Young Spaniards fleeing crisis seek solace in boho Berlin

Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:37am EST
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By Stephen Brown

BERLIN (Reuters) - They find the language difficult and the locals as chilly as the weather but for young Spaniards Berlin has become a popular spot to sit out the economic crisis at home.

The German capital's celebrated cabaret scene made it a mecca for bohemians in the 1920s and ‘30s and in the Cold War the divided city became a magnet for alternative youth culture and rock stars.

When the Berlin Wall came down, anarchists moved into abandoned properties in East Berlin, gentrification followed but the avant garde atmosphere still thrives and has drawn thousands of Spaniards, eager to escape soaring unemployment at home.

"We haven't seen the sun for three months, and the people can seem distant, but Berlin is also a place where life is not just about work and you get to meet artists and actors and film directors," Diego Ruiz del Arbol, a 32-year-old Spanish IT engineer and web content consultant living in Berlin.

The number of Spaniards in Berlin has jumped to 11,473 in 2011 from 8,223 the previous year. Arrivals in Germany from Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal, the euro zone countries worst hit by the debt crisis nearly doubled last year.

Eastern Europeans arrive at a faster pace but they tend to head to industrial areas of Germany with a labor shortage, while Spaniards prefer Berlin, an unemployment black-spot but vibrant cultural hub.

Cafe Colectivo is one of the new meeting points for young Spaniards in Friedrichshain, near a famous flea market on Boxhagener Platz. It offers manchego cheese, chorizo and the occasional paella, Spanish soccer on TV and the chance to chat and network in Spanish.

Its owner, Bulgarian-born Dimitri Grigorov who grew up in Barcelona, is a 31-year-old former art student turned building worker who turned up in Berlin in 2008, began washing dishes in bars and ended up in the coffee business.   Continued...

Diego Ruiz del Arbol of Spain poses for a picture in his living room in the Friedrichshain district of Berlin, November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Peter