Much of the 20th century saw Germany shaken by World Wars, cruel regimes, physical division and eventual freedom. Berlin remained at the centre during this time, and its tumultuous history has helped shape the city into the multifaceted, liberal powerhouse it is today.
Abandoned spy stations, skeletal buildings, forgotten theme parks and deserted bunkers are scattered throughout Berlin. Steeped in history and an eerie beauty, these sites continue to draw in urban explores to capture the city’s hollow remains.
After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, labour shortages saw many foreign workers moving to Berlin; although the program was originally temporary, generations later many of these works still call the city home. Moreover, since 2011 through to today, expats and asylum seekers have been flocking to the city, further weaving their cultures into Berlin’s identity.
It’s hard to find a corner of Berlin that isn’t singing with street art, particularly in trendy neighbourhoods, Kreuzberg and Neukölln. The vibrant city streets reflect the artistic energy humming in the air.
Since major Klaus Wowereit dubbed Berlin ‘poor but sexy’ over a decade ago, artists have flocked to the city. To this day, the city still maintains its pull for artists, reflecting its long history of inspiring creatives.
Berlin is an epicentre for musical exploration and has embodied a kind of sanctuary for artists over the years, including the likes of Bowie and Iggy Pop. This has led to the city being captured and remembered through music, creating a sort of soundtrack for Berlin.
Berlin’s multicultural society has integrated itself nicely into the foodie scene. The effect is a diverse, delicious gastronomy landscape, rich in street food markets, unique restaurants and signature dishes.
Punk culture thrived towards the end of the Berlin Wall era and well after its fall. In certain parts of the city, OG punks can still be found squatting, drinking and asking for weed money. On the first of May each year, known as May Day, the city ignites in this anti-establishment energy as everyone takes to streets to party and protest.
On August 29, 1867, 42-year-old lawyer Karl Heinrich Ulrichs went before the German parliament in Munich to urge the repeal of laws forbidding sex between men. His first pleas were met with a mixed response of hushed agreements and silencing outcries. Ulrichs, essentially the first gay activist, encountered censorship and ended up in exile; however, his ideas gradually took hold. Fast-forward to the Roaring Twenties in Berlin when gay subcultures flourished, halted only by the Second World War. Slowly but surely, the embracing of LGBTQ culture found its way back into the city, and it remains a special place for these communities.
The liberated, open energy of Berlin creates an atmosphere where, paired with its diverse society and community-oriented mindset, this allows a space for people to express themselves freely.