something different, such as read a book or play board games, you would most certainly run the risk of being labelled as boring, miserable and generally “not fun”. Should this one incident develop into a pattern of behavior, that does not abide by the sacred and inviolable guidelines of how to have fun, then the situation might even be considered alarming and lead to people asking you if everything is alright in your life in general, so that they can find and eradicate the root of all evil.