The Berlin Vibe
Berlin‘s alternative subculture gives the city a unique feel, a “Berlin vibe” – one that can only be felt and understood by being fully immersed in it.
It was an unusually warm afternoon as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds hovering above Berlin. I walked under a bridge that is Kottbusser Tor station, towards two guys (a friend of a friend and his friend) who I had never met before. When I say it out loud, it sounds like something that would worry my mother terribly. However, I was welcomed with gracious smiles, a light hug and a large cold bottle of beer. The thing about traveling to foreign places is that you need to learn to read body language and trust the well-meaning locals. It also helps when you’ve got friends or their buddies in the right places like I did. I immediately felt comfortable and familiar with the two. We opened up and drank our beers to cool off as we made our way to an open-air bar in Kreuzberg.
Get into it
The moment we stepped into Birgit & Bier, I felt like I was transported to a nostalgic playground for adults. It is furnished with a repurposed carousel, a ping pong table, a broken-down piano, wooden benches, stalled rides and old-school bumper cars, carnival garlands and a dusty foosball table. We could not let the opportunity pass. We put down our new set of beers (when in Germany, right?) and invited a man sitting on the bleachers with a pen, paper and a smile (we later learned that he’s a writer) to join us for a match of tabletop football – and what a game it was! I initially planned on leaving early but we ended up spending the rest of the evening chatting and appreciating the people around us. “You see,” one of my new friends said, “what makes Berlin so special isn’t its location or physical attributes; it’s the vibe.” And he’s right.
An alternative state of mind
Looking at the city itself, there is nothing quite “spectacular” about its aesthetics. Berlin is lined with post-war buildings and graffiti, and there are some areas that are still in need of a clean-up. That said, Berlin is in the process of revitalization. What’s special about this city is the locals’ ability to find life in—and make the most out of what they have. Berlin beams with opportunity, openness, creativity, and an alternative state of mind. These are reflected in the city’s art scene, eccentric bars and cafes, multicultural pop-up markets and restored parks.
Rooftop views with a collective soul
Perched on top of Neukölln Arkaden, once a parking lot, Klunkerkranich has been turned into a proper (legal) gathering place with unmatched views of the city. Decorated with plants, hanging lights, contemporary and abstract art, repurposed shoes (now used as flower pots), and furnished with wooden tables and benches, a swing and a multi-tiered deck, Klunkerkranich has become an oasis in the midst of the busy core. During the day, one can expect to see sun seekers lying around, digital nomads working on their laptops, and city dwellers catching up over beer or coffee. In the afternoons and evenings, the bar hosts various events such as live jazz jams, DJ sets and pop-up markets.
Exquisite food, textile and buskers
On Tuesdays and Fridays, expect to see Turkish stalls set up at the border of Neukölln and Kreuzberg neighborhoods, along Landwehr Canal. It’s a favorite among locals and a great place to pick up fresh fruits, international pastries, affordable fabric, leather goods and small gifts. After a long stroll, grab a treat and a cup of Turkish coffee. Sit on the wooden deck by the canal and let the wonderful sounds of buskers serenade you.
Graffiti as a cultural expression and historical homage
The graffiti scene in Berlin is not to be missed. Its characteristic concrete walls and rundown alleyways have become the canvas of local and visiting artists from all over the world. This is evident in every neighborhood and nook in the city. Even the Berlin Wall (what’s left of it) is covered in poignant paintings. Through powerful murals that retell the stories of its past, personal expressions, comical breaks and appeals for social and political reforms today, these street artists lead Berlin’s alternative subculture.
Lounge around an airport-turned-park
What better way to use a dilapidated facility than turning it into a humongous park, right? While Tempelhofer Feld used to be a busy airport during World War II, like many other buildings in Berlin, because of its troubling history, it had been abandoned for years. Today, it is owned by the government and has been opened to public use as a park. The airfield is no longer a runway for planes or training ground for soldiers but is now where cyclists, skateboarders, kite surfers, joggers, picnickers, and dogs can relax, get together and enjoy.
by Kimberly JY