I love cities. Being in a place where my surroundings constantly buzz and I have little to no idea of what could happen next. So far, this drive took me from a small village in Scotland to its biggest city, Glasgow. And then to study in the city that they say never sleeps, New York. Now, having explored Paris and Prague, and visited friends in London, this time — Berlin.
Before the trip, my image of Berlin was built around a wall, its fall, and references from movies and books. Isherwood and “Cabaret”. More recently, the word spread about it being an affordable place to live, a vibrant art scene with a variety of interesting and stylish residents. This impression is confirmed through my love of blogs – with some of the best street style to be found on Berlin-based sites like “Stil In Berlin” and “Glam Canyon”. Using new technology is key to uncovering a city in a way a travel guide never can.
One of my motivations for going to Berlin was to expand my style blog, “Les Garçons de Glasgow”. For 5 days in the working week I was in Berlin meeting designers, editors and artists, and participating in the creative process with Berliners. One interesting resident is Nancy, a Shanghai-born fashion illustrator. After developing her craft in China, she moved to Berlin in 2009.
Nancy took me to Mitte, an incredibly stylish shopping district, similar to SoHo in New York (but with fewer yuppies and more artists). With independent boutiques and experimental pop-up stores lining the streets, there was more than enough fodder for my street style blog. In one of the stores, AM 1-3 – three concept stores hidden in a courtyard – a magazine caught my eye: “I Love You”. Printed on rough sugar paper with rich colours and luxe photo spreads, it compelled me to buy it. That afternoon I contacted the staff, asked to meet, got a ‘Yes’, set a date, and was in their office chatting the next day.
Their space, in a former warehouse, had its own kitchen, library and computer lab. Huge windows flooded the room with light. This was unlike any office I’d ever seen. It’s this speed and accessibility and the high standard of living that makes me like Berlin so.
Back on the street, the surroundings dwarfed me. Berlin isn’t like New York with its narrow streets and skyscrapers – everything is enormous: wide spaces, tall buildings, huge parks and cavernous underground systems. A city built for 10 million, with a current population of about 3, leaves me space to breathe. And to reflect.
The common notion of Berlin having the stereotypic German stoicism and regimentation may have elements of truth, but overall this is also a free city, where ideas and creativity flow. Berliners may be concise to the extreme, but I find this quite liberating.
Refreshed after my warm Berlin welcome, I return to Glasgow and look at the buildings, style, culture and language a little differently and will definitely stay in touch with the Millennium City .
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