New York may be known as the city that never sleeps, and it does have plenty of reasons to stay awake. But in Berlin, a true city of night owls, people dedicate the late hours to crazy ideas. Followed by crazy deeds.
Finding out that Berlin has become popular - even in Ecuador - as "the place to be" was quite surprising to me. Dani heard the rumor in Quito and decided to cross the ocean. Not a bad choice, as it turns out. She's been living and working in Berlin for two years, raising her two kids on the money she earns as a model and make-up artist.
There is a Dani in every newcomer in Berlin, and there is a piece of Berlin for every newcomer like Dani. People hear about it, see it and like it instantly. Then, in order to pay for rents, cocktails and outfits, they come up with the strangest ideas.
German is hard to learn, and the city is neither an industrial center, nor a Mecca of finance. So what's left? Be creative! Do something you're good at, call it art and you're bound to succeed here.
What's more, you'll find lots of other people like you. The market for usual ideas is competitive in Berlin. Still, there is always room for more.
Rule number one: mix business with pleasure
The Ecuadorian model, whose profession qualifies as cool and creative but is not unheard of, would be perfect for one of Martina's next catwalk shows. Martina is a Slovenian fashion designer, who, after completing an internship with Vivienne Westwood in England, set up her own knitwear label in Berlin. Lately, she has not only been selling handmade dresses to pretentious rich ladies in Paris, but also pieces of art that combine painting with knitted fabrics.
Edin's glamour, on the other hand, is a bit more risqué. He studied fashion design, lived in several countries, speaks seven languages, and knows all kind of Hollywood stars. "They are my customers. Whenever they're in Berlin, they pay a visit to the store," he tells me, partly in Serbian, partly in English.
Edin is the proud designer of glamorous erotic outfits found in the luxury erotic lifestyle shop Schwarzer Reiter (Black Cavalier), which is located in the center of Berlin.
Rule number two: mistake garbage for art
On the weekends, Berlin abounds in arts and craft fairs. I once heard someone say it's easy to mistake garbage for art in this city, and vice-versa.
You could put it like that, but then again, we're talking here about quite interesting pieces of garbage: jewelry made of scraps of all sorts, homemade hats, bags, chairs, pots, you name it.
All of these objects were made by someone. So, someone out there in the German capital must be spending time creating them for a living.
Rule number three: miracles happen
All this creative competition doesn't mean every second Berliner is a starving artist. Some get lucky.
The flea market in the Neukölln district is where designer Cantemir started the most fabulous business I've ever heard of. And probably the most random. Back then, he went out selling a few dozen cardboard eyeglasses he'd made up to finance his summer holidays.
Now his artistic creations have become known as Pappbrillen (German for cardboard glasses). They don't have any practical use, but that didn't keep the fashion and advertising industries from discovering them. Cantemir has since sold millions of pairs.
Apparently Franz's girlfriend was very happy about the personalized bar of chocolate he made for her birthday a few years ago. But it was Chocri, the chocolate delivery service he then opened in Berlin, which got the sweetest deal. Business is booming on the website where customers can choose from hundreds of ingredients online (gold powder, roses, chilli and salt are on the list) to assemble their very own chocolate fantasy, which is then delivered by post.
Considering all the curious ways you can pursue fun in Berlin - like sleeping in a socialist design hotel, dancing in a preserved 1920s ballroom, or dining in the old Jewish Girls School, you can get an idea of the almost scary amount of creativity Berliners bring along.
Here, nothing is too much and nothing is too little. Those sleepless people must have rewritten that famous saying: "Don't live for work, work for… fun!"