Germans think so.Put another way, it's the cult of transgressiveness.
They see both cities as having the same gritty, urban, post-industrial heritage, fueled by the pulsing beat of techno music. In Detroit, Berliners feel a kindred sensibility of old troubles, lingering decay, layered with current energy and optimism.
Detroit may not be appreciated by everyone, but it has one thing that soulless, bland cities don't have: a unique, authentic, creative culture. That quality is more important than money, he says: "Economy follows culture, not vice versa. You can't buy culture."In Detroit, though, there's a lot of building to do before there's a critical mass of creatives and the commerce follows.
For me, the Berliners' enthusiastic embrace of all things Detroit was a breath of fresh air. But it also says a lot about Berlin, too. The powerful city that rose and fell with the Third Reich in World War II was ruthlessly chopped in half by Russia and the Allies after the war. When the Berlin Wall came down 25 years ago, it revealed deep emotional tears in the reunified city and miles of dilapidated city buildings.
"Berlin was a severely wounded city," says Burkhard Kieker, CEO of visitBerlin, adding that music, clubs and creative culture were the first positive healing forces there. "Crucial was the courage of the people to take their fate into their own hands."
Of course, any tourist who has visited Berlin knows it could never be mistaken for Detroit. It has 6,000 new hotel beds just this year. It has 180 museums. It has 400 galleries. It is the nation's capital. Berlin is now the third most visited European city behind London and Paris.Meanwhile, Detroit's resources have gone to new indoor stadia and casinos. The most telling anecdote involving the Free Press is its editorial decision the day Yuri Andropov died under what might have been mysterious circumstances. Above the fold? An arbitrator's decision involving a Detroit Lion.
Still, the Berliners have an affection for Detroit. They want to help. They believe in the power of art and creative ideas to heal ragged wounds of the past. And that is kind of inspirational.