13 March 2016

Crossing the City

Last month, I had the chance to head to the eastern part of Berlin again. We live in the former west, and Berlin being a big city, it's not always the case that we cross the city back and forth every week. And once again, when I got there, I had the feeling that I stepped into a totally different world.

I headed to Friedrichshain to check out a bookshop. Anyway, the moment I got out of the S-Bahn station in Warschauer Strasse, I immediately noticed the difference. So many hipsters! This is after all, hipster mecca. Hipsters flock to Berlin, but not just to any neighborhood, but especially to this one. You see stickers all over the place declaring Hipster Pride. You listen to the ambient conversation and German cannot be heard. You look at the outfits, and you'll see beards and skinny jeans all over the place. In fact, as I got out of the S-Bahn, I saw several people lugging large pieces of luggage, arriving from the airport perhaps, as evidenced by their bag tags still attached on their luggage, while wearing skinny jeans. I guess style outranks comfort when it comes to travel.

I walked a few meters from the S-Bahn station to catch the tram. And sure enough, there were plenty of cafes, as well as vegan restaurants. Average age of the crowd is perhaps mid-twenties. It's totally different from the scenery that I encounter here in the west. And every time I find myself in the east, I wonder and get amazed at how versatile this city is. There is something for everyone, of course.

There's the hipster mecca of Friedrichshain, there's the touristy area of Mitte, there's the Turkish enclaves of Neukolln, the Arab and African enclaves of Wedding, the Russians and the Asians in Charlottenburg, and the rich and famous in Zehlendorf and Dahlem. As much as I have had the experience of living in several different cities around the world, perhaps this is the first time in which I actually have come to appreciate the diversity and vastness of a city and its changing social make-up.

So even though I have the feeling that I am already too old to feel like I fit in in Friedrichshain, I still appreciate that this neighborhood exists, if not solely for the purpose of having diversity, that the city offers something for everyone.


  1. I would love to cross the city like that. It would mean a lot to me... I remember all these years of the ugly wall... we grew up learning about Berlin West and Berlin East! It seems so crazy looking back.

    1. Zhu,

      Nowadays the wall isn't there anymore, and we can freely go back and forth, yet there still is somehow a cultural divide. Sometimes it is subtle, other times it is quite obvious.