Since the early 90s, after the Wall in Berlin fell, the city has seen slow growth in tourism, still not compared to that of London or Paris, but which in the last few years rocketed to the sky. And that of course hasn’t left the ready-to-complain Berliners without something to say about it: Locals nag about the city having become too busy, too noisy, and of course overpriced. The Berliners’ sentiment for foreigners has gone so far that there are even anti-tourists movements who hold real protests, against the city’s enemy: you. But how serious are Berliners in their detest of visitors?
“Gone are the days when you could walk from Warschauer Str. to Boxhagener Platz without bumping into hundreds of tourists, barely hearing German around you anymore”, a Berliner friend complains. The tourism of Berlin is a bit unlike that of the other big metropoles of Europe; when it comes to hordes of mainstream tourists with five cameras each, Berlin has been the underdog. Instead, Berlin’s tourism is hippy: it’s young people, booking cheap flights, staying at hostels and Airbnbs. And they’re not here to see the Brandenburg Gate or go to Pergamon Museum, they’re here to (try to) go to Berghain and experience the authentic Berlin lifestyle. But how long can authentic remain authentic after this hipster attack?
The “inflicted” areas are former working class and immigrant neighborhoods like Neukölln, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg; the West stays pretty untouched by the effect, despite the effort of local authorities to “redistribute” the tourists that arrive to Berlin (9 million per year). Real estate investors are turning into sharks, buying every building available to house another generic hostel. And of course, that means Berliners can less and less afford to own property, while the rise in prices doesn’t stop there: my Berliner friend complains about paying 10 euro for her entrance in Berghain five years ago, and not 16.
Of course the irony of Berliners’ despising tourists, is that it’s the city’s greatest source of income, since there is no real industry left in the region, nor financial services that are in Frankfurt. Sure, the metro will never be empty again, as a friend reminisces with nostalgia, but with some planning by the city’s authorities Berlin can be enjoyed both by the locals and visitors! Let’s not forget that even when we say “Berliner”, we don’t mean a blonde German guy named Wolfgang all the time. The people who shaped this city were immigrants from all parts of the world. And Berlin is so loved by tourists mainly for that: for the love and the tolerance it shows to its people through the years.