CHANGE IN BERLIN
from the forthcoming magazine
BERLIN BY LODOWNMAGZINE
CHANGE IN BERLIN - THE ONLY CONSTANT…
SO GET USED TO IT!
By Yasmin Martinelli
“Still don't know what I was waitin' for
And my time was runnin' wild
A million dead end streets and
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
How the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test
I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
And so the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're goin' through
Turn and face the strange
Don't tell them to grow up and out of it
Turn and face the strange
Where's your shame?
You've left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can't trace time”
Changes, David Bowie, 1972
Who better to segue into this foray on the hands of time than our wonderfully eccentric, endlessly inspiring one time Berlin transplant, Ziggy Stardust.
The Thin White Duke needed a change from what had become humdrum which was actually a rather sordid affair between hotel suites, drugs galore, and imminent rockstar burnout. He later said, “Life in L.A. had left me with an overwhelming sense of foreboding. I had approached the brink of drug-induced calamity one too many times, and it was essential to take some kind of positive action. For many years Berlin had appealed to me as a sort of sanctuary-like situation. It was one of the few cities where I could move around in virtual anonymity. I was going broke; it was cheap to live. For some reason, Berliners just didn’t care. Well, not about an English rock singer, anyway.”
But of course the Berlin of 1976 far differs from that of the city now. In an overwhelming bid for total transformation, the city can be summed up pretty accurately in one word: Baustelle. The skyline is populated with cranes in every direction you glance. Digging up and resurfacing the old, levelling and breaking ground to build up the new, Berlin is one massive construction site that’s changing everyday - and no - it will never be the same. Not like yesterday, 1943, or last February but it’s an indelible, inevitable truth: with time comes change and with change comes growth. You’re not the same as you were in 1993 so how can you expect Berlin to be?
Then again, from time to time one can't help but remember the good ol' days. Maybe out with friends over a few drinks, it comes up and we all start waxing lyrical on the Berlin from back in the day. And we're not even Berliners.... imagine how they feel! Remember when a beer/rent/Döner cost just (some ridiculously cheap price!) Remember when you could just climb over/run up/jump/slide down that wall/hill/tracks/ramp! Remember when that bar/restaurant/club used to blah blah blah?!
It’s easy to look back with fondness on the so-called heyday of yesteryear whether for you that was skating the uncharted, unpatrolled concrete slabs of Kreuzberg, or dancing in the dark sweaty techno haven of Ostgut, or tagging artful nothings on the walls of Ubahn stations at night whilst friends of yours vandalised abandoned storefronts which are now fancy boutiques or maybe Spätis.
Of course relics of the past linger in the air and on the streets which make you wonder just how deep a place can be steeped in tradition and its own history. Berlin’s tumultuous past and scarred topography influence the way it looks and breathes and seethes today. Her fate has never been sealed and for that very reason, she is confounding and intriguing. Seemingly open for change and evolution, growth and reassertion at any given time. And on any given night, you have no idea where her winds will take you, gliding along on her graciousness from happy faces and warm meals shared in the company of your nearest and dearest.
But so what, everything’s changed: rent, food, graffiti, foreigners, lurkers, clubs, pubs, parks, the EasyJet set, Broken Hearts Club, Poor but Sexy parties, Neukölln!, Wedding, Bar25, Maria am Ostbahnhof, Watergate, Rosenthalerplatz, Wienerstraße, Weserstraße, the list goes on, Mitte and its poncey shops and cafés, CastingAllee, An Aesop on Reichenbergerstraße?!, stamps cost 75¢ (more than a loaf of bread!), an Ubahn ticket is the price of two ice cold brewskis (think I’ll take my bike), the congregation of dealers outside a funny little club called Suicide Circus in Friedrichshain is bigger than anywhere else in Berlin :O Would would’ve thunk it? Boy oh boy, yes, Berlin has changed, but so have you and that’s what makes you interesting and engaging cos if you had to eat the same thing everyday, even if it were the most delicious Wurst, that would all be rather blasé, wouldn’t you say?
One could hopelessly cling to a bygone notion of what Berlin once was and the fantastic ghosts from once upon a time but it would be like clinging to an unexpected gust of wind that rushed in and swept all the ladies dresses up over their heads to reveal their knickers. A moment’s serendipitous joy - here one moment gone the next. If you’re around to experience it - soak up all the glory and savour savour savour. Cause how long is now? However good it feels now cannot and shall not be compared it to how good it may have been “then” or could be in the foreseeable future. There’s no time like the present and what a time to be alive it truly, truly is.