Melbourne creatives have long flocked to Berlin, lured by the promise of a grungy utopia soaked in art and cheap beer. From the likes of Nick Cave, who moved to Berlin with the Birthday Party in 1983, to contemporary artists like HTRK, Ned Collette, Devastations and the Drones, Melburnians on seemingly-innocent stopovers and summer migrations are part of an influx that is transforming the German capital. Some say ruining. And the newest bad boy on the block? A Melbourne poached egg.
Opened last year, Melbourne Canteen embodies Berlin’s growing Australian community, leading one pissed-off Exberliner Magazine journo to dub the hipster enclave of Neükolln, ‘Little Melbourne’. MC serves up staples of Melbourne brekky culture; pricey plates of avocado, smoked salmon and hollandaise crown silky poached eggs – exotic items for German menus. (Mysteriously, Berlin eggs always come scrambled or boiled.) The Australian waiters only speak clunky German but who cares when their tables are crowded with fellow cashed-up, hungover Aussies?
Around the city there’s evidence that Berliners are angepisst as their bohemia, described infamously by Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit as ‘poor but sexy’, slips away. Some Berliners use irony, like the Hipster Olympics, held in the East Berlin club Postbahnhof. (Events include the skinny jeans tug-of-war and a vinyl-spinning marathon.) Some educate, like shop window manifestos gently explaining the economics of gentrification. Others get aggressive – Berlin street graffiti reads like the work of a hipster-hating Tourettic: ‘BERLIN DOESN’T LOVE YOU’, ‘HIPSTER, GO HOME’ and ‘TOURISTS FACE FISTS!’
Of course, it’s a complex issue. Tourism pours €15 billion annually into Berlin, creating roughly 230,000 jobs for a city with 12.4 percent unemployment. What’s more, the melting pot of Germans, expats and immigrants keep the city’s creative energy alive. Without them, all that concrete would look rather bleak.
So is Berlin ‘over’? The Nordic kids – always the barometer of cool – are leaving, replaced by Greeks, Italians and Spaniards fleeing the GFC and creating their own non-German microcosms. The squats are dying. And in March, not even the Hoff’s performance in front of 10,000 protestors could save parts of the Berlin Wall, demolished for new luxury apartments. Sure, the punks kick on, beer’s cheaper than water and the three-day club parties are still insane, but many say Berlin’s soul is losing out to an homogenised mainstream of cupcake joints, American Apparel and, yep, poached eggs.
Melbourne Canteen, Pannierstraße 57, Neukölln 12047, Berlin. +49(0)30 6273 1602. Mon-Sun 10am-midnight.