Detroit B2B Berlin

Cold days = getting sick. Getting sick = managing to read all the pending stuff I wanted to. A Pulitzer-winning author, Charlie LeDuff was one of those on the waiting list on my shelf. Detroit-born writer and journalist stole my sick days with his reportage ‘Detroit: An American Autopsy’. Although I have never been to Detroit, it’s on my travel list since ages. I have also watched tones of the documentaries about this fascinating city, such as:

Also, my fascination with the remote and abandoned places, urban apocalipse and related started a while ago. Only in Berlin though I realised how many stories of the ‘wounded cities’ that once used to be flourishing with industrial jobs are hidden in the abandoned factories and warehouses. Berlin is a perfect place of offering such places a second life, often linked to great cultural venues, such as Stattbad (no longer existing though), Kraftwerk and Tresor anyway, Berghain, Urban Spree and many more which I still did not manage to describe here. There is still a full list of horrifying, dreadful and yet absolutely fascinating decay buildings for me to discover.

So not only postindustrial images, but also the emerging creativity links Detroit with Berlin. Obviously, both cities offer strikingly different vision on the social welfare, and supporting the cultural scene, but the fact is that techno music was born in parallel both in Detroit, and in Berlin. It emerged from the painful history, and events. And from extraordinary creative energy. Some interesting facts are gathered in the following documentary:

Nowadays there are many DJs from Detroit based in Berlin as permanent residents, and enriching the techno culture. Berlin wouldn’t offer the sounds we hear nowadays, if it wasn’t for Detroit. So, being relatively in a better shape, thanks to the economy based on the tech and creative industry, Berlin owes a lot to Detroit.

Between East and West

It is hard to forget about the division between East and West, especially around 9th November, when Berliners celebrate the opening of the borders and, respectively, the Fall of the Wall in 1989.

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Berlin Wall became the physical symbol of the Iron Curtain and even if nowadays the idea of the Cold War division within one city sounds so abstract, it was a painful reality for many Berliners for over 28 years.

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Today the Wall can be seen from many perspectives: you can learn interesting facts and stories visiting the Berlin Wall Memorial (free admission!), Topographie des Terrors, Checkpoint Charlie, or East Side Gallery – where all the featured photos were taken.

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East Side Gallery, the longest remaining fragment of the wall, today sets the border between the multicultural neighbourhoods of Friedrichshein and Kreuzberg. East Side Galler hosts some great graffitis, mostly related to politics and history. It reminds us there are still many walls on this planet to be tear down…

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Another interesting perspective on the history of the Berlin Wall was presented in a Polish documentary film called “Rabbit a la Berlin”, telling the story of the division and “no man’s land” or “Death stripe” from rabbits’ perspective. It is based on real happenings, as during years, rabbits found a perfect place to live in between the Berlin Wall.

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Nowadays the Wall is long gone, but according to the latest HR research on salaries, Berlin still stands out as the poorest city in Germany. Salaries in Berlin can be up to 25% lower than in other cities. Interesting, as it’s been long enough as well to give Berlin the unofficial name of ‘Silicon Allee’ – innovative IT start ups’ capital.

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‘Poor but sexy’ is no longer an excuse, as the cost of living grows unproportionally to the abovementioned salaries. We can see then, how much time it takes for a city to recover after such terrifying events and decisions.

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However, as this year Germany celebrated 25 years from the unification, I hope this is a good moment for everyone to contemplate the history and its outcomes. I am proud to be living in Berlin, a capital which is maybe still very imperfect, but giving room for people with different backgrounds and ideas. Otherwise, it would still be so grey.

10 thoughts for 1 year in Berlin

So, I can tick the box entitled “one year ago I started a new chapter in Berlin”. Here are some thoughts and learnings acquired during the last year:

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Location: Berlin is the centre of the world. Oh well, Europe at least. Although the real airport might never be opened (?), it is relatively easy and cheap to fly anywhere in Europe, or connect with the transcontinental flights. I guess this year each month I did at least one weekend getaway abroad (little getaways to Poland and other German cities/sites included). I even went to one tip of the world: to Arctic, which was one of my dreams. It took me only 6 hours to get there though! But Berlin can be a little universe itself and it takes years to discover it fully.

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Events: Cutting-edge culture is here. Film festivals, concerts, music festivals and regular nights in some of the emblematic clubs. It’s also great for sports: cycling, surfing, climbing – even though sea and mountains are far away, all is accessible here. But it’s also the best place to be lazy and relax/unwind.

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Cultural life: Apart from clubs, Berlin offers great museums and has more classical offer, like going to a concert in Berliner Philharmoniker or numberless operas or theatres. I particularly enjoy the evenings out in the modern dance companies spaces, like Sophiensaale or Radialsystem V.

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Visitors: Friends still come and visit you, even if you don’t live at the beach (comparing to my previous life in Barcelona). It’s also pretty centric and easily connected, not to mention it takes me literally 2,5 hours to go to my home city in Poland.

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(Job) Opportunities: The start up scene scent is still there in your nostrils, and it is very common to support the local innitiatives and emerging products. Even though the job market is very dynamic, comparing to other German (European) cities, salaries are not amazing. For now the cheap life has been paying off enough, but seems that each year the frequency of using the G-word (‘gentrification’) in different contexts is rising.

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Language: German is not as vicious as they say it is. It took me one year to land somewhere near the B2 level, which means I can easily read the newspapers, understand most of the TV shows, sometimes even go to the cinema and most importantly have a conversation. I still don’t feel too comfortable talking to newly met people, especially if the music is loud, you know. In 2016 this should be OK-ish!

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Climate and nature: Winters are not as long as they say, and summers are amazing and hotter than anywhere else in the central Europe.

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Architecture: So once upon a time, it was all about the Post-War, post-industrial abandoned buildings both on the “East” and “West” side. Berlin is much more than that. There are few cities offering the rainbow on a block of flats’ facade, aren’t they?

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Cuisine: Monday – Vietnamese, Tuesday – Israeli, Wednesday – Spanish tapas, Thursday – Russian, Friday – Indian. Next week you can replace this selection with any other cuisine, and you will find the place to eat out within 1 km radius, I am pretty sure. Berlin is heaven for foodies, and it is still very cheap!

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Lifestyle – described as “whatever works”. Questioning the normality, creative mindset and open-mindedness is probably what I like most about living in Berlin. History of Berlin had it all: pain, tears and joy. When nothing is taken for granted, many things can happen… Like these urban gardens in the centre of the city, or the club opened on the commercial centre’s rooftop.

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Yes, Berlin is probably overrated, but it is still the best place in above-mentioned terms I’ve lived in so far (sorry, Barcelona, you are also awesome and I miss you badly!!!).