Old New Berlin is New Kitchener
"Blast from the past"
I moved to Kitchener in October 2008, so if it seems that I am short on tips about my "home" city, that is the reason why. I had visited Kitchener many, many times before that, because it is all of about 75 minutes away from Toronto by car and the farmer's market is a generally a big draw in the summer time, or at least it used to be. I remember coming here a few times with my family as a child, but those really are just vague memories. My clearest memory is actually from when I was 17 and I came to Kitchener for a whole three days to compete in a provincial debating competition. It was March, there was a blizzard and we were expected to venture out in the snow to buy our breakfast at the farmer's market. That didn't leave much of an impression on me, nor did the debate competitition that went horribly wrong (all because the judges didn't know what Central Park was!!!).
"A new home, maybe?"
Anyway, I don't think I ever came back to Kitchener in the seven years or so between that debating competition and when I found a job in the twin city of Waterloo. I didn't really have much of an idea about the city or its culture, except that it had once been called New Berlin, until the First World War, when it was decided that German culture and the Germans should be discretely erased from Canada's major cities. The fact is that Kitchener was once a booming industrial town: surrounded by prime agricultural land, it was a hub for the processing of all sorts of primary goods, as well as for the manufacture of heavy machinery. That attracted a lot of newcomers to the city, people whose fortunes began to sink in the 80s and 90s with the shift to service industries. The city gradually declined, and so far a major source of population growth has been the resettlement of refugees. Thank God, they bring a dash of spice to an otherwise bland culinary scene.
"Go south (where it's cheaper)"
Despite the fact that I work in Waterloo and that that's where the "new economy" people are supposed to live, I chose to get an apartment in Kitchener, where rents are lower and the apartments not quite so small. It's true, the commercial area near where I live is rather, well, seedy, but Waterloo is hardly a prize pig (thought I'd throw in some local colour there) when it comes to culture or nightlife. In fact, the interesting thing is that Kitchener not only retains its elderly, but it also seems to attract them, particularly those who lived here in their early years and then moved away. It makes for pockets of tranquil living space and a few choice bakeries and the like that cater to the older generation's tastes. In all, despite the feeling of cultural exile one gets in this city, you just can't beat some of the great German baked goods and sausages on offer in Kitchener.