He was tall and blonde and rolled his own cigarettes. From the stories he told me, Berlin seemed like such a free and at times lawlessly hedonistic place. At the time, my girlfriend and I frequently talked about how we had to visit. Growing up in Canada, I romanticized Europe. I ended up moving to Berlin in 2014.
I love Berlin’s kiez culture. Each neighborhood has its own flavor, and many people feel most comfortable in their kiez, especially in the fall and winter. Each neighborhood in Berlin differs drastically via its own architecture. In the grey, bitter winter, Berlin is a jarring, sometimes dystopian landscape, but there is beauty in that. Towering, block-like Soviet apartments stand next to beautiful altbau old houses with ornate façades, next to Bauhaus landmarks. At times, it’s such a dour city, but somehow that makes it charming.
My kiez is close to Tempelhof, an abandoned airport that has been re-claimed as a public park. In the summer, I ride my bike there every chance I get. It’s sheer bliss to cruise down the middle of the runway with the wind at your back.
In your kiez, it’s essential to have a great relationship with your local späti, or bodega, or kiosk, or corner store, or whatever name you use in your city. Spätis are the heart and soul of Kreuzberg and Neukölln, especially in the summer when the filled sidewalk doubles as openair bars. You can tell the club kids by their beat-up sneakers, and after moving to Berlin, I stopped trying to keep my sneakers clean. —Chris Danforth
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