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100 Favourite Places ebook

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Written and photographed by members of the Slow Travel Berlin team, 100 Favourite Places draws on the contributors' deep knowledge and experience of the city to present one hundred great places that favour the timeless over the trendy, and the obscure over the obvious. From hundred-year-old cafes and hidden GDR watchtowers, speciality shops and esoteric museums, each entry has been thoughtfully chosen and written in a personal, highly informative style. 100 Favourite Places reflects Slow Travel Berlin’s commitment to sustainable travel and a professional content aesthetic. Every aspect of the book has been taken care of in-house, from the friendly, eye-catching design and the professional, full colour photographs that accompany each entry, to the charming hand-drawn maps (created by Berlin-based artist and illustrator Katrin Hagen, aka Mischief Champion) – which make 100 Favourite Places a perfect guide-on-the-go, as well as a handsome coffee-table enhancer.

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Book design by Emilia Ohberg

Maps by Katrin Hagen

Cover image: Modellpark Berlin-Brandenburg by Paul Sullivan

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof

may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever

without the express written permission of the publisher

except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

100 Favourite Places

Slow Travel Berlin

Published by: epubli GmbH, Berlin, www.epubli.de

Copyright: © 2013 Slow Travel Berlin

ISBN 978-3-8442-6963-5

www.slowtravelberlin.com | [email protected]

100 FAVOURITE PLACES

WARNING: NOT A CONVENTIONAL GUIDEBOOK!

Welcome to our favourite places! Instead of just highlighting Berlin’s hippest ‘hotspots’, we’ve taken a more considered and personal approach to bring you 100 special places, many of which would go unmentioned in a conventional guide. While we’ve included recommendations on cafés and restaurants, museums and monuments, parks and architecture, we’ve tried to resist the temptation to compress the city into a set of catchy soundbites and glossy venues in favour of giving each place room to breathe and shine.

As long-term residents of Berlin, we’re still very much in thrall to this fascinating city. We aim to share our enthusiasm by providing a charming and inspirational city companion for visitors and residents alike. Our favourite places have been hand-picked by core members of the Slow Travel Berlin team and reflect our overall ethos of slow, sustainable travel: taking time to explore the fringes of the city, discovering lesser-known delights and supporting smaller, independent businesses.

We’ve written each profile from first-hand experience and taken our own photographs. We’ve designed the book ourselves and worked with a local illustrator to create hand-drawn maps, all with the aim of generating a unique, intimate view of the city. And, to echo Berlin itself, we’ve eschewed a predictable ordering scheme in favour of offering unexpected juxtapositions. Each turn of the page will reveal a new surprise; we hope you’ll enjoy our favourite places as much as we do.

How To Use This e-Book

This ebook is the interactive complementary version of our printed book. To use it best, we have created a system where you can click directly on any map reference (located at the bottom of each place profile) and be taken to the corresponding map. Similarly, clicking on the place names associated with the maps will take you directly to that place profile. This means that you can use the map during walks around the city to see which of our places might be nearby, and easily and directly find more specific information about them. Of course, you can also use the "search" function to look for specific place names or keywords.

Colour Code

Parks & GardensArchitectural HighlightsMuseums & GalleriesHistorical SitesReflection & RemembranceFood & DrinkInteresting ShopsFamily Fun
01

Aerodynamic Park

ADLERSHOF

A stroll through Adlershof’s Aerodynamic Park could leave you wondering if aliens have landed in Berlin. The site’s bizarre structures were built in the early ’30s, when it was home to the German Research Institute for Aviation. Active until the end of WWII, it was stripped of its equipment by Soviet forces.

It’s the dull silvery sheen of the large wind tunnel that first catches your eye as you head up Brook-Taylor-Strasse. With an entrance like the opened hatch of a spaceship, its concrete shell still bears the grain of the wooden planks used to mould it. Inside, a giant fan once blasted winds of up to 200km/h against the aircraft parts being tested inside. A note in Russian on its side advises Soviet soldiers that it has been ‘Checked. No mines.’

With twin chimney-like towers, the soundproofed engine testbed was used to test engines and propellers to their limits. The towers helped direct the airflow in such a way that noise from tests inside was muffled on its way out. Now the only sounds come from the meeting center for students of the Humboldt University, which owns the Aerodynamic Park site. The Trudelturm, with a staircase winding its way round its pepper-pot-like exterior, was a vertical wind tunnel. Inside, model aircraft were dropped into an upward airstream to research the phenomenon of spin. Its bullet-scarred concrete is a remainder and reminder of its capture in April 1945. Set slightly apart from the other buildings, the engine altitude testbed looks positively normal by comparison. Beneath its gently undulating series of barrel roofs, aircraft engines were tested for performance at different simulated altitudes.

On the lawn between the buildings, collections of mini red flying saucers screech and burble away to themselves – an art installation called AIR BORNE,by Stefan Krüskemper. Recordings from the German radio archive have been processed by Karlheinz Essl into the unnerving soundscape of otherworldly noises that emerge from the red ellipsoids. RC

Newtonstr., 12489; S Adlershof

Map: Overview G4

02

Museum of Things

KREUZBERG

The Museum of Things, tucked inside an old factory, holds a treasury of everyday objects: a temple of the apparently mundane. It houses the archives of the Deutscher Werkbund: a federation of craftsmen, architects, designers and manufacturers formed in 1907 which, a decade before the more famous Bauhaus movement, advocated a union of design and industrial production to create attractive, replicable, quality goods that were accessible to a broad spectrum of society.

In the museum’s sleek, minimalist space, glass-fronted cabinets hold an orderly assortment of objects from these archives, as well as from everyday design culture, grouped by themes such as ‘yellow and black’ and ‘functional vs. kitsch’, rather than by era, to provide them with new contexts. The workaday objects you’ll find run the gamut from silver spoons to hair dryers, Star Wars collectibles to GDR-era toiletries.

The thousands of objects on display have been selected to exemplify material culture from the early 20th century up to the present. The tidy assemblage, like a well-controlled yard sale, can be enjoyed for its sheer profusion of strange stuff – schlock like slippers made to look like penises and a decorative pillow embroidered with Hitler’s visage. It can also be browsed as a history of influence, illustrating how the Werkbund’s cardinal principles came to dominate German industrial design. Particularly impressive is the ’20s-era Frankfurt Kitchen: this compact contraption, whose cupboards disappear inside one another and whose countertops fold down to reveal appliances, is a space-saving marvel, a triumph of the federation’s credo, ‘function without ornament’.

The section on elektronische Dinge (electronic things) brings visitors up to the present for a look at function and design in today’s gadgets (laptops, mobile phones) – and shows how the Werkbund’s ideas about form, materials, production and accessibility presaged the evolution of the MacBook well before Steve Jobs ever wielded a laser pointer. TE

Oranienstr. 25, 10999; U Kottbusser Tor; www.museumderdinge.de

Map: East E3

03

Rum Trader

WILMERSDORF

At first glance, Rum Trader’s appearance may deceive: the protruding and heavy-rimmed oblong windows shout ‘futuristic submarine’, as if it’s some kind of groovy hippy hangout. But ring the bell and a pleasing contradiction awaits: a bespectacled man appears at the door sporting the dandy’s uniform of bowtie, waistcoat and a blazer inscribed with the bar’s logo. He gently extends his hand in greeting and bids his visitors take their seats.

The man in question is the owner, Herr Scholl; and his diminutive establishment, which can only host around 20 patrons at a time, is more than just a bar – it’s a time machine. One of the oldest cocktail bars in the city, Rum Trader effortlessly transcends the general trendiness of such establishments. Music tinkles softly from a gramophone, dusty rum bottles line the shelves, and bubbles of conversation float up and down from a mixed crowd of young romantic couples, well-dressed clusters of middle-aged West Berliners and the occasional curious tourist.

As you might expect from such a venue, the cocktails are flawless. From the Hemingway to the Mint Julep or Rum Sour, it’s not just the ardour that goes into each one, but the complementary whiff of arrogance. No bumbling amateur, Herr Scholl settles for nothing less than true connoisseurship. Make the mistake of ordering a Caipirinha, say, and prepare to be scrutinised: ‘We don’t serve such drinks here’, he might retort, sharing a look of disdain with his assistant. Herr Scholl can be similarly irritated when patrons ask for his recommendations: ‘You should know what you like to drink,’ he has been heard to sigh.

While this doesn’t happen all the time, such characteristic cockiness, which might seem a turnoff at a lesser establishment, adds to the inherent charm and drama of the place. Indeed, it’s part of what lends the bar its air of timeless authenticity. Order well, and not only will you become acquainted with some of the best rum drinks in town, you’ll also make a new friend. GG

Fasanenstr. 40, 10719; U Spichernstr.

Map: West D4

04

Onkel Philipps Toy Workshop

PRENZLAUER BERG

How to explain this intriguing anomaly of a shop, with its colourful, ivy-shrouded façade and piles of toys crammed into every available space? Calling it simply a ‘toy shop’ seems inadequate, while its official title (Uncle Philipp’s Toy Workshop) doesn’t quite cut it either. It certainly fulfils both these roles, of course, but it also serves as a portal to another, less contemporary Berlin....

The store was opened in 2002 by the eponymous Uncle Philipp as a place to sell and repair toys. Fuelled partly by his annoyance at how easily East Germans were discarding their childhood toys for Western versions, a big part of his original collection was – and still is – puzzles, board games, playing cards and other curiosities from the GDR; these now mix with modern items like drum kits, remote-control cars, monster costumes, and the impressively large model airplanes that dangle cheerfully from the ceiling.

‘This shop lives!’ declares a sign out front; and indeed, as you explore the warren of rooms inside, it’s inevitable that you or your child will make a doll squeak or a toy dog bark, either by actively pressing it or accidentally tripping over it. On a typical day, Philipp – or his ‘muse’ Hans – can be found guiding customers through the jumble of delights, dismantling and repairing a broken toy, or simply waiting for the kettle to boil on the small stove behind the counter.

Although the dedicated Ost-Shop in the front is where you’ll find the biggest selection of East German toys, if you ask nicely you may be handed a remote control and ushered towards the ‘secret museum’. Pull aside a sliding door to reveal a set of rickety steps that deposit you face to face with yet more ‘Ossi’ childhood memorabilia, this time presented behind glass and featuring yet more beautifully randomised juxtapositions: old dolls and badminton rackets, board games and radios. Pressing the control’s buttons will set off some activity behind the glass – inducing, more often than not, little squeals of delight. PS

Choriner Str 35, 10435; U Senefelderplatz; www.onkel-philipp.de

Map: North F2

05

Ökowerk Nature Conservation Center

GRUNEWALD

The northeastern part of Grunewald forest is perhaps best-known for the Cold War spy station at Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain). But at the bottom of that manmade hill lies an equally fascinating industrial relic: the Ökowerk Nature Conservation Centre. Heralded by a 35-metre brick chimney, this former water plant, which backs onto the small but charming Teufelssee, was built in 1872 to service Spandau and Westend.

In 1985, it was transformed into a place where adults and children alike can learn about water and explore nature in a safe, informative environment. The center comprises several restored brick buildings that used to host the plant’s handling and filtration systems. Most visitors enter through the Waldhaus (Forest Hall), which is used for events and workshops, while an adjacent Machine House hosts an impressive collection of original wheels, cogs and water tanks.

You’ll emerge into a self-contained wonderland of gardens, orchards and ponds, connected by winding paths and punctuated with items like a clay oven and a solar cooker that children can learn to use, and a ‘barefoot garden’ full of sand. In summer the place chirrups and rasps with the sounds of insects (including mosquitoes), birds and grass snakes. Frogs grunt atop lily pads and bees hover around the abundant foliage, and the gardens boast everything from the edible – salad, ground ivy, garlic mustard – to the poisonous and medicinal, all grown for educational purposes.

The Wasserleben (Life of Water) info center features a permanent exhibition that outlines the history of the water plant and explores all aspects of H2O. A special treat is the Reinwasserbehälter, an underground reservoir whose arched ceilings can sustain echoes for 30 seconds or more. The center offers regular tours and work-shops on topics like how to read animal tracks and a ‘survival training’ course.

When you’re done exploring, take a dip in the Teufelssee or take the kids into the forest to play in the Sandgrube, the city’s largest sand pit, a reminder of the forest’s Ice Age roots. PS

Teufelsseechaussee 24, 14193; S Grunewald, then Bus 19, 186 or 349 (plus 20-min walk); www.oekowerk.de

Map: Overview C3

06

Anhalter Bahnhof

KREUZBERG

At the apex of this relic of the Anhalter Bahnhof is an empty circle of brick, which once held a clock. Where the clock once hung you can see only sky. Its hands went round while 44,000 people travelled through the station each day, and while Jews were deported via regularly scheduled passenger trains.

Traffic from the original station, opened in 1841, passed through the Duchy of Anhalt, with the service becoming known as the ‘Anhalt line’ and the terminus as the Anhalter station. In a time of rapid city growth, Anhalter Bahnhof was redesigned to be the largest, most opulent train station in Germany, and was reopened in 1880, a symbol of modernity and ambition.

Near the start of WWII, the Nazi regime initiated a north-south S-Bahn line running beneath the station, with plans to connect to a rail interchange to be located under Hitler’s planned Germania Halle station, a behemoth meant to render Anhalter Bahnhof a reliquary. During the war, Allied air raids and Soviet artillery inflicted heavy damage on the station. Even so, throughout the Nazi campaign to exterminate the Jews, deportations continued without cease from the city’s central station, with the last ‘shipment’ of 42 Jews to Theresienstadt leaving on 27 March, 1945. Some 10,000 Jews were deported from the station over four years.

Though finally demolished in 1960, the station leaves behind a vast, if splintered, footprint. Across the Landwehrkanal to the south stand former goods depots, and in the scrub along the canal, fragments of freight-loading platforms protrude from the dirt. The amputated central façade of the station, which was allowed to stand, today fronts an expanse of land reclaimed as a busy football field, with the tent-like Tempodrom visible at its far end. The front side of the station is carefully burnished and restored, but its back end is broken and scarred, a place to stand on the empty gravel and reflect. MR

Stresemannstr. at Askanischer Platz, S Anhalter Bahnhof

Map: East A3

07

Café Buchwald

MOABIT

Café Buchwald sits at one end of a bridge traversing the Spree at the edge of the leafy Hansaviertel (see p. 36). Already 160 years old, the cafe has been owned by the same family since the beginning and run mostly by women, whose pride of craftsmanship when it comes to their cakes is unparalleled. Dressed in matching uniforms, they serve up sweet slices from cream-based to fruity to chocolate in an interior that’s all stiffly starched tablecloths, lace curtains and Jugendstil wallpaper.

Through the front room, where cakes are displayed on shelves and in cooled vitrines, the double doors lead to the main dining room. Take a seat at a center table, from which the bustle of the shop’s multigenerational staff can be seen and felt, and the ever-rarer Berlin dialect of their banter with customers can be heard clearly. Perhaps, in your anticipation, you’ll flash back to your childhood kitchen, where you sat waiting to be blessed with something sweet on a plate, and along with it, your mother’s silent assent that you were finally allowed to indulge.

At Café Buchwald, guests are encouraged to indulge too, especially when it comes to a certain speciality: the German delicacy known as Baumkuchen. The strange name (it means ‘tree cake’) comes from the tree-like rings that are formed from the process of baking layers of pastry on top of each other as the ‘trunk’ is turned slowly on a spit over an open flame. Buchwald sells this famed type of cake in a variety of forms, either sliced and chocolate-covered, or in little round chunks the size of small tree stumps, packaged and sealed with the café’s gold emblem.

As you surreptitiously dab the crumbs from your plate and listen to the friendly chatter of the locals, you may find yourself smugly thinking back to all the anonymous cafés you’ve spent time in, their tables cluttered with computers, not a voice disturbing the monotony of clinking keys and glowing screens. Indeed Buchwald’s rich history and the aura of pride and personality in every bite is something most cafés only dream of. GP

Bartningallee 29, 10557; S Bellevue; www.konditorei-buchwald.de

Map: West F1

08

Open Air Gaslamp Museum

TIERGARTEN

Despite being exposed to the elements – and the indiscriminate wrath of vandals and graffiti artists – for three decades, the Open Air Gaslamp Museum still looks good as new; or at least, as new as a collection of centuries-old gas lamps can look. Each of the 90 lamps has been regularly restored with fresh coats of paint and new parts over the years, and from dusk onwards each night they continue to cast their warm, golden luminescence while attracting the inevitable armies of nighttime insects.

Located right next to the Tiergarten S-Bahn, the museum is often visited by accident, with some couples and lovers noticing only a mysterious romantic charge as they pass along the pathway. The largest exhibition of its kind in Europe, it was created in 1978 to honour a time when street lighting wasn’t merely pragmatic, but aesthetic.

There are local favourites like the Spandau lamp, the Dresden model and the Charlottenburg Chandeliers, still used in the area around the Schloss Charlottenburg. Some unusual names crop up as well, like the ‘Wilmersdorf Widow’ and the ‘Boot Leg’. Especially alluring is the neo-Gothic Camberwall lamp, a converted English oil lantern imported to Berlin in 1826, which once helped make Unter den Linden one of the most attractive streets in Europe.

The museum makes for an enjoyable visit day or night, though your stroll may take on a more poignant aura when you learn that plans are afoot to replace the city’s existing 40,000 gas lanterns with electric versions. You might decide to take a pause on one of the (recently added) park benches to better admire the parade of posts, and perhaps mull over the battle between nostalgia and sustainability.

If you do, take a peek behind you. On some seat backs you’ll find inscribed a poem by German-Jewish anarchist and writer Erich Mühsam, which relates to one of his characters, a revolutionary lamplighter who staunchly defended his street lamps as criminals tried to tear them down. It reads: ‘...If we do unscrew the light, no citizen can see anything.’ PS

Str. des 17 Juni south of S-Bahn Tiergarten, 10557; S Tiergarten; www.museumsportal-berlin.de

Map: West E1

09

Kolle 37

PRENZLAUER BERG

It’s difficult not to do a double take at the wooden towers that teeter precariously above a rudimentary perimeter fence along Kollwitzstrasse. The casually constructed shacks, nailed haphazardly together by hammer-wielding children, testify to a markedly different spirit than the fashion boutiques, organic delis and expansive 19th-century apartments that otherwise line this handsome Prenzlauer Berg street.

Founded directly after the Wall fell by a group of open-minded parents, this Abenteuerspielplatz (adventure playground) allows kids aged 6–16 to experience some of life’s more ‘dangerous’ elements, harking back to the city’s post-Wende milieu, which generally favoured free-spirited exploration and cavalier experi-mentation over killjoy health and safety measures. Apart from using saws and hammers to build imaginary huts and fortresses, kids can also build their own fires and cook their own food; they can tend to their own gardens, make pottery (and fire it in a kiln) and practice blacksmithery in a forge.

Funded partly by the district of Pankow (of which Prenzlauer Berg is a part), the project employs four teachers and several craftsmen whose role is merely to supervise from a distance. And – what do you know? – instead of their time here ending in broken limbs, veils of tears and ambulance rides, children are introduced to the timeless values of teamwork, trust and responsibility.

The fun continues into the evenings too, as the main house hosts everything from workshops and cultural events to lectures and music rehearsals. And for smaller kids, there’s a special area next door that has rabbits and guinea pigs to pet and poke, a water fountain to splosh around in, and a great café offering drinks, snacks and a ‘waffle buffet’ on Sundays. In contrast to the main activity area next door and events such as the annual hut-building festival held after each Easter weekend, parents are even graciously tolerated here…as long as they behave themselves. PS

Kollwitzstr. 35, 10405; U Senefelderplatz; www.kolle37.de

Map: North F2

10

Kino Babylon

MITTE

Kino Babylon opened its doors in 1929, when Berlin was hardly in need of another movie house. At the time, the city boasted 378 cinemas, 105 of them offering theatre shows alongside movie screenings. Nearby Münzstrasse was a cinematic epicenter and just around the corner, on Rosenthaler Platz, was Berlin’s largest cinema UT (later UFA).

But with the construction of the Volksbühne 15 years earlier, Bülowplatz (today’s Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz) had become a cultural center, and the Babylon was built to round out the artistic feel of the area. Berlin-born architect Hans Poelzig designed the cinema to be cutting-edge: in addition to the coin-operated automated dining of its Automatenrestaurant