Berlin, without a doubt is a city with a bleak and sordid past. Without forgetting their origins, the historic city is undergoing face lift, a slow process but a rejuvenating one nonetheless.
The most intriguing thing about Berlin is that you can see the beginnings of a new city being built up from the disjointed neighbourhoods, which show such fluidity in neighbouring European cities. The fall of the wall happened a mere 27 years ago and the memory of this is still evident in not only the architecture but also in the people who roam the city. The mecca of all things hipster, it’s not a society driven façade, Berliners are the originals all unique and mismatched this city is the epitome of edgy and is truly a wonderland. The incomparable nightlife, bohemian neighbourhoods and cutting edge art scene are just a few things Berlin has to offer and the unparalleled vibe is something that cannot be written or spoken about, it is simply unexplainable.
The urban street art so prominent in Berlin, wraps any available and submissive surface, with artists from all over the world coming to make their infallible mark across the city. Berlins alternative walking tour, may seem a little conventional, but they take you on a route, which without the local know how, would be undiscoverable. The guides are armed with inside information about the city but also an array of artist specific knowledge, for all you spray can enthusiasts.
Haus Schwarzenberg was a pit stop of said tour and the art crammed into this tiny space is a feast for the eyes. The last arbitrator in a highly gentrified area of Hackescher Market, the unostentatious space is run by a non-profit organisation where they allow creativity to flourish. A space of sculpture, studios, bars and an art-house cinema, Haus Schwarzenberg is a true representation of Berlin pre renovation.
The East Side Gallery stands as the largest open-air mural collection in the world and its iconicity acts as haunting reminder of the huge divide it created in humanity. The Berliners relentless efforts to prevent the past from tainting their future is epitomised at the East Side Gallery. It’s a celebration of their liberation, splattered with over 100 murals from artists from all over the world exulting this freedom and portraying joyous optimism and strong political statements.
Art is not only on the streets, Berlin has such a high concentration of art galleries its hard to turn a corner without stumbling into one and despite the city’s economic difficulty the art scene continues to flourish. As you walk the streets of Berlin you will discover an abundance of galleries ranging from unkempt, punk-like institutions to establishments maintaining a more dignified ere. Just like its inhabitants Berlins art scene is mainly contemporary and galleries around the city are proud to house the gigantic range of art this genre has to offer. Top destinations include; Contemporary Fine Arts, which is one of Berlins best known spaces, KW Institute for Contemporary Art and Sammlung Boros Collection which is a collection so guarded in secrecy this collection can only be viewed by appointment only making the quest for an invitation riveting itself.
Berlin’s notorious clubbing scene, not only famous in Europe but also renowned globally means people from all over the world flock to Berlin to experience this mythical yet regimented clubbing culture. Of course we’ve all heard about the elusive Berghain and the cult appeal that surrounds it; this other worldly experience starts Friday night and many eyes aren’t reunited with daylight until the early hours of Monday morning. Enduring this 48-hour party is the least of your worries, Berghain’s door policy is unlike any other, its infamously hard to get in and they door men often turn away locals and regulars alike. To give it your best shot, brush up on your basic German, don’t think of wearing anything other than black and never, ever get your phone out. In the likely event your attempt fails, Tressor the sister of Berghain is probably your best bet, with an equally specific door policy but with slightly looser reigns it’s everything you’d hope a German techno club would be. Dark and dingy with remarkable light shows, everyone’s’ aim of the game is to have a good night, and the Berliners are some of the most welcoming clubbers I’ve ever come across, they’ll be no elbowing or fisticuffs found in Berlin, just pure elation.
If you’d rather a stress free evening, the Kreuzberg neighbourhood is full of surprises, undoubtedly my most memorable evening in the city came in the form of a small, kitsch and boisterous bar called Roses. A gay bar where you leave your insecurities at the door, covered from floor to ceiling in red hot, animal print and fluffy wallpaper. With disco balls and Barbie dolls this place is a temple for a great music and even better atmosphere a true reflection of the eclectic mix of people Kreuzberg has hidden away in its nooks and crannies.
So Berlin is, in short, an industrial paradise. The city has so much to offer in terms of history and individuality from the onset. But when you sneak about under the surface of Berlin, the true discovery begins, Berlin in brimming with an eclectic mix of people, places, cultures and fashion which all seem to gel as one together. Absent is the gentrified, white wash seen across many European cities, something which Berliners will continue to fight. What’s still standing is a Shangri-la waiting for exploration.
Words by Liv Rafferty