Weekly Feature

berlin, berlin travel, berlin germany travel, germany travel

Cultural Capitals: Berlin

August 28, 2008
by Sarah Amandolare
Having steadily climbed its way out of Cold War doldrums, Berlin has been born again as a thriving cultural hotspot that combines glamour, gritty determination and historical weight.

Earnest Artists

Among the adjectives used by Travel and Leisure writer Gary Shteyngart to describe the city and its thriving art scene, the word “earnest” stands out. Because of low rent and a cooperative atmosphere, Berlin’s young artists are more poor-but-happy than jaded and cynical. They show their excitement openly, and display genuine care for “the communities they have forged,” Shteyngart writes. But despite the city’s pervasive energy, and although the bars and clubs party relentlessly, Shteyngart still sees Berlin as “the world’s capital of informality.”   

Creative and Curious

If the vibe sounds peculiar, consider Berlin local Michaela Lola Abrera’s advice: “Living in Berlin demands that you actively seek out its hidden haunts and break barriers.” It seems Berlin is not easily deciphered, making it “the perfect place for curiosity-seekers and non-conformists,” Abrera writes in her essay on the city’s “Spreepark,” posted on the geography blog Bearings.

Denny Lee of The New York Times calls the city akin to “New York City in the 1980s … rents are cheap, graffiti is everywhere and the air crackles with a creativity that comes only from a city in transition.” In a multimedia slideshow accompanying the Times piece “36 Hours in Berlin,” get a view of the city’s psychedelic lounges, stylish young residents, impressive architecture, like the glass-ceiling train station and the floating sauna at Badeschiff, and typically European flea markets and cozy cafes.

Berlin held its first Fashion Week in July 2007. Before the big event, some of fashion’s key players wondered just how the city’s quirky fashion sense would play out on stage. According to NPR, Melissa Drier, German Correspondent for Woman’s Wear Daily, was unsure of whether “unglamorous Berlin, with its preference for street style over designer labels can or should be the next Paris.” Said Drier, “I think we first have to let Berlin be Berlin, and let people take advantage of that.”

Berlin Lore

On his blog The Northern Light, journalist Sean Dodson revealed intriguing facts about Berlin’s celebrity-soaked Paris Bar: the well-known painting of the bar by Martin Kippenberger is now owned by Charles Saatchi, but the rest of Kippenberger’s collection remains inside the notorious watering hole. In 1979, Iggy Pop was interviewed for Rolling Stone inside the Paris Bar, and became so inebriated that he ended up “rolling around on the ice in the street outside.”

Most Recent Features