There is a whole way of living that has been carrying on outside my observational watchtower, because it is mainly the playground of the young (under forties) although persons vulgarly called aging hipsters are allowed a grudging look-in. However, this exception to the rule admits only the very wealthy, very mad or geniuses (self proclaimed or genuine). I’ve been missing out on the seductive culture of creating an impression through what you wear and how you look and how carelessly you carry off that fastidiously cultivated appearance. In Berlin I realized that a lot of time and energy goes into to sustaining this kind of life style.
I had heard that Berlin was the red hot place to make your name, claim your right to fame, be head hunted or hang about waiting for that chance which might never come, alas. As we strolled along the faux-beach scene by the river I wondered, who or what are all these people waiting for? There were crowds of Berliners, Germans, people from every nation and culture in the world hanging out sprawled in deck chairs chattering, drinking bottled beer, looking beautiful and interesting. A Rumanian woman wandered about picking up empty bottles, tossing them into her trolley; a sixteen year old Gypsy boy strolled through the loungers playing sublime sax riffs and Japanese tourists looked permanently surprised.
The Indian summer had encouraged the illusion of being cast for a Vogue magazine shoot. All the (young and youngish) men are in bermudas. All the women are gorgeous. Tall and lithe with endless tanned legs in tiny shorts. The refugees must have rubbed their eyes in disbelief when they first arrived.
The hippest look for men seems to be a compulsory medium-length beard, glossy with beard conditioner, which gives the wearer an old-fashioned Edwardian/Romanov look. Head hair is often quite long, the middle wing swept back and Brilliantined, the Edwardian fashion exaggerated with very short, military sides. Then you whip out your Airbook and start tapping with the gravity of a young and active entrepreneur.
Meet Colin Harmon the flyer proclaimed in tasteful typeset. Does temperature in grinding really make a difference? How quiet can a commercial grade coffee grinder be? Talk with Colin Q&A 11-13 o’clock.
All this and more at the Berlin Coffee Fest’s Profi area. Colin is a four times Irish barista champion and co-founder of Tamper Tantrum.
The international populace moves in and out of the city like migrating martins: travellers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and especially the U.S. Artist, musician, massage therapist, designer wannabes, all hungry for recognition.
And tattoos! The tattoos are spectacular. Whole body, legs only, though no faces. With women who want to be taken more seriously than babes in shorts the mainstay is a simple black dress worn with flat sandals or Birkies. The casualness shows off their Greece/Croatia tans to perfection.
You have to be seen in the right kind of coffee house or vegan eating place too.
There are hundreds of them, several to each street: Avocado on sourdough, bitter green juices, burgers of various kinds, rocket salad, quinoa. Being uber cool and trendy means being fit and eating like Ella. And of course riding a bike is compulsory, because then you can also show off your perfect legs. Helmets are for wimps and Berliners ride fearlessly, without a backward glance.
Berlin is a window shoppers’ paradise. The shops are kitted out with infinite care to appear as laid-back and nonchalantly functional as the goods on display: weathered wooden sleepers for shelves, chic plastic chairs (surprisingly comfortable!), objects that might have been picked up by a discerning beachcomber with an eye to excite browser lust. There are things in these boutiques that you are never going to need, but which could become your personal vanguard signature that is sure to impress.
Dresses that your granny might have run up if you’d asked her nicely, all finished with hand-sewn seams to justify the cost; coats made from Welsh tweed (very in this season) with artful panels and clever fastenings; crocheted lace insets for necklaces and one tiny exquisite diamond on a fine gold chain that costs a thousand euros.
One gets slightly drunk on people-watching until waking up to the fact that they are all basically the same, created from a giant sample catalogue and that you could be one of them if you really wanted- or really had the requisite long tanned legs.