[Places + Spaces] Discovering Berlin
Gabstamatic | On 28, Apr 2014
I thought I only had place in my wanderlust filled heart for one city but have recently had to make space for two. Having wanted to visit Germany for the best part of a decade I decided to discover the beautiful city that is Berlin. The long weekend away was the perfect amount of time I needed to catch up on the hot topic of the moment – Pharrell and Oprah’s ‘The New Black’ comments (what were your thoughts on that?) as well as get some downtime before the Newlyweeds screening which you’ll hear more about this week.
Although I studied German at school I’d never really spoken the language outside of the classroom. I also have an Aunt who lived in Frankfurt during the 70s so my desire to interact with authentic Germans never really went away. Berlin is incredibly clean. Not in a clinical way but in a way that made me a bit dirty when I came back to London on the tube. I also noticed that bread in its many varieties was a thing Germans seemed to love – that and meat. I’m a veggie but got on surprisingly well – something which I feel had much to do with the area I stayed in.
Mitte which is German for ‘Middle’ is a trendy part of Berlin which I’ve been told is the UK version of Shoreditch. It did have a hipster sensibility to it but didn’t seem as pretencious (although I did spot a high amount of men with beards…I think that could just be a German thing though).
The apartment which I stayed in was situated in a block not too far from the Berlin Wall memorial and also a number of murals on the sides of the adjacent apartments which depicted the changes that took place before the Berlin Wall was torn down (proud to say my GCSE History came in quite handy on the trip). I really appreciated the way the city incorporated its history in a modern well designed way and at times almost seemed like a huge art gallery with graffiti and street art not seeming out of place.
Known for being the largest in the world the East Side Gallery is a 1.3km long wall covered in artwork from artists from around the world. Messages and images from politics to music and liberation filled every space on the concrete slabs transforming it into an inviting space constantly surrounded by tourists visiting the famous spot. At the end of the wall was YAAM, a beach space and what I’d describe as a Caribbean village.
It was quite a surprise to see the space which seemed fairly hidden away but I was told they throw parties and host reggae/dancehall concerts there (I was told Germans have a serious love for reggae) It was one of the few places I saw that had a Caribbean/African influence and I was interested to find out about other immigrant communities residing in Berlin.
On of those places was Kreuzberg, an area of Berlin with a large Turkish community. Historically the area was the birthplace of German punk culture and is also known for being a hub for Hip Hop culture.
Having received a few friends’ recommendations I checked out a number of cool boutiques. One coincidentally enough was called ‘Das Neue Schwarz’ (The New Black)…let’s just say he wasn’t as excited as I was about us sharing a name or about me wanting to take photos. Made in Berlin is definitely a place to check out if you’re a lover of vintage clothes which don’t cost the Earth. In the same area you’ll find a flagship stores such as Adidas with boutiques littered along the side roads. As I was there for the Easter break I also checked out an Easter market in Alexanderplatz which was full of handmade goods, beer gardens and currywurst.
I didn’t sample the latter but did consume a large amount of other popular German staples – bread and Haribos. Another really cool store I came across was a Streetwear brand called ‘The Dudes’ which I’ll be featuring on tomorrow’s T-Shirt Tuesdays. Selling both mens and women’s wear the store was decked out with graphic prints, skateboards and even an old screen printing press!
The Friday before I left I went to Werkstatt der Kulturen. A venue similar to East London’s Rich Mix. The building serves as a cultural hub which focuses on the culture of German migrants and minorities. The evening I went, British-Ghanian pop-up Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen’ had an event in the main space whilst an Egyptian folk band played downstairs. I had the super tasty garden egg salad (which I never knew were just white aubergines). If you haven’t tasted their food before I’d definitely recommend checking it out. They’ll be at Streetfest this weekend and have further pop-up events in Berlin.
Whilst there I met Dennica Abdo-Markham, the founder of Fashion Meets Music, a British based organisation specialising in pop-ups which have taken place in LA, London and now Berlin where she had been for the last month. The winner of a BSC Opal Award earlier this year the company had taken over the top floor of a shopping centre in Berlin and featured the work of a number of emerging designers as well as running recycled fashion workshops.
I had the greatest intention of speaking as much German as possible but the Berliners I met were kind enough to save me the embarrassment of butchering their language and spoke English far better than my German was. There wasn’t ever a time I was walking along a street where I didn’t see something interesting to look at which I think it what I enjoyed the most.
Who falls in love with a city after 3 days? Apparently I do. Visiting has definitely opened up my interest in discovering a part of the world which is a lot closer than my transatlantic endevaours. I’ll definitely be back soon!