I don’t know, if it is true everywhere in the world, but I suspect, it is. There are desireable places to go to and live in. Exciting cities, people from rural or small town places dream about. For westerners of my age, this shining, promising places were most likely London and New York. Hip, cool, places. Hard to get to, to dig your heels in and make some sort of living. Earning you an invisible badge of honour, if you managed to survive there for a while. I am sure, there are likewise places, South Americans dream of. Maybe Rio or Mexico City, I don’t know. I guess, Melbourne would be it for Australians? And what about the Chinese? Beijing? Definitely Shanghai, if I had to take a pick. And what about the former East? Moscow? Saint Petersburg? In Africa or Arabia I wouldn’t know which places to guess, but I am sure, they exist.
“If you make it there, you can make it anywhere”
Wasn’t Frank Sinatra stating this about New York?
But Berlin. What is it about Berlin, that makes everyone want to visit? And those, who come to live here, surely don’t come, because Berlin offers that legendary hardship, one has to overcome, to eventually earn the title “Berliner”. People come for a laugh and a party. Hardship will reveal itself upon waking up.
I’d call Berlin the gap city. A conglomerate of separate villages (called Kietz here), with plenty of gaps between them, still, to make it a.) the greenest city I know and b.) leaving enough wild corners, open space and abandoned buildings to be occupied and habitated by alternative folks. Who in turn make the city desireable for more of those creative folks. Pulling them into Berlin. Add to that the interesting history of a parted town recently united, with the big gap, the Berlin wall left along either side of it and there you have the hip-factor explained.
To this day, people wiggle themselves into abandoned corners, opening their own, urban gardens. Find unused industry buildings to set up flea markets or food markets. Mostly both. Business space owners, who can’t find suitable lessees give the places temporarily to artists for exhibition space, asking no rent at all, just charging the additional property expenses. Even the city itself has much land and real estate dealt out on temporary contracts to small businesses offering city sports and entertainment facilities (skating, climbing, golf driving ranges, raves, party locations and what not).
But all of this is threatened by its own success. As the city fills up, the gaps close. Prices go up, gentrification is in full swing. I fear, what is so attractive about Berlin will soon be gone. Please, mind the gap!