For Thomas Jonglez, the pandemic came at the right time. A few months earlier he had finally settled in Berlin – the city he had fallen madly in love with at the age of 24.
Now he wanted to go in search of the soul of the city with his son Louis. “Unlike in France, you were always allowed to be out and about here,” he said. “It was a wonderful time. We rode our bikes every day.”
He discovered traces of his soul in the smallest club in the world, the Teledisco on the RAW site, in a Tiergarten mattress factory, in the Fährhaus Saatwinkel on Lake Tegel, in the Orankesee beach bar and in the Kreuzkirche on Hohenzollerndamm. Out of 1,000 places he explored, only 30 made it into his Soul of Berlin guide, Jonglez explains.
Born in France, he is originally from Paris and had last lived in Rio de Janeiro for seven years. You can run a travel book publishing company from anywhere, so he asked his wife, “Wouldn’t we like to move to Berlin?”
He found a nice apartment in Kreuzberg in Rio. There he met a German who was looking for an apartment there.
“And what are you doing with your old one?” he asked, because he already knew how difficult it is to find an apartment in Berlin. After a few weeks he was able to move in. Finally arrived.
A four-month internship in the mineral oil industry first brought him to Berlin in 1994. It must have been a magical time. Jonglez remembers a girl handing him a note in a restaurant.
It just said “Saturday, Straßburger Straße, 8 p.m..” No house number. In the end he ended up in front of a mysterious door. Behind the cellar of a closed brewery and a brilliant party with 2000 people.
“That was Berlin,” he enthuses. Potsdamer Platz was still a wasteland, you met punks everywhere, even in the supermarket, and a pub called “Im Eimer” became a favorite spot.
He danced at the Ewerk and the Tresor in those wild years. He then worked for a steel company for seven years, most recently as strategy director in Brussels. Eventually he realized that life wasn’t for him. He loved to travel. Friends kept asking him for tips when they wanted to go somewhere themselves.
Finally free, Jonglez traveled overland from Beijing to Paris in seven months. He and his family only needed six months from Venice via Siberia and the Pacific to Rio de Janeiro. He lived in Brussels for three years, another three years in his hometown Paris and seven years in Venice. His wife Romaine can also work from anywhere as a life coach.
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He obviously enjoys every second in Berlin and praises the high quality of life. “The city is not as densely built up as Paris,” Jonglez begins, listing the advantages. The streets are much wider, so much more light falls on them.
There are also a lot more trees, a lot more greenery. “It’s not as loud as in other metropolises, and there are far fewer cars.” Everything is much more relaxed. His son can move safely on the street, take the subway to school because there isn’t as much violence as in Rio, for example.
The alternative scene also makes the city particularly attractive for young people. And he finds the many beaches very tempting. His friends in Paris would have asked him: “Beaches? In the city? Seriously now?“. That doesn’t exist in other big cities either. Events of high culture, concerts, theater performances are much cheaper than in New York or London.
For his book “Soul of Berlin” he was paddling in New Venice and swimming in the lidos in Lübars and Wendenschloss. He is also inspired by churches and cemeteries, for example the Jewish cemetery in Weißensee or the chapel in the Dorotheenstadt cemetery.
Does he also miss something, the delicacies that can be found in almost every bakery in Paris? Jonglez shrugs. “You have to make a few concessions everywhere.” And he always flies home to see friends and family.
What appeals to him is the special that isn’t found in normal travel guides, places that you don’t find by yourself. Michelin star restaurants don’t tempt him at all. But maybe he wants to devote himself to the special restaurants of Paris in a future book project.
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In his search for the soul of Berlin, he was not so much concerned with established sights as with special experiences that Berliners could also treat themselves to. Many are very attached to their neighborhood. You don’t have to drive long to get to extraordinary places. He expressly encourages this.
While “Soul of Berlin” is a more poetic book for people who want to be carried away by the charms of the city, the book “Verborgenes Berlin”, which was also published by Jonglez’ Verlag but was written by three other authors, a dense conglomerate of details for locals and visitors wanting to know more.
With the help of this guide you can discover the shot tower, the Rieselfelder Karolinenhöhe, the Kesselhaus Herzberge museum or the handshake over archways. And collect a lot of knowledge that allows you to recognize yourself as an expert in small talk.