In 2008 I lived in Berlin. It’s a vast adult playground of earthly delights, diversions and shiny, distracting baubles. Its maddeningly vibrant during the summer. It’s as though life is amplified to full volume and there is no dimmer switch. The sky sits very high up and the sun is beaming down with a warm, all embracing glow.
In the summer, people are tanned, athletic, positive, active and everyone has a smile plastered on their faces.
There are hundreds of kilometers of dedicated bike paths, which are wonderful if you are a cyclist.
Each day you rumble underneath of the canopies of urban tree-lined streets. In the newly gentrified Ost-Berlin suburbs, you can find all sorts of delights and treasures.
Florists overflow with spring blooms. Antique shops flog furniture and tid-bits from the Weimar Republic. Book shops sell books in English and German. Brunch places turn into restaurants that turn into night clubs.
Old underground bunkers from the war turn into techno clubs and BDSM clubs. Charming little parks and strips of green are observed by refurbished and revived terrace houses from before the Second World War.
Along the Berlin Wall, people haphazardly park their bikes. On one side there’s a road and on the other side of the wall there are beach bars and beach sand, creating a tropical atmosphere on the banks of the Spree river.
This festive, mock tropical place features a beach shack where you can buy different types of beer, all priced conveniently cheaper than water – which can lead to problems.
Spree-side is a Berliner’s loungeroom and sprawling alongside the river is where its perfect to just shoot the shit, take a rest, talk with friends and generally mooch around, philosophise and contemplate everything- which is what being young is all about isn’t it.
The chaotic, rambunctious, rebellious and radical anti-authoritarian punk side of Berlin appealed to my sense of how the world should be, of how I wanted to be.
It was from this well-spring of punk aesthetic that people got energy, got creativity and found themselves I thought. The underground music and art scene in Berlin gives the city its soul, charisma and charming way of not giving a fuck about anything.
While in Berlin I fell in love with bikes for the first time. A bike then became like supernatural being – a centaur or minotaur that could transform from an inanimate collection of metal into a magical creature ushering me from one place to another, on a magic carpet ride of sensory experiences of sights, smells, sounds, bodily sensations. At the same time the bike would also tone up your legs and arse and turn you magically into the hot person you always longed to be. Wow! bikes are fucking amazing I thought to myself, and that sentiment has always remained.
Although there is another side to Berlin, the working side which involves the daily commute on the U-Bahn to one’s workplace, however other than seeing those shadowy figures on the train with grey clothing and solemn expressions I really couldn’t tell you what working in Berlin was like.
I was so intent on living a poor Bohemian life that I really had no idea what was in store for me in the future. The notion of hard work was a remote concept reserved for middle aged people who had no lives, or so I thought.