Rough, reduced, poetic, essential, contemporary and real, Berlin. The equality, accepting friendliness of people, low cost of living, ease of getting about at all times of the day or night, the safety and lack of harassment, means it is an easy place to live. Going anywhere alone is normal, acceptable, and safe. In these trendy eastern districts of Prenzlauerberg, and Kreuzberg, you can go out without feeling self-conscious or that you have to conform to a prescribed sense of style. They may be spectacularly way out or dress in jeans every day, anything goes and people don’t judge each other on how they look.
Berliners have a very practical approach to everyday living, which makes life easier. Because of the honour system, public transport works efficiently, as well as being much cheaper than in London. There are no queues nor bottlenecks getting on and off the trams and underground; cars are much less used. It’s either bicycles, or trams, U-Bahn or S-Bahn, or buses. Traffic flows and also one almost always gets a seat so it all is very much easier and pleasanter travelling around. Good bike lanes make a difference, as enormously, does tolerance of bicycles by pedestrians, bus drivers and cars. They don’t try to kill cyclists, nor do they steal bicycles. In fact honesty and everyone obeying the rules is the norm. All of which is most striking and makes life much easier just like the low rents. Which of course may well have changed in ten years.
People are very health-conscious here, especially about food. There are big Bio health food supermarkets, as well as weekly organic markets. Organic food is not as expensive compared to non-organic as it is in the UK. In the Health food shops and chemists there are not shelves of vitamin or supplements, except for pregnancy, although funnily enough, there are shelves of alternative herbal remedies and tisanes to cure various health ills. That’s what they do instead of putting extracts into capsules; they make a brew.
Recycling is very easy and is an everyday part of life. The Kaiser Supermarkets give money back on plastic water bottles and the glass beer bottles and crates. Mostly beer in bottles, is what they drink, even young girls as well as boys carry open bottles of beer and drink from them on the U-Bahn or walking down the road. Like all alcohol here it is very cheap. From 0.30 to 0.5 euros per bottle and then a refund back. A good wine may cost from 3.99 to 6.99 euros and cheaper, drinkable wines start at about 2 euros in the supermarkets. The best German champagne, Sekt, (like a prosecco), was 3.99 euros special offer at Christmas and now is 6.99. It must be because Germany doesn’t tax alcohol as much as the UK does.
Berlin is the only city I know where people leave furniture, shoes, clothing, books, anything they don’t need any more, on the street for whoever can make use of it. This is not rubbish or junk but things that they don’t need any more and someone else can use. It is also not considered fly tipping and against the law with heavy fines, but rather a sharing decency. On the U-Bahn on a bench there may be a pair of pink trainers or on a street corner there may be a pair of green shoes standing there. I got all the furniture for the studio from heaps of furniture in the snow.
It is probably one of the best cities in the world to be poor and depressed in. Or just to enjoy. There is space and the energy of expectancy that they’re on the up. Berlin. My Berlin. Berlin for Artists. Berlin for Life.