Berlin: Dirty Beast of Europe

Berlin stands out as a leader of Europe.  At first glance, the city may seem gray and dirty and rugged.  Walk around Alexanderplatz and you find yourself in a Soviet-era concrete jungle of sorts: square cement housing, public transit buildings, and broken down vacant hotels in dire need of occupancy.  But go deeper into this place and you’ll find a network of startups, music, and fashion that’s at the forefront – art that reaches every corner of the spectrum, and a young community that eats it all up.

 Berlin these days has become the Silicon Valley of Europe, and the fact that housing is still affordable makes it a perfect place for a young ambitious millennial to go and join the race for a lucrative career.  With its very open society and bohemian leanings, there seems to be opportunity for all in Berlin.

If I’m going to complain about Berlin, the only thing I can really say is German food isn’t anything special…thank god there are a lot of Turkish folk that have migrated there, because they bring the fire with them.  Some Germans may complain about the Turks, but I personally thank god for them.  Don’t ask a German about spices.

You can ask them about music, though.  Berlin is a hub for musicians of all types, from all over the world, that seek collaboration and creativity.  Their nightlife is a result of this energy.
You can walk into certain night clubs on a Friday night and not leave until the following Monday.  For me, I can’t party for that long…but some can. Just take a look at the line at noon on a Sunday at the Berghain.

Berlin is an intense place that bucks many of the European stereotypes.  It’s definitely seeing influence from the United States…more and more McDonald’s are popping up all over the city.
Besides American fast food, they also have a significant number of expats in the city due to their many different work visas for United States citizens.  I’m hoping to snatch one of those up when I get back to Berlin in the next couple of months.

In many ways Berlin reminds me of Chicago. Each neighborhood in the city has its own vibe and points of interest.  

Neighborhoods of Note
Mitte: Located in central Berlin, it’s a major stop for tourists and is one of the more expensive areas to live in Berlin.  Mitte also has some great alley streets that remind me of the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona that lead to some really great hidden bars, galleries, and designer clothing boutiques.

Prenzlauer Berg: Once an artist hub, like so many, has now become the spot for young families to live and raise their kids.  It’s also got some really great cafes such as Kaffe Kaffe, and it is also home to SoHo House Berlin.

Kreuzberg: This is where the hipsters roam.  Venues and nightclubs and abandoned buildings abound in Kreuzberg.  Kids riding fixed gears and drinking pints in Gorlitzer Park.  DJ’s lugging crates like its NYC in the 80’s.  It’s a retro spot originally home to Turkish immigrants and now, like most of the western world, overrun by hipsters on the front lines of gentrification.

Friedrichshain: Separated by the Spree River from Kreuzberg, it has a mix of young hip kids and older hip adults.  Plenty of bars and stages for artists to play at.

Berlin Keeps it Original and Embraces the Weird
I’ve been to parties inside shipping containers full of Australians, night clubs like Renate that look like the clubhouse of Peter Pan’s lost boys, and German book readings in the basement night club of a Prenzlauer Berg bar.

Grocery stores are closed on Sundays. It’s an old German thing, something about being a Christian nation.

Berlin has a pretty open policy about drug use as well.  Most bars allow you to smoke weed inside and outside of their establishment.  No one bats an eye.  

Sex clubs are very common in Berlin.  Tourists from all over the world come to get lost in the dungeons of the city.  Fetish nights are very common and most night clubs cater to them on specific days of the week.  Kit Kat is famous for its fetish and bondage nights.

There’s no shortage of freaks and geeks and club kids and rappers and artists of all sorts. It’s a place where outcasts can find a sense of belonging, and those with stars in their eyes and an itch for something grand can cut their teeth and sow their dreams.