Über cosmo, genuine, tense, & intensely sexy. Step into the heart of Berlin and you might find that he wears it on his sleeve. It is a metro, as I’ve come to experience, where people have developed a keen sense for genuine social interaction: I mean, where conversations are taken seriously as a way to get to know the other person really without feeling the need to relate to them. And maybe this rather objective stance is learned from having to engage daily with people from all walks of life, because it is pretentious to say that you can really relate to a life exotic to yours. So, no one is overly nice: no shelf here for that “Best Friend of the Year” award. Maybe this claim is true for most well integrated cities as richly multicultural, but the balance between passionate engagement and respectful distance seems to me uniquely Berliner.
So where do you actually start? Find a local and hang out with them for a day. It’s easy, because Berliner (see above). I stayed at a MisterB&B for a night with a fantastic host named Matthias. He was born and raised in the Dolomites, and have come to the city to pursue a passion in film making. Briefly: Matthias and I spent the first 3-4 hours of meeting chatting, mostly about art, in his kitchen over 3 cups of coffee each. At 7, inspired and caffeinated, we headed out to grab döner kebabs nearby. Then, we bought beer at a spätkauf (or späti) and Mattias gave me a leisurely walking tour of Mitte–the center of Berlin–until it was time to debauch at Chantal’s House of Shame. And so the night went.
“the balance between passionate engagement and respectful distance seems to me uniquely Berliner.”
I spent the rest of my trip by myself. In those subsequent days, I met numerous other people, locals and non locals alike, who’ve come to the capital for an opportunity to live vigorously, whether for the time being or indefinitely. They all deftly maneuvered between social graces and debauch passion. I cannot go into the details, but the account I provided of Mattias and me is exemplary of how right and enjoyable the varying pace that Berliners take is.
It’s important to note that various people have expressed that while as one said “If you’re Jewish, you’re good. If you’re gay, you’re good.” (I read ‘good’ to mean policies are in place), minorities sometimes face discrimination. But to what extent and whether it is the natives or the other minorities who practice this immoral behavior remains unclear to me. Unfortunately, none of this is surprising that we can guess the answers. And while I never saw or felt it myself the warnings did at times put a tinge of suspicion on my otherwise insouciant days.
But Berlin’s tumultuous history presents a great opportunity to explore any feelings of suspicion. I wish that everyone who goes to Berlin would visit the Holocaust museum. I went there after observing at the Neues museum some of humanity’s most extraordinary achievements. So it was in sharp emotional contrast to take in painful, sorrowful stories from one of humanity’s most catastrophic episodes, the nadir of human behavior: the collective exercise of genocide. I cried hard. And because crying is evidence that we have thoroughly explored our emotions, I left there knowing that it has enriched, rather than dampen, my time in Berlin. And what is a love affair anyway without the consummation of heartbreak and joy.
I will go back many, many more times.