Aside from the Black Forest and my love of Grimm fairy tales, I never longed to spend time in Germany when I was a child. It seemed so farfetched, that a land of beer, sausages and schnitzel, with lederhosen and lots of Midwestern looking blondes, would have anything I'd want. In my mind's eye, any city would look like a Fritz Lang movie -- morose, shadowy, heavy. Toss in their Nazi past, the Cold War and Checkpoint Charlie and it all added up to one rather harsh nein! Europe meant following the footsteps of my ex-pat African-American artist forefathers and mothers, and that meant Paris or perhaps London. Italy and Spain were much more inviting, more fun. Germany, with its ugly past, wasn't even on the map.
I couldn't have been more right -- or more wrong.
Anthony Bourdain in Berlin Part1 from Torsten Richter on Myspace.
It's much too simplistic and dismissive -- and convenient! -- to point to the Nazi atrocities and say that Germany is a horrible place. The truth is, every country in the world has a repulsive past -- especially the European countries that some tend to idolize. Beautiful, idyllic Spain has Cortes -- otherwise known as Cortez the Killer -- the conquistador who brought down the Aztec Empire and initiated the colonization of the Americas. He didn't just rape, murder and pillage millions, either: it's estimated that during his siege, smallpox wiped out at least 25% of the population -- more than 3 million people. We have plenty to ignore -- 400 years of slavery, tens of millions of Africans lost during the Middle Passage, Native American genocide. At least Germany acknowledges its past -- and atones for it.
Africans have apologized for slavery -- so why won't America?
When I mention Berlin these days, I usually find myself in conversation with performers, musicians, writers and thinkers that have found their way to that budding metropolis after years of having worked in New York City to no avail and much success. Here are a few of the reasons why I'm thinking of exploring the possibility of living there.
- Germany has become a European powerhouse, economically. They have a 5% unemployment rate -- and that means with more people working, more people are spending. In contrast, Greece and Spain have a 25% unemployment rate overall -- and in Spain, nearly half of those under 30 (the lost generation) are out of work.
- You can go to graduate school in Germany for free. And believe it or not, most of the classes are in English.
- It's cheap, fun and full of artists from all over the world. New York City, in comparison, is extremely expensive, full of dilletantes and not much fun when pretty much all you do is work to pay the rent.
I've been studying the language, reading about its history and making an extensive itinerary. Let's see what happens.
Isn't this a fun map? I won't follow it this time around but I will keep it in mind as I roam.