“Ich bin ein Berliner”

Berlin, baby, I wasn’t ready.

I was told by one of the many expat Americans I met living in the German capital that “if New York were a mound of dough, Berlin would be that same dough, only rolled out over the pizza pan.” Translation: lots of shit going on spread out over a larger area. And believe me, you exit any U-Bahn station―Alexanderplatz, Möckernbrüke, Schloßstraße (don’t worry, I couldn’t pronounce ‘em neither)―I guarantee you, something’s on and poppin’, from matchbox-sized art galleries to Vietnamese eateries to budget opera productions to soulful house and salsa spots, and all for bargain-basement prices. It’s cosmopolitanism on sale!

Not having met other than a few aquaintances who’d ever been to Berlin, I had zero expectations of the city other than the supposedly rockin’ night life (verified by yours truly as truly rockin’). I’d seen Cabaret ages ago, but that’s not exactly a Fodor’s Guide to the city (I also know they hated on Josephine Baker, but that was also pre-Allied spanking). But from the moment I hit the streets after arriving, I feltsawtasted the stew of combined creativity, history, youth, ambition, and verve and had snapped 150 photos during the course of three hours. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the East(side!) represents the rebirth and vitality of a city where anything goes and anyone’s welcome: outcasts, artists, anarchists, intellectuals, expats, omnisexuals, commies, trannies, all that crazy city shit mainstream moms warn you about. The West’s still got the grandeur of chic high-brow Berlin, made funky by the huge Turkish community in Kreutzburg. The two halves are joined not just by an efficient (and cheap) transit system, but by a civic laissez-faire that allows for myriad cultural permutations to spring up almost everywhere in town. Add artist-wage rents and five-Euro curry and samosa buffets to the mix, and you gotta city to go ga-ga for. And this sentiment was echoed wholeheartedly by the twenty-some-odd American expatriates, white and black, who now call themselves Berliners.

In fact, mein long-term Liebchen, São Paulo, may be in danger of being replaced. Stay tuned.

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6 thoughts on ““Ich bin ein Berliner”

  1. Berlin is a world on it's own. I don't think I have ever experienced such a range of "things" to see, do, smell, xperience while there. Sadly, it was not one of my fav spots to chill out in.

  2. In fact, mein long-term Liebchen, São Paulo, may be in danger of being replaced. you know how non-plussed i am about sampa, and i am telling you that you would be making a big, big mistake if you were to do this. berlin's main pluses over sampa are a) the transport is cheap, and i mean global as well as local; and b) there are more africans. [and since germany has such shitty citizenship laws, even after the 2000 reforms, their kids are africans too.]but if i had to choose between the two, and a bullet was not an option, i would have to choose sampa. and i'm not feeling sampa at all. ugh. maybe you'll change my mind when i visit you next year. but if i run off for bahia or fortaleza in the middle of the night, don't be shocked.

  3. Ernest, I'm so glad you posted a link to your blog on Facebook. I really enjoyed your comments on Berlin, and I would be thrilled if you ended up here on a more permanent basis!

  4. Btw, don't mean to be a party-pooper, but I've heard whispers of a darker side to Berlin, which you might want do some research on, before you decide to set up base there! My personal experience of the city was mostly absolute perfection (there was one not-so-pleasant event, hmm…hopefully an aberration for Berlin)

  5. I know its ages ago – but kwerekwere is not right about German citizen laws – not sure, where you people catch up on such things…
    My parents are from Africa, I was born in Germany in the 70 ies – and yes, I am a German citizen.
    It may not be 5yrs like in the US, but citizenship is of course available to anyone born in Germany…if they want to…thats another topic all together…not sure, how long it takes if you are not born in Germany, but it is available as well..

    • @FlightMemory: I’m not sure if Kwere’s ever lived in Germany for any period of time, but that had to have been a while ago and I’m sure things have changed. Either way, it’s interesting that your folks are from Africa; which country?

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