Music Montag: Best of Berlin 2013

by James Glazebrook

What have EnyaFleetwood Mac, Chris Isaak, Rihanna, M.I.A, Destiny’s Child and Kendrick Lamar got in common? Nope, they haven’t formed a Gayngs-style supergroup (we wish!)… but all of them have had tracks covered or remixed by überlin’s Music Montag picks for 2013. Here’s two hours of our favourite music made in and about Berlin this year, from electro to acoustic, from heavy heavy metal to fat dirty bass. Enjoy ????

Feeling nostalgic? Listen to the Best of Berlin 2012 here.

Music Montag: Last Christmas (PHON.O’s Calm Down Edit)

by James Glazebrook

It’s (nearly) Christmaaaaaaassssssss! überlin favourite Phon.o is providing the calm before the seasonal storm with this 36 minute (!) edit of Wham! crimbo classic “Last Christmas”. Download it for free now and save it for when your family really start to get on your nerves. Headphones on – Happy Christmas y’all!

Win the gift that keeps on giving: a coffee subscription from Silo!

by James Glazebrook

[EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions]

For us, this year’s coffee discovery was Silo, a beautiful Friedrichshain cafe run by Aussie expats with exceptional taste in the black stuff. We’re pleased to announce that Silo are now sharing their obsession with all things caffeinated beyond the Berlin borders with a curated coffee subscription service – AND that they’ve given us three months’ worth of coffee to giveaway! Introducing your prize:

The Silo Curated Coffee Subscription is a guided tour through what we, the owners and operators of Silo, a specialty coffee shop in Berlin, think is the best coffee available.

We will be sending out the best coffees that we can get our hands on. Subscribers can expect to receive coffee from renowned German roasters such as The Barn, Bonanza and Five Elephant on a regular basis, as well as some fantastic roasters from overseas including Drop Coffee, Coffee Collective, and Workshop. We are always looking for the finest coffees of the season and we will be sending out the best we can find. When we are able to, we will reach further afield and bring some coffees back from other renowned coffee roasting countries like Australia and the US.

At the start of every month we select and send one 250g (or 1/2lb) bag of freshly roasted coffee to you. We select one filter and one espresso every month, and you can subscribe to either. If required, we can also grind your coffee to suit your equipment. We select your coffee with the aim of sending out a diverse and interesting range of coffee from a wide range of origins, roasters and profiles.

We have a three month coffee subscription to give away, worth €35! To find out how to win, scroll down…


Just answer this question in the comments below:

Silo’s first coffee selections were Gichithaini AA (blackcurrant, raspberry with wonderful mouthfeel) and La Divina Providencia (muted maraschino cherry balanced acidity with a syrupy body of fudge/caramel).

If you had to produce a coffee inspired by Berlin, what would it be called and what would it taste like?

You have until 6pm on Friday 27th December. Good luck!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be at least 18 years old to enter.
3. Our favourite comment wins. It’s that simple.
4. We will announced the winners via our Facebook page on Saturday 28th December.

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!

Music Montag: The/Das

by James Glazebrook

As well as being a handy reminder for anyone starting to learn GermanThe/Das are an awesome side project from two-thirds of local heroes Bodi Bill. If the above listen to profile whets your appetite for what we’re going to lazily dub “the (die?) German Junior Boys”, you can dig deeper into the band’s emotronic vibes over on their SoundCloud. To warm these cold, dark nights we’ve pulled out their November (2012) mixtape, which includes such tastemaker box-tickers as Daphni, Kollektiv Turmstrasse and Four Tet’s soaring “Love Cry”. Auditory Glühwein:

What I Know About Berliners: 25 Observations

by James and Zoe

Last weekend a *certain* Berlin newspaper interviewed us about our first book, What I Know About Germans, and asked us to come up with a similar list specific to Berliners. It should come out soon, in German, but for those of you who don’t speak Deutsch – or Berlinerisch – here’s our new 25-point list, illustrated by the super-talented Maria João ArnaudWhat I Know About Berliners

1. Berliners are not Germans.
They’re a special breed all of their own. Berliners have about as much in common with, say, Bavarians as Londoners do with people from the north of England, or New Yorkers do with the southerners in their own country.

2. For example: Berliners just aren’t as obsessed with punctuality as other Germans. 
Sometimes, they’re even late :O

3. Berliners don’t even speak German.
Berlinerisch goes so much further than saying “Icke” and replacing “g” with “j” – it’s pretty much a whole language of its own. We vividly remember the final class in a German course after we’d not mastered, but *dealt with*, everything (we thought) the language could throw at us, and our teacher played a CD of Berlinerisch. Minds were blown; tears were shed; hopes were dashed.
4. One concept that Berliners don’t have their own word for is manners.
It’s not that they’re particularly rude, it’s just that holding the door open for others, and thanking people that do so, just aren’t things here. Back in London we would step over our fallen grandmother to make sure we got on the Tube, but we’d at least say a polite “sorry” as we did so.

5. Berliners are punk as fuck.
And not just the die-hard crusties stomping through Friedrichshain, or their offspring loitering on Görli Park. That middle-aged checkout lady with bright red hair and a few too many earrings? Your postman, who pairs his Deutsche Post uniform with cut-off shorts and beat-up Dr Martens? Punk. As. Fuck.

6. Berliners don’t care what you look like.
You could be an überhipster with a sky-high beanie and painted-on meggings, or wandering the streets in your pyjamas, and Berliners will treat you with the same indifference that they do everyone else.

7. Berliners don’t wear suits, and don’t trust anyone that does.
In this city, there are only two types of workers that wear business dress: landlords and politicians. And no one wants to be mistaken for either group.

8. Berliners may not always act like it, but they care.
If they have a problem with the Government, its policies, or its treatment of certain sections of society, they’ll take to the streets and shout about it. No matter the state of parliamentary democracy, in Berlin grassroots activism is alive and kicking.

9. Berliners – the vegan Germans.
10. Berliners won’t be told what to do…

11. …or what to smoke…
The real problem with the new mayor of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg’s plan to decriminalise marijuana in her district? The only people to benefit will be tourists too scared to approach the dealers in Görli Park; Berliners are going to keep smoking whatever they like, regardless of what the law says.

12. …or where to smoke it.
The fact that smaller bars successfully kicked back against the 2007 smoking ban is a slight but significant signal that Berliners will NOT be told what to do. Each cigarette smoked indoors is a tiny torch of freedom, and every handmade “Raucherbar” sign might as well say “don’t fuck with me”.

13. In Berlin, there’s a fine line between independence and insanity.
In a city that has always attracted the fringe figures of western society and tested German norms to their limits, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between the “life artists” and the crazies. Every time you see a shellshocked-looking person trudging through the streets mumbling to themselves, check their supermarket trolley for “found art” or look for someone with a video camera capturing the whole “happening”.

14. Berliners know how to party…
Berlin’s awesome clubs are full of friendly people who have their drug intake well under control, and plan to keep going well into Monday morning. The only troublemakers who managed to get past the ruthless door staff are invariably Ausländern. As a waiter told us on our first visit to the city, Berliners “make good party”…

15. …but they make for the worst concert crowds we’ve ever encountered.
Berliners reserve their enthusiasm for the last few hours of weekend-long techno parties and hardcore punk gigs in squats. Their reaction to every other performance of every other genre of music is to stand stock still and, if they really like what they hear, occasionally unfold their arms to slowly clap.

16. Berliners can’t see street art.
Years of over-exposure to grafitti have led them to develop a kind of snow blindness to tags, stickers, murals etc. And with good reason: if Berliners took the time to really look at all of the street art daubed across their city, they would never make it where they were going, and in the most severe cases, their eyes would pop out of their heads.

17. Berliners talk about the weather a lot.
This is great news for us Brits, who treat complaining about the weather as a national sport, and can insert ourselves into any conversation with a few well-chosen references to “Scheißwetter” and “Schnee”.

18. Complaining aside, Berliners make surviving harsh winters look easy.
They pull on some sturdy boots, wrap themselves in layers of Jack Wolfskin, and head out to the U-Bahn, which invariably runs (pretty much) on time. Coming from a country where a few snowflakes on the train tracks brings the nation’s infrastructure to a halt, winter in Berlin is refreshingly “business as usual”.

19. For Berliners, it’s never too early for ice cream…
As soon as temperatures rise above O°C again, winter-weary Berliners are like “fuck it, let’s get Eis”.
berliners-1820. …or for Glühwein.

Even when the Weichnachtmarkts won’t open for months, you can pick up a cup of the hot stuff from early October onwards in your local Späti. Time to swap out your morning beer for something more festive!

21. Berliners don’t eat Currywurst.
It’s just a culinary joke they play on gullible tourists.

22. Berliners never set foot in the “centre” of Berlin.
The closest they get to Alexanderplatz is changing U-Bahns underneath it, they know better than to venture within a square mile of the tourist trap/construction zone around Unter den Linden, and wear the fact that they’ve never seen Brandenburg Gate like a badge of honour. For Berliners, their Kiez is the real heart of Berlin.

23. Berliners don’t want a new airport.
They’re secretly hoping that if construction drags on any longer, the city’s just going to give up and stick with TXL.

24. Berliners don’t hate tourists, they hate douchebags.
If you come here and treat Berlin like your personal playground, blaring your way through Sunday morning leaving a trail of broken beer bottles in your wake, then locals will (justifiably) hate you. Even if you’re just staying in a holiday apartment that is intended for residential use, they’ll probably still hate you – but that’s your douchebag landlord’s fault. In Berlin, you get what you give – and if you disrespect the city, it will disrespect you right back.
25. Deep down, Berliners are teddy bears.

They might seem cold to outsiders, but take the time to talk to Berliners, in their own language – if not Berlinerisch, German will do – and you’ll find them to be funny, warm and welcoming people. Underneath that chilly exterior, there’s a teddy Bärliner just waiting to embrace you!

Tell us, Berliners, do you agree? If we’ve got anything wrong, or forgotten anything, tell us in the comments below!

Das Gegengift: Scottish food at Das Gift

by James Glazebrook

You probably already know Das Gift as an awesome expat hangout, a Neukölln Eckkneipe owned by Barry Burns from Mogwai and his lovely wife Rachel, and the site of the best jukebox in Berlin – with exclusive playlists from the likes of Caribou, comedian David Cross and Robert bloody Smith! But did you know that they also serve homemade Scottish food on Tuesday – Saturday evenings?


As I’m 1/16th Scottish, was born within 60 miles of the border and lived for six months in Edinburgh, I am of course qualified to judge the national cuisine – despite what any Scot might tell you – and my verdict is: delicious. I enjoyed the best haggis I’ve ever tasted, served with neeps and tatties (mashed turnip and potato, if you’re going to be all *English* about it), while Zoë plumped for the steak and ale pie – all washed down with cider and Pincer Sours made with vodka from Glasgow. For dessert, so often a disappointment in Berlin, we enjoyed a taste of childhood with marmalade bread and butter pudding, and the Glaswegian chef’s wonderfully unpretentious take on crème brûlée: “Burned Cream”.

In case you were wondering, Das Gegengift means “the antidote” and I can personally recommend this scrummy no-nonsense food as the ultimate hangover cure. If you don’t have as much hunger as I did, try one of the (still pretty generous) €4 dishes, such as the mini haggis plate or the mini sausage roll plate – served with homemade baked beans! You can taste the care that the chef, a lifelong friend of Barry’s flown in especially to run the kitchen, puts into her food, and Das Gift makes for a warm, cosy dining experience. We’ll be back soon!