Yes, Berlin is a special place, no doubt about that… And I’m sure this city, its creativity, the people here, the freedom that we enjoy in terms of self-expression, the amount of cultural proposals, etc. makes a big difference in the development of any artistic mind. But, as I said before: “or anywhere else”, I refuse to believe it’s just the city. If you are a restless creative mind, probably you will find your way, your stage, your voice, wherever you are, or wherever you move to.
What I mean is that just the fact of moving out of your hometown, will spice up your perspective and your need for experiencing new things. It’s the eternal out-of-the-comfort-zone technique. It’s all about you, what do you want to do and how much are you gonna chase the white rabbit. Your attitude is everything. Then the context is important, of course, I won’t denny there is places that are more creative than others. In the case of Berlin happens that it reunites a large amount of people pushing the boundaries to express their own visions. So, one way or another, bigger or smaller things get done.
When you meet someone new in town there is the common “why did you move here?” and for years I have been replying the same thing: that’s not the question, the proper question is “why don’t we leave?”. I think it’s obvious why we moved to Berlin: Large multicultural city, great cultural scene, artistic work opportunities, lots of festivals, parties, art shows, interesting people, etc, etc. All of that it’s true, and also the fact that for being one of the capitals of Europe it’s still affordable and relatively cheap.
So, it’s hard to leave the city for all those reasons, but of course it also matters a lot the friendships I built in the last years. I don’t mean the social-networks that are also important, but the people I really care for. Also because I see Berlin as the perfect ground for “positive competence”. In artistic fields I always hated to compete with others in order to prove your skills or to get the exposure you want. Berlin is different in this sense, it’s not so much about climbing a leader stepping one over another, but seeing, understanding, respecting and admiring what each one does, try to learn from that and do your best just because you want to be there next time, you want to push forward your own work. Don’t get me wrong, here you will find some of the best artists in every field, so it’s never gonna be easy, and you will have to stay in the continuous path of learning new things and evolving your work.
Once you are perfectly based and in this state of mind / work, it’s like a kind of energy that feeds from everybody’s creation. It’s like if you plugged-in your creative soul and you get as much as you give. Thinking about leaving this city makes me anxious about losing that connection, that energy.
Berlin & me 10 years ago
About Berlin, we have lost Tacheles, I will never forget a party in their main room with Hecq and Peter Puzzle. I arrived in time to experience and be part of a Wasted party, to see breakcore fade away as genre (in a way, of course there is still people digging it), I went to the first Sub:stance party (my reason to go for the first time to Berghain) and until the last one, dubstep also faded away. I came to Berlin excited to be able to attend CTM festival, and in all these years I saw Atonal and Krake Festival come to life and grow into strong proposals (and I’m happy I have been part of both in one way or another). I saw in Berlin the come back of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the ground-breaking ISAM show of Amon Tobin, the energetic live show of Animal Collective with the Strawberry Jam tour, but also many artists such as Radiohead, Colin Stetson, Luke Abbott, Lorn, Mount Kimbie, The Soft Moon, Tropics, etc.
But is not just music and parties, also art, cinema, theater and performance… Maybe the most dramatic changes in Berlin has to do with the disappearance of certain places, cultural nodes, private galleries, clubs, squats, etc. that meant something important somehow, apart of Tacheles, Platoon, Leap, Stadtbad Wedding, Landsberger Allee 54, Maria Club, the old Festsaal Kreuzberg and the old White Trash, all gone along many others I can’t even remember anymore.
Gentrification is a word we get to know and understand in the last 10 years: rentals keep on rising, old small business disappeared, fashion and more expensive stores, cafés and restaurants popped up in the once alternative areas such as Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Neukölln (holy trinity of the cool neighborhoods), Blu covered in black the mural I saw him painting just when I arrived, and so on and so forth. But this is NOT a complain! I think it’s quite logic that every city evolves, Berlin changed due to all the people who moved here, like me. That’s life, I allow myself certain nostalgia for what I remember it was, but still I celebrate the current time in the German capital.
And what about me… I certainly had some amazing 10 years, filled with the highest and lowest moments of my life. In this decade I lost my father, stopped my former business (Belio Magazine), broke up with my girlfriend (after almost 10 years together), I sold my office / loft in Madrid, but I also discovered my passion for live visuals (which has changed my career in a deep way), I went to México, Thailand, Iceland, Egypt, Canada, etc., I found love again, made lots of new friends, I turned 30 and this year I will turn 40. I met a lot of interesting people from all parts of the world, people came and left, and so far I’m still here.
Back then, in 2007 Facebook was not as relevant, but I had a Livejournal, a kind of blog, which is still online. So I recently went back there and I read (and see, yes! there is pictures) to myself from 10 years ago. Apart that I aged, of course! (got a beard) and that my English improved, of course! When I read myself at 29 years old, I can feel the innocence, the impatience and the urge of living. I think of him, and now I know all he is going to live and pass through, I wouldn’t tell him anything from this distant 2017. I would like him to live all this the way it has been, not changing one single thing. Maybe I would only whisper to him “All is good, never be afraid, it will always work out and trust always your guts”.
- Honestly, I never planned to stay longer than 3 years, then longer then 5, and then I guess I stopped counting years. At some point I felt I was here less years than I thought. Time here always feels like speeded up. Somewhere (maybe in the dark corner of some clubs) we all have lost a year or two.
- Before I moved here, I came for a week and a dear friend told me “Berlin is an ugly city but somewhere at some point you will find an spot it will make you fall in love with the city”. And it’s totally true.
- In all these years I have lived in 3 places, five years in Samariterstrasse (F’hain), three years and a half in Ostkreuz and the last year and a half in Neukölln. Someone could say I had been lucky with rentals, but honestly I have been always careful and patient enough to find the right place to live. My first rental was a whole apartment (70 sqm. aprox.) for 465 euros (all bills included) in the heart of Friedrichshain. Now it would be nearly impossible to get something like that.
- My first party in Berlin was a breakcore party at Maria Club on a Wednesday, I went back home walking, I passed by Frankfurter Allee and I told myself: “One day I gonna live here, I will ride my bike by this very same street, I will stop and kiss the lane”. And one year later I did. BTW, I still have the same bike.
- The first time I remember crying out of happiness happened here in Berlin, in 2007, right after getting our first flat. I couldn’t stop it. It just meant a lot to me.
- I came here loving winter and now I love summer just as much or even more than winter season.
- I can perfectly split this period of time in half, the first five years in the same apartment, with my girlfriend, my regular work with Belio Magazine and with certain friends. And then it was like tabula rasa: new place, new people, new friends, new life.
- If you wonder… Nope, I don’t speak German. It’s nothing I feel proud of, it just didn’t work for me. And I know this is limiting my possibilities living here. But I never felt like staying. So, I guess someone can make a living in Berlin even though you don’t speak the local language, although maybe my case it’s just something particular. I must also add that I never came looking for a job, never got one, I’m just freelancing and my costumers are mostly not related to Berlin / Germany.
- I recently read an article talking about how living abroad change psychologically your way of being. And yes, I will never be able to be back in who I was before I moved here, Madrid (my hometown) will never feel the same for me because I’m not the same. No regrets. Indeed I think living abroad is one of the best things to learn about life in general.
And what now?
That’s the million-dollar question! When I read myself from 2007 I can imagine myself in 2027 reading this and… I definitively don’t want to spoil myself the next step in this adventure. I just hope and wish the next 10 years will be as exciting as the last ones. I don’t know if I will be around, in Berlin. I have been telling myself that a decade of my life here is enough, but so far I feel at home here, I love my friends and I love my life.
But at the same time I have this feeling that people living here long enough have lost perspective on the rest of the world. Berlin becomes everything and when someone ask ourselves “Where would you go next?” We just don’t know because we can’t find anything else like this city. It’s that true? Honestly, I don’t know, but I know I don’t want to imagine living the rest of my life just here. The only thing as exciting as moving here is to imagine my life moving around, living in different countries… and why not?
All in all, I’m not gonna lie to you… Berlin had and has a great influence in my life and work. Somehow I doubt I would managed to achieve all I have done if it would not be due to the facts surrounding my life experience in this city, but… Who knows, right?
After 10 years I can perfectly say with a hand in my heart: Ich bin ein Berliner.
Thanks for reading!
Cover image by Cy Tone.
All the other images are from my livejournal back in 2007.