Here you have a presentation of Berlin. It is not the only one, not the best or the worst, it is the product of employing a certain retrospective.

By Mercedes de Luis

2010 was the year of the conmemoration of the European history once again, and hundreds of stories from the past came again. In the same way that we are inventing ourselves from the ashes, so Berlin has the right to do the same. Let the city speaks herself trough the voices of the culture, politcians, music, cinema, families,  immigrants, young and  old people, the mass media and the myths: U2, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, Wim Wenders, Ilija Trojanow, Nancy Huston, Steinunn Sigurdardóttir, Sjón, Amma Darko, Jon Fosse, Laila Lalami, Claudio Magris, Julio Medem…my aim is giving the voice for those who have something to say about one of my favourite cities, even if I have never talked with them.Berlin Employability

“Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin”

Song by Marlene Dietrich in 1957, actress and singer born 1901 in Berlin.

“Berlin ist mehr ein Weltteil als eine Stadt”

Jean Paul, writer, 1800

Berlin ist eine Stadt, verdammt dazu, ewig zu werden, niemals zu sein”

Karl Scheffler, author of Berlin: Ein Stadtschicksal, 1910

“Berlin ist arm, aber sexy.”

Klaus Wowereit, Governing Mayor, in a television interview, 2004

I like better to live in Berlin, than in Istambul, the reason is the level of life, much cheaper than Istambul.

Aminah, shop owner in Boxhagener Strasse

We were going to Berlin, we were all in the back of a van in our sleeping bags and we had to travel through the corridor between East Germany and West Berlin. And this border guard stopped us. The song was just a little portrait of him. He was our own age, with short hair, in a uniform and his life was pretty grim and he was seeing these guys in a rock ‘n’ roll band passing through. I had a feeling that he realized how much we had in common, and yet it was all over so quickly.

“U2. Into The Heart” by Niall Stokes

In Berlin by the wall

You were five foot ten inches tall, It was very nice, Candlelight and Dubonnet on ice, we were in a small cafe, You could hear the guitars play, It was very nice, Oh, honey it was paradise

Lyrics by Lou Reed

If I had to show Berlin, I would begin saying that this is a vile multicultural, full of life, full of contradictions but also with commons points. Me, like arabe, I miss a bit of sun. For me, there are too many cars, too much effervescence. Multicultural means to build together, to understand each other, to grow up together, to live in peace everybody with everyone. Something typical of this city is the Berlin’s heart. It is possible to be found in people completely different. What is typical from Germany, in general, is the burocracy and the order, those are values which could be learnt by the non German people, and at the same time the German ones, could let themselves to be more quiet, more cool.

Raed Zaloum, director of the Education Centre for Muslims in Berlin

Berlin is an historical city. Still it is a modern city, and it attracts masses of people. Due to inmigration rules and because of the artistic movement, which finds here a way and a place not too expensive to grow up, being besides a clear context where the artists choose to live, so they make of Berlin the effervescent city that everybody knows.

In the cross of frontiers which is Berlin, the influence and confluence of the several nations which were installed over the ground, shows how productive and positive is the mix of nationalities among the population.

It is due also to the end of the second war and the division of the city with the Wall.

In a certain way, it is just the way Africa was divided when the age of the European colonialisms.

Berlin is a polis, a foreign city for herself.

The good way to see this quality is to take a walk through the city.

Dozens of eclectic buildings and edifications appear in our tour. Static and silent houses, hiding a life inside. Walking until the end of the city, the houses reveal to be full of life, because we, like citizens, have left our own lives in other countries.

So the city has been rebuilt once again, over and over the time.

Division created ilusion, missing caused “Sehnsucht”

With the German reunification, the city returned to her old main condition, from Bonn to Berlin. The Reichstag returned also to her original foro and with the Reichstag, the politic class, and also and specially, the media, the mass media.

Berlin was a mess and it became what it is today: a constant work, never ending story.

But also the young people went out. Artists, creators, intellectuals, those who looked for inspiration, and those who had found it. Berlin was in fashion.

Romantic parks, Turkey’s areas, where the life goes in a different rhythm to the German one, abandoned basements reconverted in modern bars.

Berlin was a city where the tourists came to see a piece of the wall, and after they never went again. The different festivals, which are celebrated in Berlin, from cinema, to photography or literature, are the more visible aspect of the cultural life. Also there are shops of art designers and art galleries. The little theatre rooms and little cinemas, or museums like the one dedicated to Bauhaus. The big theatres, like that one where Brecht played and the big modern cinemas. Everything has a place in Berlin.

In fact, Berlin belongs to the Clubs of the 6 creative cities of the World. From 2006 Berlin is part of this group named by UNESCO. The other cities are Buenos Aires, Popayan, Santa Fe, Aswan, and Edinburgh. The requisites were the ciphers: almost 1500 cultural events each year, 5000 students of design, 13 millions of tourists which spend night in hotels.

Those are some of the facts that Unesco shows to let the entrance to Berlin in the ranking of creative cities. And really Berlin is a city in constant evolution, a strange mix of modern with classique, of sobriety in grey colour, heritage of the soviet age, with the houses with garden and dog from the West part.

Who are the actors and agents in the process of creating new identities through architecture and what are their roles? What are the patterns and criteria for distinguishing the “own” from the “foreign” in architecture? Which are “internal” and “external” factors that influence the making of local identity?

Berlin, capital of Europe, much more than Brussels or Strasbourg.

Cultural capital. U2. Achtung Baby, Hansa Ton Studies, Berlin 1990.Nick Cave.Lou Reed. Cinema. Literature. Photography.Design. International capital of Europe. Kreuzberg, the little Istambul. Young capital of Europe.

(Thanks for your patience reading me. I wrote it during my stay in Berlin in  2010 for my blog in newspaper El norte de castilla. I want to wake up in that city that never sleeps…)

Foto: album personal