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We love Berlin. We love its past and its present, its scruffy bars, clubs and streets, its beautiful buildings, cafes and parks. We especially love walking and cycling through it and stumbling across yet another slice of fascinating history, a new pop-up gallery, a view or perspective we've never seen before.
Over the past decade, we—an international team of writers, editors, photographers, designers, programmers and tour guides that call the German capital home—channeled as much of our passion for the city as we could into the Slow Travel Berlin project. Through articles, essays, workshops, tours, books and events, we have been committed to profiling the city in all its glorious diversity, from its rich and troubled history to its vibrant present as one of the most open, inclusive, tolerant, creative and unique urban centres in Europe.
I personally set up the website in 2010, two years after moving to the city, as a way of sharing all the wonderful things I was discovering. As a globe-trotting travel writer and photographer, I wanted to crate something that was the exact opposite: something deeper, slower, more local. By 2016 the project had been transformed into a dynamic community hub.
The website content was always created on a voluntary, non-profit basis, but as the project grew and required increasing amounts of work, we tried and monetise through tours, workshops and self-published books. Things began to go wrong in 2016 when a series of events resulted in the project coming to an abrupt halt. The main incidents that affected the project are:
1. All of my photo equipment and brand new laptop, with an estimated combined value around 10,000 euros, were stolen during a workshop, effectively ending my photography career. No witnesses—no one saw it being taken from the street—meant no insurance payout.
2. German distributors wouldn't take on our books even though they were selling very well in local bookstores and via our website (thanks to all who bought one!), meaning we couldn't make any money from them, The reality was that I lost a great deal of personal investment in the process .
3. A big-name event that we had supported annually, for free, noticed that we had mistakenly used a copyrighted image instead of a press image in one of our regular articles about them, and although we took it down immediately and apologised for the error, they alerted the photographer—who, again despite an apology and explanation, sued me.
I note these incidents, which all happened within a few months of each other, not to sell some kind of personal sob story, but to explain why the project closed down; more specifically to underline the fact that we were victims of circumstance rather than it having anything to do with the actual content we were creating or our passion for doing so. Much of what we did was always extremely well received by our readers and followers, which is ultimately what motivated us and kept us working for free. (See our TripAdvisor tour page, as one example).
The reason we started publishing books and running tours in the first place was to try and monetise the project in a way that gave our readers and followers extra value, rather than filling the website with advertising, sponsored links and/or clickbait. We took pride in our articles and essays and wanted them to be to enjoyed in as 'clean' an environment as possible. However, these books and tours never did make enough money to help us pay for the website content—which brings us to now.
Between 2016-2018 the site was more or less dormant while I tried to earn back some of the money I had lost. Despite this being a very disappointing time, I never found the heart to switch it off completely, since it represented way too much work from too many people. And since we had always aimed to create content that was as evergreen as possible, it still served as a good resource for readers. From 2019 onwards I started to bring the articles slowly back online, and this year (2020) I have spent many hours re-editing as many of them as I can to bring them up to date.
I've thought long and hard during this time about whether I should try bring the project back more fully. On one hand, it has always felt like we were cut off in our prime; on the other, it was a huge labour of love that cost me a lot of money—not just through unlucky incidents, but through the many, many hours that have gone into writing, editing, uploading, photographing, posting, commenting, and everything else that comes with maintaining a website of this kind.
The conclusion is that the only way we can only move forward if we have some kind of budget. Since I am still very much in favour of remaining independent (i.e. not beholden to investors, advertisers or funders), as well as a pleasant reading environment for our web content, the only viable option is to appeal to you, our readers. If you value what we do, and especially if you have enjoyed all our free content over the years (over 500 articles until now), I would like you to consider helping us get back to what we do best: engaging, informative and practical content across a wide range of themes from architecture to social issues, food stories to local history.
If you can help us hit that initial goal and get us up and running again, we could also consider re-starting our cultural-historical tours and events newsletter, hosting local events, creating a podcast, perhaps even a regular print publication. There isn't really a limit to what we can achieve with some financial support, and you can rest assured that whatever we do will always support the same values we have always loved and believed in—Berlin as a city of openness, tolerance, diversity, and community.
We will of course give back generously to our supporters in the shape of perks and rewards as we continue to grow again. Let's see what we can build together?