Tel Aviv Comes To Town Ku'Damm Shopping Spree
IN WURST WE TRUST
For some people, the Currywurst is more than just a sausage: It's a belief, a religion, something to live for. Berliners are often caught debating the best place to get a Currywurst. Curry 36? Konnopke Imbiss? Zander? Whatever the answer, you can’t call yourself a true devotee if you haven’t gone on a pilgrimage to Kantstr.
101, where in 1949 Imbiss owner Herta Heuwer first mixed Worcestershire sauce and curry powder obtained from British soldiers to invent Currywurst sauce. Her creation became so successful among construction workers in destroyed Berlin that by 1951, she was selling 10,000 servings per week. Today, a sign on the façade of Kantstr. 101 pays homage to Heuwer and her invention.
KGB BEHIND BARS
After WWII, being a political opponent of the socialist system was a dangerous activity in East Berlin: You were sent to prison, either in Potsdam or in Berlin Hohenschönhausen. The
Potsdam Soviet Jail (www.gedenkstaetteleistikowstrasse.de, Tue–Sun 2–6 pm), which recently opened to the public as a memorial and museum, detained many Germans suspected of spying for the US, UK, or France, as well as KGB traitors. Inmates were confined in total isolation from the outside world, and some were later sent to gulags in Siberia or special camps such as Sachsenhausen, north of Berlin. The Stasi Prison at Hohenschönhausen (www.stiftung-hsh. de) was instead meant for ordinary citizens arrested by the Stasi for trying to escape, watching Western TV, or simply talking to people perceived as political opponents. The restricted surrounding area was conveniently left off of East Berlin maps, which explains the general lack of knowledge of the prison’s existence in its time.
PINK FLOYD: EMPTY SPACES
Roger Waters’ performance of Pink Floyd’s
The Wall in 1990, eight months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was a record-breaking concert, totalling nearly 500,000 attendees. The concert took place on the no-man’s land between Potsdamer Platz and
Brandenburg Gate. Before the event, the area was swept for land mines and,
surprisingly, an SS bunker from WWII was found instead. A section of the Berlin Wall was used as a security fence for the concert.
If you're looking for authentic reminders of the Cold War, stay away from Checkpoint Charlie. Sure, the Benetton-style photographs of the US and Russian soldiers are located on the very spot where the old crossing used to be, but everything about this tourist site is artificial: The Wall is no longer there, the buildings surrounding the spot are completely new, and the guardhouse that appears in thousands of tourists' photographs is fake. The real one still exists and lives peacefully in the courtyard of the little-known Allied Forces
Museum, in the former “US Army suburb” of Zehlendorf. This small museum, housed inside an old American movie theater, tells the story of the US, French, and British presence in Berlin, and also explores relationships between the military presence and the local population. Next to the (real) Checkpoint Charlie guardhouse in the courtyard are a
Rosinenbomber, one of the airplanes used during the 1948 Berlin Blockade; a British Army train; and an original watchtower placed behind a small segment of the Wall.
HORROR WITH A VIEW
On a cold January morning in 1942, while looking out the window at one of Berlin’s most gorgeous views, 15 high-ranking SS officers, including Adolf Eichmann, sat down together in what became known as the Wannsee Conference. Their meeting ended with the signing of “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” one of the most horrifying documents in history: The declaration outlined the plan to systematically murder all the Jews of Europe. In an attempt to try and conceal his involvement, the mastermind behind the “Final Solution,” Adolf Hitler, did not physically participate in the conference. Built in 1915, the Wannsee villa was sold twice before falling into the hands of the SS, and is now a museum recounting the event and its atrocious consequences (www.ghwk.de).
FOR YOUR SPIES ONLY
There were 14 border crossings between West Berlin and the GDR, each with its own purpose. Some, like Checkpoint Charlie, were meant for diplomats and Allied forces, while others were intended for West German citizens crossing on foot. The Friedrichstraße station was used by West Germans arriving by S-Bahn, and a couple crossings were meant for Allied military liaison missions – in other words, for the exchange of captured spies. One of these border crossings was the picturesque
Glienicke Bridge over the Havel, which during the Cold War witnessed four famous swaps of 11 Soviet spies in return for 29 US and Western agents.
PRESIDENTS AND LIFTS
US president John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein
Berliner” speech was delivered in 1963 from the balcony of Rathaus Schöneberg, then the seat of West Berlin’s senate. The square in front of the Rathaus, renamed John-F.Kennedy-Platz following the president’s assassination, was a common meeting point for protests against Soviet influence. Visit on a Sunday to shop at the weekly flea market, or on a weekday to see and try out the ingenious paternoster elevator fitted in the building in the early 1900s. Not recommended for claustrophobics.
WE WILL RESIST!
Located in Charlottenburg, the late19th-century Plötzensee Prison saw the execution of nearly 3000 inmates during the Nazi regime. Prisoners were charged lodging fees for the days spent in imprisonment, and their families were sent a bill for the execution. Among those killed were Germans involved in resistance organizations, including the Red Orchestra and those tied to the 20 July Plot, along with political prisoners from Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France. A memorial stands at the execution shed, where gallows were set up to hang members of the Red Orchestra.
THE BERLIN SCHINDLER
During the Holocaust, some brave Germans risked their lives to save Jews from deportation. One such hero was Otto Weidt, a factory owner who employed blind and deaf Jews to prevent their immediate arrest. Weidt, visually impaired himself and somewhat of a rebel, frequently hid workers in concealed rooms in his workshop or sent packages to his deported employees. A
museum dedicated to Weidt and the workshop for the blind stands at the original site of the factory in one of the courtyards at Hackescher Markt.
UBAHN, SBAHN, MBAHN!
With today's alphabet soup of letters, the Berlin transport system can get quite confusing. Shortly before the fall of the Wall, West Berliners also had to deal with another mode of transportation: the M-Bahn. This magnetic train was the second of its kind in the world, but it didn’t last long: When the Wall came down, the reconnection of the previously severed U2 line rendered it redundant, so its few stations were shut down and dismantled.
THE BEAUTY OF EMPTINESS
Lovers of desolate, abandoned places, rejoice! You've come to the right place. To capture the strange beauty of Berlin’s historic buildings, drive down south to Checkpoint Bravo in Wannsee. The
Autobahn border crossing once in the hands of the US army is now a memorial site, but its ghostly feel and retro look are the delight of every photographer.
Rosinenbomber at the Allied Forces Museum
Glienicker Brücke, the "bridge of spies"
Sign from East Germany and the Berlin Wall
Berliner Currywurst and the Brandenburg Gate
At the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg, 35km north of Berlin, an old sign reads: "Neutral zone: trespassers will be shot immediately and
without prior notice."
A Berlin Wall watchtower, a relic of
the Cold War era
The Haus der Wannsee Konferenz, where Nazi officers signed the
The Berlin Wall