Berlin Oberschöneweide – One last glimpse of hedonism.
2020: a year that doesn’t like making plans. Life got quite turbulent for me. I was thrown out of my apartment and had to move into a new neighbourhood. Travel plans cancelled – renovating the new flat was expensive. Why am I not in Southeast Asia, cruising the beach routes on a scooter? When do I get back to Greece to finally find these effing wild horses up the mountains? When do I meet my friends and dear family in South Africa again? Financial insecurity and personal reluctance slowly come along with the global phenomena of travel ban, self isolation and withdrawal. The first few corona cases in Italy! In Germany, we are getting a bit nervous. And so it comes that in the emergence of the corona crisis, I travel locally. I explore my new neighbourhood, one last day before the lockdown. My husband’s birthday stroll. Berlin Oberschöneweide.
Industry out, culture in
Time is racing these days, and you feel it instantly when in an historically relevant place like Berlin. Oberschöneweide, a district of Germany’s capital located southeast of the city, was once the hotspot of industrialisation. Loads of factories and loads of workers produced the artifacts of their time: light bulbs, the first audio devices, film projectors, locomotives. Later on, these factories became important for war production during World War II. Being east, Oberschöneweide was part of the communist German Democratic Republic. When the wall came down and Germany celebrated the new freedom, Oberschöneweide and its industry suffered irrelevance. Many people lost their jobs. Fortunately, Oberschöneweide kept it’s industrial architecture and successfully embedded it into modern life. Industry out, culture in. And so life in these former factory areas forms into a scene of our time.
We wander through a neighbourhood dedicated to industrial culture. Old factory buildings invite passersby and locals to do street photography or even professional model shoots in front of red bricks, rusty stairs and old wooden gates. Yoga studios, cafes, fashion stores and exhibitions contrast this dark and dirty industrial tension with wide window fronts, clean interior design and welcoming benches at the entrance.
Streets are not well plastered, bumpy and riddled with puddles from the crisp late winter rains. Plants defiantly break through cracks in the concrete, adding wilderness to man made architecture. A filmmaker shoots a movie with a crowd of background actors. Rumour has it that Bryan Adams is one of the lucky few that owns artist studios here. The air is fresh and clean, we are at the Spree river. We get the perfect sunset shoots: that wooden hippy houseboat with techno beats onboard, floating over the cold grey river. A glimpse of post capitalist hedonism.
In the outskirts of Berlin
Oberschöneweide is an artistic district in the making. Urban and suburban vibes transform life into a relaxed state of being. People are only here to either study at the local university or to live cheap. No hype yet. The weekends are quite empty. Supermarkets are not too full, streets are spacious. If you end up staying here you are not rich enough for the hyped areas in the center of town, but of course hip enough to pose spontaneously for instagram at any time. Since the year 2007, there are more people on this planet living in cities than in the countryside. On the other hand, gentrification makes it impossible to stay in the city center. It is the time to enjoy our microcosms in the outskirts. Think globally, act locally.
Scene of the day
Our scene of the day, a stroll in Oberschöneweide, happens to fall into the era of post gentrification. Berlin in the realm of the in-between: the old, the now and the new. My last day of carefree life. Quickly the corona crisis led to a somewhat lockdown in Germany, Europe and the world. If after the industry came culture and with it, hedonism: what comes next? I wish I could be on that techno boat on the river, but the year 2020 puts me into different shoes.