Finding Napoli

by Marcus · 22.02.2012 · Escapism · 3 comments

A couple of years ago I used to live in the Pank­straße area in Ber­lin Wed­ding. We had moved there after liv­ing in Pren­zlauer Berg for a while and decided to go back to a more het­ero­gen­ous neigh­bor­hood, one that was simple and rough and ori­ginal. We spent a year in Wed­ding before we real­ized that this wasn’t the Ber­lin we came to live in. So we moved yet again and settled down in Friedrich­shain, which at this time was flooded with cheap touristy bars and res­taur­ants and had zero to do with the old Kiez. To tell you the truth, I recog­nized that I was the “light gentri­fic­a­tion” kind of guy that loves ori­ginal struc­tures and a nice mix­ture of younger people bring­ing life to the Kiez in most dif­fer­ent ways.

When I told my Italian flat­mate that I wanted to travel to Napoli he got pretty excited. The first thing he told me was that this would be very dif­fer­ent from what I had exper­i­enced in Italy so far. Until I arrived at the air­port I couldn’t ima­gine what he meant by say­ing so but it didn’t take for me to under­stand. The South of Italy is utterly different.

If you are crazy (yes we are) you get a rental car at the air­port and plunge into the Napoli traffic right away. Here you get a first full con­tact auto­s­cooter feel­ing of what the city is about. If there are any rules at all — nobody seems to care. We had to play the game but we were good stu­dents and after a day and a night you couldn’t tell any­more that we were tourists.

Driv­ing through Napoli we got a first glimpse of this place which com­bines an amaz­ing loc­a­tion at the medi­ter­ranean sea with the rough­ness of aban­doned indus­trial har­bor areas in the heart of the city. This was when we finally recog­nized that Napoli isn’t about beauty and dress­ing up. It just is what it is and it seems to say “Fuck You” and your romantic Italian expect­a­tions. It reminded me of my time in Wed­ding– dis­cov­er­ing a very ori­ginal place but feel­ing unsure of whether to like it or not.

In Napoli, of course, I had a more object­ive view and I ended up between fun, heavy head shak­ing, speech­less­ness and scream­ing ses­sions. There was always this ques­tion in my head of why they let this beau­ti­ful place run down this much, but after all I had to dis­cover that Napoli is not run down, it’s just Napoli– my “light gentri­fic­a­tion” state of mind was the issue here. Look­ing from this point of view the city changed for me and I began to see the beauty and the authen­ti­city I miss so much in many other places of the west­ern world.

The details are what make the city: from the tight inner city street life to the reli­gious­ness, the Mafia and the waste prob­lems. What’s left for me and makes it worth going there any­time is the ori­gin­al­ity and the strange­ness out­side my com­fort zone. But that is exactly the reason why I travel — and I can always return to my light gentri­fic­a­tion life in Kreuzkölln.

Thanks to my travel part­ner Stefan Kaz for many of the fol­low­ing pictures.

  1. you make deli­cious pho­tos, but i sup­pose you know it yet from other people, they make me taste to be there. thankz! ^^

  2. Hey! Just wanted to say, that i like your posts. Your pic­tures are nice as well.
    But don’t worry about “gentri­fic­a­tion” too much. ;)
    Go to the places you like. Enjoy them. Stay there :P
    Greet­ings to Berlin!

  3. We’re appar­ently fol­low­ing in your foot­steps. We too live off of Pank­strasse & are on our way to Napoli next month. We have hope for Wed­ding, more and more Brauhaus/bars/restaurants, plus easy con­nec­tions. We’ll see how we feel in a year.

    As to Naples — now I’m excited.