Another piece about swinging Berlin, this time in the New York Times. The author, Adam Fisher, gets carried away! by the fabulousness a little, but we forgive him, because he profiles lots of interesting people. Excerpts follow:
Berlin, the biggest city in continental Europe by far, has actually been losing its German population for years, but for the last five years… that loss has been more than made up for by an influx of expats. What’s more, they’re settling down: buying funky apartments, starting creative businesses, having precocious children. ”We’re a little overrun,” [Exberliner publisher Nadja] Vancauwenberghe concludes, looking out her window. For a long time, the neighborhood outside, Prenzlauer Berg, boasted a thriving international squat scene. Today the main strip is choked with baby strollers and stylish boutiques.
The expats who are gentrifying Prenzlauer Berg are creative types, the kind of people who don’t necessarily want a standard career. This is perhaps a good thing, since the unemployment rate in Berlin is currently around 20 percent. There may not be many opportunities for regular employment, but there are plenty of good gigs. For musicians, Berlin is an ideal staging ground; its central location makes touring Europe easy and more profitable. For visual artists, it’s all about the city’s cultural wealth. Berlin’s divided legacy means that there are twice the number of museums and art-supporting institutions than usual. Plus there is a long tradition of social tolerance here.
Berlin is undoubtedly fun. The loose liquor laws don’t require bars to close until the last patron has quaffed his last drink, and some club parties can go for the entire weekend. If there is any problem with Berlin, it may be that it’s too free, too wild. ”Rent is cheap, studio space is cheap, but for every artist, there’s also a spot on a guest list,” says Alex Konuk, the half-American, half-German owner of 8MM, a dive bar with an intellectual air. ”So the test here is being able to live up to the creative standards you’ve set for yourself.”
Things are invariably provisional, experimental, cerebral. But what could be a Teutonic bore is leavened with a comic exuberance that is irony-free. There is no better place to enjoy this than at Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke Bar in the still-raw neighborhood of Friedrichshain. Monster himself — a k a Ron Rineck, a 32-year-old American expat decked out in a Mohawk, suit and tie — greets you at the door and ushers your party to one of the many soundproof karaoke booths. Rineck has been in Berlin almost since the beginning. His story is one of the weirdest, but it’s also emblematic of how much Berlin has changed, and how much it has stayed the same.