Friedrich III may have built this town but they got the punks in to decorate. From the graffiti that grows faster than ivy to the squat culture that rears an ugly head in even the chic quarters, punk influences Berlin like the ocean influences California.
When you’re at a free party under a bridge and the police still haven’t shown up – that’s punk for you. When you’ve gone three days without a shower and you could still walk into a job interview – that’s punk for you. And when you cycle a bike home at 3am with no lights and no brakes and you’re getting away with it that’s punk too.
Now you might be the type of person who changes carriages or even swaps footpaths when one of these heavily-pierced dinosaurs come into view, and that’s OK. But what’s not OK is forgetting the debt of service you owe them. Cross the street but doff your cap because the punks of Berlin have made it easier for you, and here’s why.
They did it by setting the bar low and rebelling against everything else. They walk their dogs without a leash. They drink and smoke wherever the hell they like and when they party, they turn the noise up loud and don’t consider the neighbours. What this means for you and me non-punks is that we can get away with more than we would in any other city.
It’s a lot like the big sister syndrome and I know because I have an older sister. When we were kids she used to sneak out and not come home for days. She was drinking and acting like most teenagers do and when my parents came down hard on her, it was worse than dousing flames with paraffin. It was all out war in a small windswept bungalow in the Irish midlands. So by the time I decided to hit puberty, my parents had had enough of being disciplinarians and let me do as I pleased. I could have brought go-go dancers back to my room and all they’d have said was ‘Do your friends need pyjamas?’.
My sister made life easier for me. And the punks make it easier for you. You might come from the generation who feel punk died the day Margaret Thatcher took office, or the other one who feel it took the plunge soon as Billie Joe Armstrong started singing, but next time you’re sat in a bar with some stranger’s dog at your heels, and you’re smoking a cigarette and you run a hand through your unwashed hair and think ‘chip fat’ and in that exact same heartbeat a pretty young thing sidles up to you and smiles, don’t thank your lucky stars, and don’t even thank fortune, thank Berlin and thank the punks for making things easier for you.