Berlin! Berlin! 2.0
Coming back to this cosmopolitan city consisted of shanty houses mixed with graffiti that are the size of an entire building wall, it does not feel the same as my visit last time.
I remember how disappointed I was last time when I arrived in Berlin exactly one year ago. I had imagined a world of lights, fancy buildings in styles of classicalism and Bauhaus modernism. Escalators leading up to hundreds-years old buildings and automatic doors opening up to each new wonder. I think this imagination came from my general impression of advanced German technology and the fact that they must have completely rebuilt the city after its destruction in World War II and after the wall came down. But I was wrong. The city first came to me as a big grey dip of sadness and depression. The constructions going on everywhere, the wastelands and industrial area in the middle of the city, the graffiti on almost every single building in the east side, the woody clouds, the mundane building design with a bit too much simplicity, the tall chimneys poking into the sky, dirty streets as if the war just ended and no one bothered to clean up. This was a world completely opposite from my own thoughts and I did not understand what the fuss of Berlin is all about.
But this time, maybe it is because I know the city well enough not to be afraid, and also I have friends from Berlin, it feels familiar, comfortable, and free. I start to look deeper into the history, absorb in more the mentality of Berliners, feel the way they feel and see the way they see. The darkness of the woody clouds turn into inspiration, and the graffiti does not seem distant and rebellious anymore, but more of a understanding and expression of respect to their own culture and history, the environment they live in and the liveliness of the young in this city. The place becomes magical, the lights, the wild ,dancing youth, the broken glass bottles splattered on the streets, the glow of the sunset on the train tracks, carving the skyline of a city that has been through so much in the past 100 years. The spirit of this city is “carefree”.
Everyday, we explore more more about the city with the company of our friend. Kreuzberg, Mitte, Warchauer Strasser, Kotti, Schliessie, all the places with tons of excitement hidden behind the shanty cages and the inglorious appearance. Some of my Swedish friends said, to them, “Berlin is not a city, it is a religion”. This is the place where the youth come and discover themselves, express their opinions through art, poetry, music, graffiti, literature or drama. Imagination is endless and the city provides the atmosphere of a laid-back, free environment for creation. Anything could be appreciated and recognized in Berlin. This is what is truly amazing about it.
“Leaving Berlin without going to a club is like going to China without eating Chinese food.” My German friend says. This is a heaven for the youth. Nothing closes before sunrise. All day, all week, all year, there are always places filled with people looking for fun, house,electric music, relief and creativity. It is a massive playground for anybody from any background. This is one thing I love about East Germany. Here, the difference between social classes seem to matter much much less than that in the West. People are not as rich, but they are closer to each other, easier to let go of the stress and troubles in the society and blend in with the big picture. Everybody is the same and everybody is special. Being yourself is the perfect image. No need to pretend, no need to hide anything. You can wear anything you want and nobody would judge you, look down or look up to you. An artist friend I met told me, “Berlin is a city where people would look at you as if you are a freak when you wear a suit. But nobody would even look at you if you wear a kimono on the streets.” I love it. Here, I feel like I have found another fashion sense. Young, wild and free. In Hong Kong or Vancouver, a proper dress shirt or something expensive is always a must to get into anywhere. Now I am realizing how fake and pretentious that culture is. This pseudo-formality that people trying to create, but in the end it is just some fake mentality to act fancy.
I have never felt more like myself in anywhere else. I have so many things I love about Berlin. I need to come back. I will come back again.