Ich bin ein blogger

It’s been over a year now since I moved to Berlin. My first taste of the city was short and sweet, a two week stay in an apartment on Frankfurter Tor at the end of a warm indian summer. The diversity of its people and lifestyles, the hum and bustle of activity and the sense that there was always something to be discovered around the next corner – these things all captured me. Many multicultural metropolises are multifaceted gems, and in this case the glimmer of but a few sides impelled me to grasp the whole, to hold and turn in my hand.

My life in Barcelona, where I had spent the last two years, was by no means unpleasant. In fact, maybe it was too comfortable for my own liking (hah!). But it did feel limiting, an ultimately small world which was shrinking under the pressure of the economic crisis. I saw many good friends trapped by poverty and despair, getting by drinking and sunning themselves in the plaças and barrios in the gilded cage while tourists lived the magazine features around them. ‘Carcelona’, said a few Spanish expats that I met in Berlin, spitting out the word with no small amount of venom. An unfair judgement, but indicative of the feelings of the youth of a paralysed nation. I was lucky enough to be working, and thus only a prisoner of my own ambitions and anxieties. I looked around at the lives of people around me, especially those ‘above’ me in certain areas I wanted to succeed in, and decided to explore other options.

Opportunity played no small part. A good friend whom I was staying with told me about a free apartment, right in the Freidrichshain-Kreuzberg district that I had become so enamoured of during my visit. Her friend was travelling in South America for quite a few months and was looking to rent it for less than the price of what would only get you a tiny room in Barcelona. Of course, I jumped straight on that.

It was an experience worlds apart from the first visit. I arrived in the middle of February, with the idea that I might have a few romantic wanders in the snow before it cleared up in time for Spring weather. As it happened, that auspicious year Berlin was in the grip of an Ice Age that would not let up until May. On many days, to venture outside was to expose oneself to flesh-eating cold winds of death. Indoors, the flat had a few issues that compounded the shock. The shower was in the kitchen, right between the oven and a full length window, and rarely worked. On the odd occasion where water could be coaxed out, it was stone cold, meaning that even if I were to embrace this forced exhibitionism, conditions were not optimal for a good show. On the bright side, the deep snow was crushed beneath my stomping boots in a most satisfactory manner.

Despite the awkward start, I was determined to make this my home and my enthusiasm for Berlin has not diminished. Things got better. Apartment is now outfitted with a proper bathroom, hot water and long term companions of the comely female and feline variety. It’s a home, and now so is Berlin. And it’s different. Everywhere else I’ve lived there have been visible parts of old Europe but Berlin’s cityscape is dominated by the ruins of 20th century brutality. To me, Berlin is flowers growing out of a rotting corpse. There has been tragedy, ugliness and trauma, but many of its people are coming together to make something beautiful come out of the wreckage. This is a legacy of the post-reunification chaos, when enterprising creatives type took advantage of low rents, weak authorities and empty real estate to restore some glorious life – a positive and liberal movement against the oppression of the past. This is the Berlin of punk rock myth, of The Wings of Desire, Nick Cave, David Bowie and bohemian fantasy. Many Berliners, especially those long in the tooth, will tell you that this fantasy land is long gone. There is some truth to this. Even my own street is a curious mix of old and new, featuring run down altbaus harbouring aging artists and punks, ateliers and rusty old bicycles side by side with renovated apartments for younger families lined with new cars. But Berlin’s spirit of independence and support for ‘alternative’ lifestyle still remains, even if it’s not the bright-eyed anarchy of yesteryear. Let’s face it, old-timers will always moan for the good old days, especially in a trendy city where it lets them lord their cred over the younguns who came late to the party.

But for me the party has just gotten started. Even today, in its of corporate development, yuppie startups and Berghain zombies. Berlin still feels like the place where on can be oneself and be welcomed. It has a diverse international scene but it’s more than just the normal draw of a capital city. It has a special attraction for quirky individuals and misfits, even in it’s own country. Based on what I can garner from my German friends, Berlin is the city for Germans who don’t quite want to be German – that is, who feel somewhat restricted by the typical lifestyle and want to cut loose and embrace alternatives. People are politically conscious, and it’s been gratifying to see the words – ‘no racism, no sexism no homophobia, no nazis’ outside a fair few establishments. It’s been fantastic to see a multitude of events and activities organised by the art and music scenes that are open, affordable and made by people you’ll run into about town. This is people making culture for themselves, not just consuming what drips from the teats of the elite. It’s a place, and a philosophy, that I’ve committed to being a part of and contributing to. And I intend to do that mainly (but not exclusively) with words.

Speaking of words, this blog has been dormant for quite a while. This is due to a variety of reasons (pathetic excuses). I don’t have internet at home and do most of my online business from cafes or during spare time at the office, but internet access just hasn’t really been coinciding with the peace and quiet I like to write in. Even though I recently bought DSL, there have been technical faults with it and the language barrier is making getting it fixed slow progress. When I first moved here with some savings I went down under a wave of hedonism, as newcomers are wont to do. Since becoming more established, I also got some paid writing gigs (yay!) which took up some time away from my personal work, but sadly didn’t come close to paying the bills (aw), leading me into full time employment with some crazy shifts.

It’s not all been deathly quiet on the writing front, and I’ve been working on some new pieces that might appear here, although they are large and might not fit the tone of a personal blog, and so I’m considering renovating this corner of the interwebs to reflect that, or just making a new site for them. In any case I wanted to crank up TSS again and get back into a routine of blogging. I don’t really want this site to be mainly super self indulgent posts about me, but before I get things going again I felt it appropriate to say a little something about where I am now.

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~ by theserpentscircle on May 10, 2014.

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