By Matthew Breen
Möbel Olfe bar in Kreuzberg
Berlin’s divisions inform its many modern dualities. The city is the center of government and mass culture, and the center of protest and counterculture. Though the infrastructure is in flux (the new Brandenburg airport has gone well past its expected completion date of 2010), it’s still easy to get around, and a very visitor-friendly city. Unemployment is very high by national standards, yet the cultural offerings that have arisen from the craft of otherwise unemployed creative people—from all-hours clubs to impromptu art exhibits in warren-like alleyways and courtyards—have become a major draw for tourists, and economic engines in their own right. Buildings that had been abandoned for many years are now in quasi-sanctioned temporary use, so the party calendar and map shifts regularly, giving eternal novelty to many of Berlin’s cultural offerings.
Taking any opportunity to enjoy warm weather, Germans gather at one of the outdoor bars facing the Spree River
Don’t speak German? Don’t worry. Long gone are the days when an American accent was remotely exotic. Americans have been living here in such great numbers for such a long time that we’re a dime a dozen, and a recent influx of Brooklynites has caused some to christen the city “Berlyn.”