This may be obvious to the world already, but Berlin is having its moment right now for millennials.
As a city torn by war, division and debt for half a century, it has emerged victorious and turned itself into a mecca for artists, entrepreneurs and millennials. It is a marvelous place where sharp minimalist architecture merges with dilapidated grunge. Where being surrounded by the history, the art and the overpowering energy constantly feeds one’s creativity while one is there.
During an interview in 2004, the governing mayor, Klaus Wowereit, declared the memorable and perfect M.O. of the city as “Berlin is poor but sexy.” Poor but sexy is what accurately describes the majority of young people living in the 21st century, and it’s no wonder that so many millennials are flocking to Berlin in order to construct lives in a place that seems to impose no boundaries. Those who currently visit and live in Berlin can noticeably feel that they are taking part in an extraordinary movement, one that is defined by creativity, freedom and revival.
It feels as if there is a Bohemian Revolution taking place, a type of modern Renaissance. Individuals eagerly live a modest existence while creating by day and giving in to hedonism by night. If you want to do art and submerge yourself in creativity, Berlin is the place to go. Berliners embody the spirit of today’s millennials by working any number of odd and creative jobs, from modeling and freelance writing to media and marketing, and identifying themselves as artists that partake and join together multiple platforms. This manifests in the amalgam of creative activities such as dance parties that spin gypsy electro swing and therapeutic communicative meditation for lesbians. Anything you imagine can be created and can find an outlet and an audience.
Unlike many other European capitals that are surrounded by immaculate historic structures, much of Berlin’s space appears brand new or run-down or both. The minimalist, utilitarian buildings with sleek grey and glass façades effectively contrast with old train stations and derelict artsy buildings which gives the city the appearance of invention and recreation. The most attractive sites are those that were once destroyed and abandoned that have now been covered with graffiti and recreated for public use. Notable examples are the deserted Templehof Airport that is now the city’s largest park and the ramshackle warehouses down below Warschauer Strasse station that put on eclectic dance parties throughout the night. The act of claiming old spaces to recreate and revive them for communal rather than commercial use is empowering and refreshing. Citizens revel in grunge, they make the decrepit edgy and beautiful, and it is divine.
This sense of anti-establishment and counterculture channels through the city’s veins and is what drives Berlin’s current allure for millennials. It is the site for imagination, experimentation and expression. Queers, punks, artists and hipsters from all over are all welcome. A PR representative at a fashion house that I met at an art exhibit spoke to me about Berlin. She said, “Berlin is in its moment right now. There isn’t really any significant industry, but there is creativity and design. But what is going on here at the moment is not real life and it will come to pass.”
There is definitely much about Berlin that does not feel like real life that feels much more surreal. But as this woman says, perhaps this magnificent moment in Berlin’s history will come to pass in a few years. With forces such as gentrification that are already beginning to show, this is not out of the question. Which is all the more reason to go to Berlin as soon as you can to witness a historic city revolutionarily revive itself in the most exciting way.