"My Berlin is over," says Craig Robinson (of Flip Flop Flyin
fame) in a blog entry entitled Gotta Go
"My Berlin is one where someone cutting me up on their bike makes me really angry; a Berlin where holding a door open for someone with a bicycle illicits a look of disgust not a smile or a thank you; and a Berlin where someone will be watering the plants on their balcony just as I'm walking underneath... I need to get out as soon as I can."
Of course we all experience these feelings of frustration from time to time. Except me. Except here. I fucking LOVE Berlin. I love it three years in. I love it every time I come back. I'm loving it this week, even despite the World Cup (the one thing Craig finds redeeming about the city: he calls it "the plaster over the wound"). I'm loving the banner hanging on the Oranienstrasse that says "Stupid football nationalists PISS OFF!"
The fact is, if you think Arsenal is a football team, Berlin only makes sense right now, in the grip of football mania. But if you know
that Arsenal is in fact the art screen at the Potsdamer Platz
showing the early films of Shohei Imamura this month, the "film poems" of Clive Holden, a "magical history tour", a "festival of festivals", and bits of the Tanz im August
season, you're fine.
Business as usual in Berlin means not so much business, but tons of culture. But it's also got delights unmatched by either of the cities I've recently spent time in, London or New York. The clean air. The fact that you can ride your bike on the pavement. The forests and lakes just a short elevated train ride away. The Dahlem museums, which I visited last week. The Slow Life and the sobriety. The radical politics. The environmentalism. The loud, loud birdsong. The great theatre and visual art and design you can see here. The cutting edge international architecture. The excellent public transport. The trams! The fabulous zoo. The great coffee. Such high quality of life at such a low price! How do they do it?
A classic "God, I'm glad I'm in Berlin!" moment came the other day when I visited the new organic pasta cafe at 33 Mulackstrasse in Mitte. Leo Bettini
is a South Tirolian-themed place (but in fact it's terribly "Mitte") with a deliciously cool interior (loose wooden slats around the kitchen, plain white tables and chairs) and staggeringly excellent food. Even the trip to the bathroom (with views out over a bamboo courtyard, and a delightfully clean, stark design) was great; I snapped photos, thinking how Japanese it felt. Japan with more space.
Or what about white beer for less than a euro a bottle? Apartments for less than 400 euros a month? One of which I yesterday signed a lease for! In fabulous Neubeca
, with its aromatic Turkish market!
I'm sorry Craig walks around Berlin wondering "why does it always rain on me". My experience couldn't be more different. Berlin is my place in the sun. The rain is just an old lady watering her plants, Craig. And Arsenal is really a cinema.