THE SIEMENSBAHN WAS a short, “spur”-style urban railroad that served Berlin’s northwestern district of Siemsstadt from 1929 until 1980. Consisting of only three stations, it originated at Jungfernheide (a still-active station on the present-day Ringbahn), crossing the Spree and passing through the Wernerwerk and Siemensstadt stations before ending at Gartenfeld.Read More
RÜGEN, GERMANY'S LARGEST island, lies where the eastern Ostsee opens up into the Baltic. Closer to both Sweden and Denmark than to Hamburg, the island has remained remarkably untouched over centuries of changing rule...Read More
THIS YEAR'S BERLINALE Festival—the 67th—featured a wide-ranging selection of curiosities from decades past, from thwarted epics to camp relics to vast, inscrutable psychedelia.Read More
Berlin Typography is a project dedicated to celebrating the incredible range of sign-based type that proliferates throughout the German capital. It reveals an astounding range of typefaces, ranging from traditional blackletter to midcentury sans-serifs to a bewildering spread of outliers (with a particular soft spot for cursive neon, a signature Berlin aesthetic if there ever was one).
The project's tagline, "Words and the City", evokes the corporeal nature of urban signage, with numerous pictures revealing the particular detail given to punctuation, umlauts, and the uniquely German Eszett (ß).Read More
The forests of eastern Saxony take on a dreamlike, glowing cast in late summer. The relentlessly verdant region is dotted with small, idyllic lakes that range in color from deep blue to turquoise to a deep, irridescent green, and the woods are still and silent, as if saving their energy for fall.
At the state's far eastern edge, just a few kilometers from the Polish border, stands a 150-year-old curiosity: a perfectly semicircular bridge called the Rakotzbrücke. The bridge, along with other equally curious stone artifacts, was built in the 1860s by the local count, and spans a small, eerie lake that is little more than a pond. That it still stands today is a testament as much to its inconvenience as its quality: though crossable on foot, it's tricky in the best of weather, and downright treacherous in winter (to say nothing of the nearby signs that prohibit crossing it at all).
Though technically located in the village of Kromlau, if you're coming from Berlin by train, the closest station is Weißwasser to the south. Sleepy on the busiest of days, and a veritable ghost town on Sundays, the area around the station is dotted with fenced-off village homes and colony-style gardens, interspersed (as is so much of the former East) with crumbling, ruined buildings, complete with trees and other vegetation growing through collapsed floors and open roofs.Read More
Like most of Berlin, our adopted neighborhood of Moabit has its share of signs ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, including many that have outlived the stores whose names they bear. This far-from-complete roundup features some of the neighborhood's most colorful signage.Read More
Among the many buildings currently or formerly owned by Berlin's Technische Universität (TU) are several colorful curiosities, including the Schiffbau, which rises above the Landwehrkanal at the Tiergarten's western edge (and had a brief cameo in the cult film The Apple) and the 60s-era megaliths surrounding Ernst-Reuter-Platz, spanning blocks apiece and often covered in monochrome metal siding. For decades, a lesser-known (but equally colorful) structure sat somewhat north of the campus' gravitational center, at the far northern end of Englische Strasse on the banks of the Spree.
TU sold the eponymously-named 20 Englische Strasse to the Irish investment group Cannon Kirk, who announced its demolition to make way for a housing development called Englische Gärten. After the sale, though, it sat empty for several years, and was eventually occupied by activists in late 2015, who demanded it be used to house the increasing numbers of homeless refugees in Berlin (article here, in German). On September 10th, police evicted all protesters, and soon after, demolition of the building began in earnest.Read More
Marzahn, in the far northeast of Berlin, isn’t exactly a standard Berlin hotspot. You could spend a lifetime in Berlin without ever setting foot in this former GDR suburb, and while it’s easy enough to reach by train or tram, it’s not exactly on the way to any notable destinations, and lies past other eastern attractions like the Tierpark and the Muggelsee. But as Marzahn resident Bertie Alexander writes, “There’s a secret pleasure in not being caught up in the incessant hype and stereotypical lifestyles of Berlin,” which is a sentiment that rings true for many of us who live in the city’s less-hyped outlying districts. (You can read his excellent piece in its entirety here.)
Aesthetically, Marzahn is something of a time-capsule of the former east, particularly in its housing: as examples of Berlin Plattenbauen go, Marzahn is the ne plus ultra in both quantity and quality. Plattenbauen (“panel buildings”, roughly)—the endlessly-reproducible housing towers that could be stacked indefinitely like brutalist Legos—were one of the trademarks of the former East Germany, along with many other communist countries. These towers of white or gray concrete, accented with whimsically-colored balconies, were megalithic kitsch, sky-high projections of dark whimsicality built to offset crises of overpopulation (particularly, in the case of Marzahn, stemming from immigration from Eastern Bloc countries from the 1960s onward).Read More
A lot can be said about Europe’s most diverse capital city, but after nearly two years of residency, here is what we’ve found to be most true: Berlin is whatever you want it to be, even if what you want it to be changes on a daily basis.
1. A few quotes
“Berlin combines the culture of New York, the traffic system of Tokyo, the nature of Seattle, and the historical treasures of, well, Berlin.” – Hiroshi Motomura
“Berlin is a surprise in a great many ways… It deals with great matters and minute particulars with equal faithfulness, and with a plodding and painstaking diligence and persistency which compel admiration – and sometimes regret.” – Mark Twain, 1892
And of course, the endlessly-quoted quip from former mayor Klaus Wowereit: “Berlin ist arm, aber sexy.” (“Berlin is poor, but sexy.”)
2. A few generalities
As many Germans will tell you, Berlin is not Germany. Well, to be more exact, Berlin is Germany, but it is also its very own universe within Germany. Travel just a little ways outside the capital, and you’ll find that people are more formal, English is spoken much less, and food is generally more beige. None of these are bad things (we personally love beige food), but it’s worth noting that Berlin is truly a place unto itself.Read More