Berlin's Besonderheit: There's Something in the Air
What has struck me about living in Berlin this summer is the sense that I'm part of something special, that there is something wonderful in the air and we're all here experiencing it together. This place is filled with so many colourful characters following their hearts and doing what they love, with other like-minded souls, in a liberal, creative and hugely historic place. It creates this exhilarating environment like nowhere else I've been.
Whilst hanging out at Mauerpark on a stinking hot day, the blinding sun high in the sky, fresh on this side of the summer solstice, we were drawn to a band playing under the shade of the trees. Initially attracted by the large crowd and the rendition of a stonking techie track they were playing, we found it like nothing we’d ever seen or heard - the band were making beautiful music with the aid of everyday kitchen pots. Noisy Pots, a fitting name for the band, hail from Prague and come up to Berlin to play gigs in the city, usually at Mauerpark. Until they get shut down, yet again, by the Polizei for not having the correct busking permit.
To be a part of this crowd who were totally entranced by these exceptionally ingenious, talented guys playing beautiful music on pots, with an additional layer of awesome from a guy dancing beside the band who was quite possibly one of the best dancers I've seen, to witness the disbelieving smiles on people’s faces: this was a truly Berlin moment, a time I felt grateful to share this delight with others.
Last weekend I was stoked to see Beirut, an old school favorite of mine, at the Zitadelle in Spandau. After biking through massive Volksparks, along the river path through hundreds of Gartenhäuser, we rocked up to the gig and in a moment of true serendipity, the first people we laid eyes on sold us tickets for a fraction of the door price. We wandered into the citadel and were stunned. Built on top of a medieval fort on an island where the Havel and Spree rivers meet, the ancient fortress was completed in 1594. It’s now used for music festivals, events and exhibitions, and houses creative spaces, museums and galleries, as well as a restaurant.
The massive dance area was lined with stalls offering an array of street food and refreshments. We ate our vegan hamburgers, washed down with Berlin's finest, soaking up the venerable surrounds in a crowd of hundreds. When the synth pop band started, I was amazed at how relaxed, peaceful and enchanted the crowd were, which naturally grew once Beirut came on stage. It felt meditative, though, the crowd not really dancing like we would back home, but barely swaying, mellow, heads nodding in time with the music, entranced by the captivating music. Again, everyone had smiles on their diles, open and sympatico to one another. It was pure grace.
And then there are times that I just have to laugh at the eccentricity of this place: the poet who wrote my Beau and I poems whilst hanging out in a park in Mitte in the early hours of the morning; the lifeguards at the (indoor) swimming pool smoking at the water’s edge while watching swimmers lapping the pool and retirees aquaerobicising; the young boy shouting at me as I crossed the road whilst the traffic light was still red ("the red man is still there, you MUST wait for the green man!"); the bus driver who couldn't pull up to the bus stop without crashing into the curb; walking through Savignyplatz and a man unbeknownst to me standing up, waving and giving me a wink.
There is a Besonderheit, a uniqueness or distinctiveness to Berlin that lures you in, gets you every time. There is an impulse to bottle summer, to freeze the city in time, and maybe it’s the inevitability of change that makes the summer shine like it does.
By Emily Lucas
Photos © Emily Lucas
Emily loves chasing the summers and splitting her time between New Zealand and Berlin. She is currently studying to become a Health and Nutrition Coach and loves to write her blog - Super Foodie.