Techno symphony for Berlin Metropolis

Berlin, the acclaimed city of music, film and creative industry in general, received a very special gift last week.On 8th March 2016, Jeff Mills presented the premiere of his soundtrack for the ‘Symphony of the Great City’ within the Cinemix series. I have to say, that I am still speechless after his performance in a small studio cinema in Hackescher Markt. I am far from being a psychofan, but sitting not even 2 m away from the turntables of the maestro made it for unforgettable experience.

While the original movie is interesting enough to watch anytime, falling under the cinematic Berlin to-dos, the special history and link between Jeff Mills, Underground Resistance, the industrial revolution, and finally the bridge of techno music for Detroit and Berlin, made the Cinemix premiere one of its kind. Legend of the early Tresor years captivated the mood, rhythm and musical landscape of the city, and I bet no one could rewrite the soundtrack better than he did, given his unique connection to Berlin.

Previously we could watch Jeff Mills’ Cinemix production of Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’, as below:

It is incredible, how relevant techno OST can be even after 90 years of the original movie premiere. During the screening of ‘The Symphony of the Great City’ I was stunned, how much the city changed, and at the same time, how much the energy remained the same. Alienation, industrialization, and on the other hand: consumption, excessive and extravagant social/night life describes the early years of 20th Century in Berlin much as the hype these days.

So in case you are curious to check the movie, here is the original footage of the Symphony of the Great City. I can only hope that Jeff Mills’ OST will become one of the most important, timeless masterpieces, universally defining Berlin as a cosmopolitan, dynamic and forward-thinking city.

Berlin Radio

When I was a kid, I remember being haunted by a recurring nightmare that I am being exposed to a radio that can’t be turned off and forced to listen to very bad music and news 24/7. After years of autoanalysis, I obviously put the blame on my parents who made sure that I receive a proper music education from the early years: exposing me to piano and singing classes few times per week. So at the age of 8 or so, I composed my first VERY abstract ‘track’ on my synthesiser. Later I discovered it had something to do with Theo Parrish early experiments. And thus, I developed very low tolerance to bullshit and mainstream sounds.

Music has determined many of my life choices, including the places of residence and travel destinations. And as for my childhood nightmare, last year I discovered someone flipping it into a dream. Aybee, US-origin DJ, filmmaker and producer, currently based in Berlin, created a very interesting story of a journey of a radio throughout different neighbourhoods of the city. I was very happy to see that the radio was broadcasting very deep sounds that were simply ticking the right knobs of my brain. As well as that the people paid attention to it, contrary to the stereotype that Berlin is a cold city full of very indifferent people. But well, to be fair, this radio met people like Ari, Fred P or Levon Vincent on its way. It also passed my house a few times, no wonder why.

All of these DJs are regularly playing in various venues and combine that unique Detroit-Chicago-Berlin flavour. Be it techno, be it soul, be it house or whatever you call it (as I hate labels, I prefer – following my dear friend Enclave – using colours or temperatures to describe music), if I found this radio on the Michaelbruecke, I’d adopt it for life. Just check it out (Aybee is playing regularly in Panorama Bar or Tresor, too) and fall in love with Berlin once again.

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!!!).

Silicon Wadi vs. Silicon Allee

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Last week I returned from the conference Casual Connect which took place in the bustling city of Tel-Aviv. This is why I would like to share my impressions on its mobile start up scene and its day/night (or rather 24/7) lifestyle, which resonates so well with the Berlin state of mind.

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Tel-Aviv has no ancient history comparing to other places in Israel (except from the Old Town in Jaffa), and its architecture has been mostly inspired by modern creators, hence if you love Bauhaus – it is your dreamed destination.

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Tel-Aviv is weird and fascinating at the same time. It’s small enough to walk everywhere. Maybe that’s why the underground nor tram connection has not yet been built?

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It is indeed full of life, and full of one-of-its-kind districts: just like Berlin! (Or Barcelona. Or any emblematic city).

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I deliberately stayed in the left-wing, sort of dodgy area in between Florentine and Neve Tzedek (the oldest Jewish settlement in this area). While during the day I was hanging around the posh centre, where the conference took place.

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I met a lot of developers and designers who were very familiar with Berlin – and many of them expressed openly the will of relocating. Why would you do so if you live in the Mediterranean metropoly offering awesome quality of life, and most importantly: pleasant climate? Well, the answer is not that direct.

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Although Tel-Aviv has traditionally stayed untouched from the Middle East conflict, the tension has grown again during the past few weeks. Another reason is that for young talents it is not so easy to afford the living in Tel-Aviv. Prices are twice as higher as in, for instance, Berlin if you take rent, or eating out into account. The region offers though certain priviledges for the start up entrepreneurs, and recently set up its visa-waiver programme for acquiring foreign empoyees, especially in tech.

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As for the quality of life, and food especially, my life is no longer the same after visiting Israel. Fortunately, nearby my office in Berlin I can regularly eat out (cheaper!) traditional Israeli menu, but it is not the same under the grey, autumn skies. And me, having lived some 4 years in Barcelona, I’m a sucker for the sun!

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All in all, I was enchanted by the spontaneity of the night life and art scene. It felt like going around Potsdamer Platz in the times of first Tresor, which is a great metaphore for the hidden treasures.

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I am pretty sure it would require at least one more visit in Tel-Aviv to describe the whole picture and variety of it, this time I would only say that there is definitely one similarity among the start up hubs: the neverstopping buzz!