Berlin Must Sees: Gendarmenmarkt

13 11 2007

This beautiful square in the middle of the Mitte quarter at the center of Berlin, includes the German Cathedral, the French Cathedral and the Konzerthaus. It was laid out from 1688 according to plans of the architect J.A. Nering, and was originally known as Linden Markt, and then Friedrichstädtischer Markt or Neuer Markt. It became known as Gendarmenmarkt because of the old Gendarme regiment that was housed here from 1736 to 1773.
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KaDeWe, a Temple of Abundance

7 11 2007

This famous and humongous department store, Kaufhaus Des Westens (KaDeWe in short), is a major attraction, almost a legend, especially its sixth floor, the food department, which is a temple for the “abundance society” of late capitalism in the Western world.

Variety of Coffee and Tea Sweets to go with the coffee…

Fancy some soup? Or maybe a piece of meat?

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Berlin Must Sees: Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

3 11 2007

The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is a protestant church, located at the Breitscheidplatz, one end of the famous Kurfürstendamm boulevard, in the center of former West Berlin. The church was damaged in the war, and left in ruins as a monument to peace and reconciliation.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

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The Lives of Others

22 10 2007

The Oscar winning film “The Lives of Others” from 2006 (“Das Leben der Anderen” in German) is another film about the days of the former German Democratic Republic, very different in ambience from the film Goodbye Lenin!.

The Lives of Others.

Click on the picture to buy the DVD.

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Goodbye Lenin!

20 10 2007

The film Goodbye Lenin!, from 2003, was the most prominent example of Ostalgie to the world outside Germany. The film is basically about a son who, for his mother’s health, tries to create a make-believe world, in which the Wall didn’t come done and the GDR didn’t disappear from the face of the earth.

Goodbye Lenin!

Click on the picture to buy the DVD.

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Ampelmann, the East German traffic light man

18 10 2007

My personal favorite Ostalgie item, as I mentioned before, is the Ampelmann, the man in the traffic lights of East Germany (“Ampel” is “traffic-light” in German).

Ampelmann.

My first encounter with the Ampelmann was actually in a traffic-light. I immediately liked that cute darling. And then I found out about his oh so naïve and sweet history, but also about its outrageous commercialization. I mean, I really wanted an Ampelmann bag, but not at these prices. So I settled for a woolen hat and shirt, and a little green man for my key chain. I also got a small book elaborating on the history of the man, the brand and the various products.

Ampelmann bags Ampelmann ice cubes

The Ampelmann was created by the traffic psychologist (what a weird profession, I’d say) Karl Peglau, in 1961. The rationale was to combat the danger of road accidents by using appealing symbols, since “road users react more quickly to appealing symbols” (well, maybe. I don’t believe it would have worked here). Read the rest of this entry »




Ostalgie in Berlin

16 10 2007

The official Berlin tourism site offers a program for East Berlin nostalgia tours, which you can find here. They claim that “The recent history in Berlin has many aspects and different ways of handling. On one hand there is the difficult historical discussion, on the other hand is the (n)ostalgic mood… Our tour shows both sides”.

Another option is taking the “Trabi-safari” tour, which costs between 25 to 35 euros, depending on the number of participants. Information about the “Trabi-safari” can be found in their website.

A Trabant.

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Ostalgie

14 10 2007

After dealing with the commemoration of the darker side of the communist regime in East Germany, I turn now to deal with the phenomenon of Ostalgie, also mentioned here before, in relation to the current situation of the German Unification.

Ostalgie is like it sounds – the German word for nostalgia for life in the former German Democratic Republic (Ost is east in German). Everybody knows, most of all people who actually lived there, that the tearing down of the Wall was not a spontaneous whimsical act that happened with no reason. So I think it’s pretty obvious that Ostalgie does not mean wanting to live again under a totalitarian dictatorship and the unbound reign of the secret police.
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Communist Era: more memory sites and museums

12 10 2007

In the website of the city of Berlin you can find a lot of very useful information about sites and museums, dedicated to the commemoration of the wall, its victims, and the GDR (German Democratic Republic, as East Germany called itself) period and works.

Among the memorial sites for the victims of the Berlin Wall you can find the Memorial for Günter Litfin, the first person to be shot and killed attempting to flee to West Berlin. The memorial is located on Kieler str. 2, and you can get there by taking the U6 to Reinickendorfer Strasse station, or by bus line 147.

There is also a memorial for Peter Fechter, an East German teenager who was shot at the crossing and left there to bleed to death. The place was marked with a wooden cross, which was replaced in 1999 by a stele created by Karl Biedermann and donated by Axel-Springer-Verlag. The spot where Peter Fechter died is marked on the ground by basalt rock.

Other memorials include the Parliament of Trees against War and Violence, and the White Crosses memorial site. For further information, including a map, look here.

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Communist Era commemoration: Checkpoint Charlie

10 10 2007

The communist era is heavily commemorated in Berlin, with memorials, museums, special tours and more, scattered all over the city. We have already mentioned and elaborated about the Berlin Wall, and mentioned the sweet and sour issue of German Unification, but there still remains a lot to be said.
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