uberlin

The GIF Illustrated Guide to Writing about Berlin

by James Glazebrook

Inspired by Stuart Maconie’s excellent article “How to write about the north”, here are some pointers for journalists with their sights set on Berlin.

First: remember that “the real Berlin” is what you make it. Your New York Times article is only going to be read by expat hipsters and friends back home living vicariously through them, and neither group would know how to pronounce “das echte Berlin”, let alone where to find it. Get in touch with that friend-of-a-friend who moved here last year, ask them to show you around “their Berlin” (the square mile around their apartment), and then start drawing conclusions. Try to include as many of the following ideas as you can:

“Poor but sexy”
This soundbite has been keeping journalists in copy for nearly a decade, and shows no sign of losing popularity. It’s a neat shorthand for everything you’re going to write, about a city full of creative people seeking refuge from the rising rents of East London, Williamsburg, or wherever they should really be living – a place so international that its (gay!) mayor threw an English word into its unofficial slogan. If you want to sound really authentic, use the German “arm, aber Sexy”, or, if you’re penning a particularly visionary piece, flip it on its head: “Berlin is still sexy… but not so poor!” [insert image of George Clooney stepping out of the Hotel Adlon]

Mention the war
Whatever you write will reach five times as many readers if it has either the word “Hitler” or “Nazis” in the title. As far as you and your audience are concerned, German history starts in 1933 and ends in 1945 – and everything that’s happened since can be traced back to then. If you’re writing about Hitler’s toilet, his Nazi brides or some other “new” “important” discovery, then lucky for you: guaranteed hits. If not, you’ll still probably want to mention whether Berliners do or don’t deal with their “dark past”, note your surprise that the city now welcomes people from all over the world, or concentrate on the city’s outer districts, where neo-Nazis still “run rampant”. As a rule of thumb, you can’t use the N-word enough.

Life’s a Cabaret
Amateur historians will want to reach further back into Berlin’s past, to the hedonistic years of the Weimar Republic. It’s fun to draw parallels between the nightlife of the 20s and 30s and today’s weekend-long parties, and, as long as you have a DVD of Cabaret (research), a sockful of class As and a spare 72 hours, it’s easy too. Depending on whether you’re pitching to The Mail or The Guardian, you’ll want to portray the modern-day Isherwoods you meet as either “lost” or “liberated” – or, if you’re on a particularly bad one (busted, Sunday Times), as mindlessly fucking their way into the gaping mouth of Hell.

Forever blowing bubbles
Tech journalists: ignore what we’ve previously written and turn the crank on the Berlin startup hype machine. Before you land at TXL, you should have already decided whether the German capital is Europe’s answer to Silicon Valley, or just a tech bubble full of hipsters (hardly) working on innovative ideas that are doomed to fail. Your headline should be something like “Forget ___ – ___ is Europe’s hottest tech hub”, with one of the blanks reading “Berlin” and the other “London”, “Paris”, “Tel Aviv”, or wherever you would like the expense account to take you next. Oh, and mention SoundCloud.

Kreuzberg and Neukölln are over
Unfold the map from the middle of your Rough Guide, take out a pen, and draw concentric circles of “over” emanating from the TV Tower. Forget all the places where all the people you know live – the very fact that you know someone with an apartment there means that the district is now too bourgeois to bother with. Mitte might as well be Frankfurt, Kreuzberg and Neukölln are long gone (especially that “Kreuzkölln” your editor told you about) and even outlying areas like Wedding are well on their way. Look a little further afield and you might be able to find an expat artist squatting in Lichtenburg to use as evidence of the district’s “renaissance”.

BERLIN is SO over
Feeling bold? Forget Berlin altogether, and visit either Leipzig (the next Berlin) or Dresden (the next Leipzig). Or, if you want to really stir shit up, dismiss both “Hypezig” and “Dregsden” (“Doucheden”? You might have to come up with your own…) and simply pick any city from the former Eastern Bloc to nominate as Europe’s next “capital of cool”. Why not find out if you can get a decent flat white in Zwickau?

Have we forgotten anything? Leave your tips for journalists thinking of covering Berlin in the comments below!

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The Ten Berlinmandments — with GIFs!

by Guest Blogger

by Redfern Jon Barrett.

In two weeks’ time I’ll have been in Berlin for three years. I love this city – though I’m not one for attending trendy ‘discotheques’ whilst taking ‘Columbian Baking Soda’, and ‘[INSERT THIRD TONGUE-IN-CHEEK OUT-OF-TOUCH REFERENCE PEOPLE WILL TAKE AT FACE VALUE]‘.

Even so, Berlin is full of interesting, open-minded people, and as a queer-thinking, polyamory-loving, witch-being vegetarian leftist (whose entire identity can be summed up by those five categories), being here is like getting to live in the 19th century if you’re a massive conservative. In short, it’s weirdo Disneyland.

But some things in Berlin can be annoying, and in the spirit of ruthlessly criticising everything I love, I present:

THE TEN BERLINMANDMENTS

1. THOU SHALT NOT ENDLESSLY DISCUSS HOW GUILTY THOU ART FOR NOT LEARNING GERMAN

Because really, this only affects you. If you feel bad that you don’t speak more German, go learn German. If you don’t want to, then you can’t feel that bad. Either way, there is now a city-wide ban on discussing how you need to take another Deutschkurs.

Penalty: having your mind wiped, and your knowledge of English replaced with Turkish. All Germans refuse to learn Turkish.

2. THOU SHALT NOT MAKE ART WHEN THOU HAST NOTHING INTERESTING TO SAY AND THOU IS ALSO REALLY, REALLY BAD AT ART

Don’t get me wrong, Berlin has some fantastic artists, and I’ve worked with several of them – there’s a lot of talent in this city, but that talent is concentrated in about 10% of the total number of people actually calling themselves artists. The other 90% are either trust-funders working on a project that will never actually materialise (IT’S ABOUT THE PROCESS), or are trust-funders paying for an overpriced vanity residency which once a year will open their doors for an ‘exhibition’ whose attempts at insightful social commentary involve a bad drawing of Jesus with an iPod. MIND BLOWN.

Penalty: having to justify your stay of execution to a death panel, using only your own works of art as warrant for your continued existence.

3. THOU SHALT STAND ON THE FUCKING RIGHT, AND WALK ON THE LEFT, IF THOU WISHES TO USE A FUCKING ESCALATOR IN THE UBAHN/UNDERGROUND/METRO/SUBWAY

Or I will push you down said escalator.

Penalty: receiving a poison dart to the neck at the top of an escalator crowded with tourists talking on mobile phones. The antidote is at the bottom. 

4. HONOUR THY LUNGS

“Yeah, I’m currently planning on giving up smoking, and I did give up for five weeks last year, but it’s really hard when everyone’s smoking in a bar, and I just want to smoke socially, like when I’m drinking, but then you find yourself smoking in the day as well, I just wish I could smoke now and then but it doesn’t seem to happen, anyway I’m giving up soon, I just want to enjoy myself a bit more before I do.” – EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN BERLIN, INCLUDING ME

Penalty: city-wide smoking ban

5. THOU SHALT NOT JUDGE OTHERS’ CLOTHING, IT IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS

There’s a game in Berlin, called ‘Let’s Be Fucking Horrible To People Wearing Clothes Different To Ours’ (working title). And everyone is in on it. “Look at that hipster! Haha, fucking hipster, with their hipster clothes! I’m better than you, hipster!” – “Hey, you’re not wearing a stained hoodie with a bad slogan about the evils of capitalism! Are you a tourist? Your clothes look expensive! Fuck off, foreigner!”, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.

Penalty: being forced walk around Kreuzberg in an Armani suit until you’re torn to shreds

6. THOU SHALT WEAR THINE HOLY PROTECTIVE EARMUFFS

Thine divine earmuffs shalt protect thee from the angry street rants of born-n’-bred native Berliners, and shield thine delicate ears from their daily abuse.

What is wrong with them?

7. THOU SHALT DESTROY THE STAG NIGHTS

They must not be allowed to dwell in Berlin. If you see a group of drunken men in identical t-shirts, it is your sworn duty as a Berliner to slay them all.

Penalty: failure to let a stag night pass unslain shall result in you working as bar staff for a hostel in Mitte, where groups of drunken tourists will make fun of you, mistaking you for German and giving you constant Nazi salutes

8. THOU SHALT NOT FORCE EVERYONE TO DO YOGA OR GO CYCLING, THESE ARE FALSE RELIGIONS

Not everyone likes yoga, and to constantly spread the word of yoga BECAUSE OH MY GOD YOGA PUTS YOU SO IN TOUCH WITH YOUR BODY HOW CAN YOU NOT DO YOGA is to promote idolatrous gods. The same goes for OH MY GOD HOW CAN YOU NOT OWN A BIKE I HAVE A SPARE ONE COME ON A BIKE RIDE WITH ME WHERE YOU’LL BE REALLY SLOW AND I’LL GET ANNOYED AND FRUSTRATED DESPITE THE FACT YOU TOLD ME YOU’RE NO GOOD AT BIKE-RIDING COME ON COME ON BIKE BIKE BIKE BIKE BIKE AAAAAAAAHHHHHH

Penalty: removal of all yoga-twisting, bike-pedalling limbs

9. THOU SHALT NOT QUEUE FOR HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS FOR NO PURPOSE

Berlin will give you enough opportunities to enjoy a good queue. Every trip to a government bureau (there will be many), every hospital visit, every time you need to withdraw money from an ATM will involve a long time in a lovely, unending queue. You do not need to add to this experience by queuing for an hour for a kebab, or an ice cream, or for two hours to get into a club, because THERE ARE OTHER KEBABS AND ICE CREAMS AND DARK DANCY DRINKY PLACES, AND YOU ARE WASTING YOUR LIFE.

Penalty: you will be forbidden from entering a queue for a period of one year. As every single action you take in Germany involves a trip to the state bureaucracy, you shall die homeless and penniless, without kebabs or ice cream.

10. THOU SHALT NOT LEAVE THE CITY IN WINTER, WINTER IS YOUR PUNISHMENT

I’M LOOKING AT YOU, EVERY SINGLE SPANISH PERSON. WINTER IS THE PENALTY FOR ENJOYING BERLIN IN SUMMER. FROZEN BEARDS AND RED-RAW SKIN ARE REMINDERS THAT YOU ARE LUCKY TO BE ALIVE.

Penalty: the city walls shall be closed to you forever, and you shall be forced to make a living dancing for pennies in Potsdam

Go forth, my children, and share the wisdom your Berlingod has gifted you! For thine are the canals, the Sternberg and the Görli, forever and ever.

- Berlinfern

A manic giant with a PhD in queer literature, Redfern writes about polyamory, witchcraft, and science fiction. His weird novel Forget Yourself is available on Amazon. Read more at redjon.com.

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Another Year in Berlin: überlin’s Highlights of 2012

by James and Zoe

Wow, what a year! It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Berlin two years – because it feels like we’ve lived here forever, yet sometimes it’s like we’ve just stepped off the plane. That’s the enduring freshness of love, I guess. Too sappy? Then maybe we’ll just skip to our highlights of 2012: our favourite moments and places, most awesome blog posts, and all the other (furry) little things that made the year our best yet.

überlin's highlights of 2012: January

The Loxx Miniature Railway version of Berlin is probably the city’s best-kept secret, or at least it was until our photos ended up on the front page of The Guardian website. Small world(!) – on our second visit to the mini-Berlin on top of Alexa mall, we ran into Dave from the blog Andberlin – who also named Loxx as one of his highlights of the year. This is the perfect place to go on a rainy winter’s day.

überlin's highlights of 2012: February

To celebrate Zoë’s birthday we went to Stockholm and Copenhagen and while we were there, visited the most beautiful and inspiring place we’ve ever been. Looking back at our post about the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, I feel like my words fail to live up to Zo’s stunning photos, and even those can’t capture the breathtaking beauty of the museum and its coastal environment. We thoroughly enjoyed our short time in Scandinavia, but the Louisiana was the hands-down highlight.

überlin's highlights of 2012: March

The first of our articles to appear on The Guardian, 5 Apps Berlin Really Needs, was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the buzzy, bubbly startup capital of Europe. Our iProtest app concept gamified civil disobedience, while Angry Berliners turned German bureaucracy into an addictive platform game. Our Buskamatic app aside, March was a great month for music – Modeselektor released the iconic video for their “Berlin” anthem, and we discovered Big Stu’s comedy rap tributes to Hühnerhaus and Kottbusser Tor.

überlin's highlights of 2012: April

Our personal highlight of the year has to be getting our hands on this little ball of cute. In fact, Olive is probably many readers’ main reason for visiting the blog – we might be better off training her to work a camera and a laptop and leaving her to it! The unofficial überlin mascot, Big Ö is recognised way more frequently than we are, and has turned up in the unlikeliest of places – including an Instagram tutorial video and a conversation with a Bully-obsessed stranger at my cousin’s wedding (“you own Olive the dog?!!!”). Apart from welcoming our fuzzy daughter to the fold, we also ate the meal of the year (with matched cocktails!) at Rollin Restaurant.

überlin's highlights of 2012: May

If our May pick was a movie it would be the überlin prequel, Escape from Newcastle. While our home toon stands for everything we hate (or is that the other way around?), we still have a soft spot for the football-loving Stella-downing lads and lasses we grew up with – something we hope came across in our “origin story”, From Geordie Shore to Germany. Back in Berlin, visiting friends introduced us to the Ramones Museum, the only such institute devoted to the Detroit proto-punks in the whole world, the personal collection of a Berliner who must be their greatest fan.

überlin's highlights of 2012: June

It might seem obvious, but our What I Know about Germans post is like David Hasslehoff’s “Looking For Freedom”: ubiquitous, infectious, and every German loves it ;) . Credit for our “greatest hit” actually goes to writer Liv Hambrett, for her keen observations about her adopted countrymen, and illustrator Mischief Champion who’s busy bringing them to life for WIKAG – the book! Photo op of the month (year?) had to be Berlin Gay Pride 2012 – so many queers! So many colours!

überlin's highlights of 2012: July

It seems like a long time since Zoë spent a boiling Berlin Fashion Week maximising her time in the air-conditioned tent, and occasionally popping outside to photograph slebs like Fashionbloggerin Miggy. Lucky for us, she braved the heat long enough to get these impressions of Berlin Fashion Week SS13.

überlin's highlights of 2012: August

While Peaches was never exactly a reason for moving to Berlin, we’ve never been able to think about the city without picturing her merkin. Since we arrived, we’ve been lucky enough to see her twice: “doing herself” live on stage and orchestrating a protest/video shoot in support of Pussy Riot. We weren’t the only starstruck fans following this freak parade into Mauerpark, and it was impressive to see Ms Nisker whipping up a storm to publicise an important – and still ongoing – cause. Less colourful, but no less eye-opening, was guest blogger Russell Dornan’s look behind the closed doors of Berlin’s Natural History Museum.

überlin's highlights of 2012: September

You Know You’re a Berliner When… you pose for a photo pretending the TV Tower is your penis, which then becomes a lightning rod for critics of hipsters, expats and archisexts (I made this one up). Having regular “Berlinergasms” was just one of 11 sure-fire signs that you’ve become a Berliner, along with dancing in a U-Bahn station and witnessing at least one daily act of crazy. Zoë saw more craziness at London Fashion Week SS13 – here is just a taste.

überlin's highlights of 2012: October

October was a month of light and dark. The gloomy nights provided the perfect backdrop for the Festival of Lights and (we think) our animated GIFs were the perfect demonstration of the event’s kaleidoscopic displays. Far less joyful was Berlin Crawling: 10 Halloween Horror Films, a list of creepshows shot here in the Haupstadt, ranging from the slick (the neo-Giallo short Yellow) to the just plain sick (corpse love story Nekromantik).

überlin's highlights of 2012: November

We’re so glad Phia agreed to be the first subject in our series of Berlin portraits. We’d heard the Australian singer/songwriter/thumb-pianist at an intimate concert in a fellow musician’s house, and loved her stories and songs about her granddad, a Berliner, and what it meant to live in his hometown. We spent a beautiful, crisp day discovering her Berlin, and sharing our love for the creative, open city we now call home. Oh, and we celebrated two years of überlin/living in Berlin!

überlin's highlights of 2012: December

As we entered our third winter in Berlin, we thought we should share the survival skills we’ve picked up with expats who’ve recently arrived from warmer climes. With the help of Josh Bauman’s awesome caricatures of us (and Olive!), our more-or-less practical tips about How to Survive a Berlin Winter helped to restore calm among the panicky sun-botherers freaking out at the first sight of snow. I wonder if anyone’s quit their job or grown a beard on our advice? And giving away €250 of Berlin-themed swag was a great way to end another awesome year of überlin.

Join us in 2013 for more Berlin love and LOLs. Happy New Year!

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Festival of Lights in Animated GIFs

by Zoë Noble

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Merry GIFmas!

by Zoë Noble

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GIF. ME. BERLIN.

by James Glazebrook

Geek has never been so chic! Last week, our hip blog buddies iHeartBerlin gathered the city’s hot young things at a celebration of the nerd’s favourite, the animated GIF. Surrounded by DJs, free drinks and daring outfits, the flickering screens at HBC displayed how far the medium has come, in both complexity and sheer cool. Here are our picks of the best – you can appreciate the full exhibition in the safety of your darkened geekbase of a bedroom, over here: GIF. ME. BERLIN. Or see how a couple of amateurs do it and check out our Happy Halloween GIF, or my personal favourite, Guten Morgen. Enjoy!

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Happy Halloween!

by Zoë Noble

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Guten Morgen

by James Glazebrook

Guten Morgen

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