Author Archives: andberlin

Berlin Street Art Vol 13 – Various Artists

Time for another Berlin Street Art selection box – enjoy!

You should know the drill by now, but just in case you don’t, if they’ve featured on the blog before clicking on an artist’s name will take you to more of their work.

CASE

Andreas von Chrzanowski, aka CASE / Case_Maclaim, is the man responsible for these massive hands.  Born in Thüringen, he produces some very impressive photorealistic Street Art and has been part of the Maclaim Crew since 2000.

Under Der Hand - Street Art by CASE (Maclaim) in Berlin

Unter Der Hand (Close Up) - Street Art by CASE (Maclaim) in Berlin

Check out CASE’s website and Facebook page.

ALIAS

Sitting On The Facts - Street Art by ALIAS in Berlin

Apitatán

These two pieces by Apitatán, who hails from Quito, Ecuador, made me smile.  ‘Monday Again’ – the image of a man shaving – was particularly well placed, the recess in the wall giving the impression of a mirror’s frame.

Nuen Tien Do Nada - Street Art by Apitatán in Berlin Monday Again - Street Art by Apitatán in Berlin

See more from Apitatán on his website and Facebook page.

Ericailcane x Bastardilla

This huge piece in the Haus Schwarzenberg Hof by Ericailcane is a very unsubtle dig at people like me who take photographs of Street Art.  It is part of a collaboration with Colombian Street Artist Bastardilla – just one of a number of murals produced by the pair.

Street Art by Ericailcane x Bastardilla in Berlin Ape Face Close Up - Street Art by Ericailcane in Berlin Ape Face Close Up - Street Art by Ericailcane in Berlin Camera Close Up - Street Art by Ericailcane in Berlin

El Bocho

Citizen Green - Street Art by El Bocho in Berlin

Ambush

If you’re a fan of Berlin Street Art, chances are you’ve seen Ambush’s ‘Bending Berlin Baby’, featuring a slightly worse for wear Bender from Futurama.  This time, Yoda gets the Ambush treatment in ‘Kiss My Darkside’.

Kiss My Darkside - Street Art by Ambush in Berlin

Negative Vibes

Shrouded - Street Art by Negative Vibes in Berlin

See plenty of cracking Street Art from Negative Vibes on Facebook and Tumblr.

STEIN

Painter For Life - Street Art by STEIN in Berlin

There’s a lot more work from Norwegian Street Artist STEIN on his Facebook page.

Unknown Artists

If anyone knows who created these pieces, please let me know in the comments.  That way, I can update my post to give the artist the proper credit.

Daft Punk - Street Art by Unknown Artist in Berlin Puppeteer - Street Art by Unknown Artist in Berlin

Burger Me: 6 of the Best Burgers in Berlin

Like just about everybody else in this city I’m constantly on the lookout for Berlin’s Best Burger.  Every time I think I have my list finalised a new place opens or someone recommends somewhere I haven’t heard of and I have to reshuffle it – that’s why this is ‘6 of the best’ not ‘the best’.

Discussions about the best burgers in Berlin can get quite intense and emotional so I’m sure some of you will be shouting at your screens when you get to the end of this post.

For now, these are my 6 top recommendations but I’ll update the list whenever I find a new favourite.

Clicking on the restaurant name will take you to a full post about it.

Da Birdhouse - the house burger at The Bird in Berlin

The Bird – Prenzlauer Berg / Kreuzberg
You will never forget your first burger at The Bird – a meat feast followed by a food coma. Eating here is a burger lover’s rite of passage. Booking recommended.
My Advice: The Kreuzberg outpost offers a lunch special – a single patty version of Da Birdhouse with fries and a soft drink or small beer for €7.50.

 

Chilli Cheeseburger at Berlin Burger International in NeuköllnBerlin Burger International (BBI) – Neukölln
BBI is barely more than a hole in the wall but there is plenty of outdoor seating, ideal for hot summer days. The burgers come loaded with mountains of toppings.
My Advice: Be sure to have some serviettes at the ready. There’s no way you’re eating one of the burgers here without making an almighty mess.

 

Chilli Cheeseburger and Süßkartoffel Pommes at Schiller Burger Berlin

Schiller Burger – Neukölln & others
The burgers at Schiller Burger have proven popular enough to warrant opening 4 locations across Berlin with a 5th in Pankow in the pipeline.
My Advice: The original Schillerkiez location is still the best. Get the Sweet Potato Pommes with the Aoili dip (smelly breath be damned).

 

Cheeseburger with Bacon and Fries (close up) at Tommi's Burger Joint BerlinTommi’s Burger Joint – Mitte
Tómas Andrés Tómasson, the man behind Tommi’s loves burgers so much he eats at least one every day – the burgers here are that good.
My Advice: The burgers are full of flavour but basic but you can add extras – as they say, everything’s better with bacon and don’t miss the ‘Extras bar’.

 

The De La Sauce Bao Burger at District Mot, a Vietnamese restaurant, in BerlinDistrict Một – Mitte
There’s only one burger on the menu at District Một – the De La Sauce. Served in a Banh Bao bap this Vietnamese fusion burger is a 3 times winner of the Burgers n Hip Hop best burger vote.
My Advice: Check out the ‘For the Exotic Tongue’ section of the menu – Deep-fried silkworm anyone?

 

The Buckshot at Piri's Chicken Burgers in Berlin

Piri’s Chicken Burgers – Kreuzberg
From Portugal via Sydney, Piri’s brings a much-needed dose of fiery chilli goodness to Berlin. ‘The Buckshot’ is a wonderful cheese steak creation.
My Advice: If you’re feeling brave, try the Trauma sauce but remember softly, softly catchee monkey as Henry Kelly would say.

 

If anyone has any recommendations for a burger joint I have to try please let me know in the comments.

Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin

Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin 001

Honouring the Soviet soldiers who died in the Second World War was obviously of huge importance to Joseph Stalin – in Berlin alone there are 4 memorials, one of which is the Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide (Das Sowjetische Ehrenmal in der Schönholzer Heide).  It may not be as centrally located as the Soviet War Memorial on Strasse des 17 Juni or as jaw-droppingly vast as the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park but it is an impressive monument to the fallen soldiers nonetheless.

Plans to construct the Soviet war memorials in Berlin were conceived soon after the end of the war and a group of Soviet architects – Konstantin A. Soloviev, M. Belarnzew, WD Koroljew – and the sculptor Ivan G. Perschudtschew were given the task of creating the memorial in Schönholz.

Construction of the memorial and cemetery – 13,200 of the approximately 80,000 Soviet soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin are buried here – took place between May 1947 and November 1949 over an area of around 27,500 m2.

Names on Plaque at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin

Set in the walls flanking the memorial are 100 plaques bearing the name, rank and year of birth of each of the 2647 soldiers it was possible to identify.

When I first made the journey to Schönholz in the North Berlin district of Pankow the memorial was closed for renovations – metal fences barred access to the grounds but I resolved to return.

The memorial was closed between early 2011 and August 2013 during which time 10.35 million Euros was spent cleaning, renovating and installing new security systems.

I returned to the Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide on a sunny afternoon soon after it reopened on the 13 August 2013.

Pillar at Entrance to Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin Entrance to Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin 002

The entrance is flanked by two granite pillars topped with a bronze sculpture of an eternal flame and bearing a wreath.  From here, an avenue of lime trees leads to the memorial grounds.

German Inscription at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin Russian Inscription at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin Bronze Relief of Soldier and Grieving Parents at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin Bronze Relief of Soldier at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin Bronze Relief of Female Soldier at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin Military Insignia at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin

I paused at the red granite gatehouses bearing bronze reliefs depicting victorious soldiers and the soviet people grieving the loss of loved ones, along with the insignia of the Soviet military branches.

Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin 004 Obelisk at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin Mausoleum at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin Mother Russia at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin

Having walked the length of the grounds to the focal points of the memorial, the Statue of Mother Russia and the 33.5m high Obelisk, I sat on the steps to enjoy the peace and quiet.

As I sat there waiting for the moment I could take a photo looking back to the entrance without people in it, I watched as a woman lifted her toddler onto the plinth of the statue of Mother Russia, where the child proceeded to beat the cast bronze.

The same woman then dropped the cigarette she had been smoking and crushed it on the ground under her foot, where she left it.

Whilst I was still shaking my head at her lack of respect, a couple arrived with their dog, off its lead, running around on the grass above the bodies of the Russian soldiers.

Mother Russia and Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin

Thankfully, my visit and my faith in human nature were rescued by another visitor and what turned out to be a magic Berlin moment.  As I sat there an elderly gentleman approached me and asked if I speak Russian.

When I explained that I don’t, Wolfgang introduced himself in German and went on to tell me about his personal connection to the memorial.

Wolfgang had fought during the war and spent the 4 years from 1945 to 1949 in a Russian prison in Volta outside Moscow as a Prisoner of War.  He lives 30 minutes walk from the War Memorial and visits often to say thank you to the dead soldiers there who gave their lives to end the war.  He came empty handed on the day I met him but he explained that he often brings flowers from his garden.

Wolfgang then told me a little of his life after the war living in East Berlin with his wife and 2 children.

We discussed the peacefulness of the memorial, the horror and stupidity of war and the uniqueness of Berlin – ‘ich liebe Berlin’, Wolfgang told me often.

Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin 003 Eternal Flame at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin Flowers at Soviet Memorial in Schönholzer Heide in Berlin

I can’t promise you’ll meet Wolfgang if you visit the Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide but there are plenty of symbolic touches in the monument and grounds that will lead to the contemplation of the human cost of the war and the Soviet army’s losses in the Battle of Berlin in particular.

BVG Freibad – an abandoned open-air pool in Berlin

BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg

The water at the BVG Freibad, an abandoned open-air swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in the Berlin district of Lichtenberg, doesn’t look too inviting, even on a hot day.

The pool was built in 1928, the same year the neighbouring stadium was acquired by the newly formed BVG (Berliner Verkehrs Aktiengesellschaft, now the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe), the public company responsible for running Berlin’s transport network, and renamed the BVG-Stadion.

Starting Blocks at BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg The Diving Tower at BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg

Initially a recreational pool for BVG employees but also used as a training pool for the 1932 and 1936 Olympics, the Freibad went into hibernation after the Second World War to be reawakened again in the 1970s as a Sommervolksbad for the people of the DDR.

In 1969, the BVG in East Berlin became the BVB (Kombinat Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe) and the stadium and pool were then known as the BVB-Stadion and BVB Freibad.

The pool has been closed since the late 1980s and like the Wernerbad in Kaulsdorf is slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Neptunfest at BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool in Berlin Lichtenberg by Thomas Uhlemann

Photo: Thomas Uhlemann

Whilst researching the BVG Freibad before my visit in May 2013 I found the above photo of the Neptunfest at the pool in 1985 so, as I emerged from the trees having crawled through a gap in the fence* the sound of people laughing and splashing in the water was ringing in my ears.

*This was unnecessary it seems as the posts I’ve read from those who have been since suggest walking in through the stadium entrance.

BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg Changing Rooms at BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg Rusted Clock on Changing Rooms at BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg

Nobody would want to swim here now though – trees grow in the brown water of the main pool, the wading pool is bone dry.

The changing rooms were locked up tight, the clock on the roof suggested they’d been closed since noon.  Unfortunately, for the purposes of my research no date was given.

Rules on the Diving Tower at BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg

I ignored the signs warning me that walking past / through the foot bath in shoes is not allowed – better to break the rules than walk barefoot through the weeds and crumbling concrete.

The steps to the diving tower have been removed, presumably to make sure nobody jumps in sideways now that there are no lifeguards to enforce the rule painted on it.  Jumping from it would be crazy now, whichever way you did it.  If the tree roots didn’t grab a foot and keep you under you could end up with E.coli.

BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg Rusted Rails and Concrete Diving Tower at BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg Steps at BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg BVG Freibad (also BVB Freibad) an abandoned swimming pool on Siegfriedstrasse in Berlin Lichtenberg

There isn’t that much to see but the BVG Freibad on Siegfriedstrasse has a certain charm so Berlin urbex enthusiasts should get to Lichtenberg and check out this abandoned swimming pool while you can still see the water for the trees.

Sunday Documentary: The Real Kaiser Bill – Wilhelm II of Germany

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Photo: V.Scheurich Berlin. Reproduktion Günter Josef Radig. – Cabinet Photographie 1888

The Real Kaiser Bill: Wilhelm II of Germany, a documentary for Channel 4 in the UK tells the story of Germany’s last Emperor, Wilhelm II from his birth in 1859 in Berlin to his death in 1941.

The son of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Wilhelm suffered from Erb’s palsy – which left him with a withered and stunted left arm – due to complications from a breech birth.

Wilhelm was a frequent visitor to Great Britain and his appointment as Admiral of the British Fleet and appreciation of the Royal Navy influenced his own decision to develop Germany’s naval powers.

Despite his admiration for the British aristocracy and longing for the approval of his grandmother, Wilhelm’s shortcomings in diplomacy and foreign policy ultimately led him to view the British as rivals.

He led Germany, though reluctantly it would seem, into war in 1914 but he was an ineffectual leader and allowed his generals to dictate military strategy.

The German people blamed Wilhelm for a marked turnaround in the country’s fortunes during his reign and fearing reprisals he abdicated in November 1918 and fled to Doorn in the Netherlands, where he lived out the remainder of his days in exile.

At the time of his death in 1941, the former Kaiser, Wilhelm II was a supporter of the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler, whose anti-semitic attitudes he shared.

The Real Kaiser Bill: Wilhelm II of Germany

Berlin Street Art Vol 12 – Various Artists

A selection of some of the best Street Art Berlin has to offer.  Where they have featured before on andBerlin you can click on the artist’s name for more great work.

Herakut

German Street Artists Hera and Akut have been working together under the name Herakut since 2004.

‘Monkey See. Monkey Do.’ was painted for the CONS SPACE 002 event, brought to Berlin by Converse, and is part of ‘The Giant Story Book Project’.

Monkey See Monkey Do - Street Art by Herakut in Berlin

See more great work on the Herakut Facebook page and website, where you can sign up to their newsletter.

El Bocho

El Bocho must be one of the most prolific Street Artists in Berlin and also one of the most popular. This paste-up from his ‘Citizens’ series only lasted a few days, presumably because some idiot decided to take a souvenir home – as long as Jack’s alright, ey?

I Was The Artist Secret - Street Art by El Bocho in Berlin

Moe

Anonymous - Street Art by Moe in Berlin

Mimi The ClowN

French artist Mimi The ClowN’s work brings a welcome dose of humour to Berlin’s Street Art scene.  His clown paste-ups have been have been poking their red noses in all over the city.

Charlie Hebdo - Street Art by MIMI The ClowN in Berlin

kurznachzehn

Picking Flowers - Street Art by kurznachzehn in Berlin

Prost / Dave the Chimp / Käptn

It’s always good to find Street Art pieces that complement each other rather than compete. These three characters from Prost, Dave the Chimp and Käptn seem to be playing out a scene in a Street Art soap opera.

Street Art by Prost : Dave the Chimp : Käptn in Berlin

ALANIZ

Argentine-born, Berlin-based Street Artist ALANIZ’s style is evolving.  The first pieces I saw from the artist were stencils but recently he has been producing an increasing number of large-scale murals, painted with rollers, like this two-storey Mother and Child in Kreuzberg.

Mother and Child - Street Art by ALANIZ in Berlin

TEJN

Danish Street Artist TEJN creates sculptures from salvaged Iron found on the streets.  A number of pieces from his ‘Locked On’ project have popped up around Berlin including this huge character, which seems to me like it may be a Norse god, a larger version of a previous sculpture on Kastanianallee.

Norse God - Street Art by TEJN in Berlin

Find out more about TEJN on his website.

TONA

Contortionist - Street Art by TONA in Berlin

Unknown Artists

If anyone has any information about who created any of these pieces, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to give the proper credit.

Batman With Beer - Street Art by Unkown Artist in Berlin Lip Gloss - Street Art by Unkown Artist in Berlin Don't Take Your Toys Inside Just Because It's Raining - Street Art by Unkown Artist in Berlin

Piri’s Chicken Burgers – Spicing Up Berlin’s Burger Scene

Piri Burger Close Up at Piri's Chicken Burgers in Berlin

One of the most common complaints amongst newcomers to Berlin is a lack of spicy food options.  With the opening of Piri’s Chicken Burgers on Wiener Strasse in Kreuzberg, chilli-lovers now have one more go to destination to feel the burn.

Piri Piri (or Peri Peri) is a spicy sauce, Portuguese in origin, and a favourite of Jordi and Jules, the brains behind Piri’s Chicken Burgers.

Jordi and Jules at Piri's Chicken Burgers Berlin

Photo: Piri’s Chicken Burgers via Instagram

The pair are school friends from Sydney, where, Jordi tells me, Portuguese restaurants are commonplace thanks to an established immigrant population.

When Jordi came to Berlin he spotted a gap in the market.  “There weren’t really any places selling Piri Piri chicken here”, he says, “and we realised if we wanted to eat it, we’d have to make it ourselves”.

His business partner Jules, who has been in Berlin for the last 8 years is no stranger to the restaurant scene here, having opened the popular Mexican restaurants Santa Maria, Maria Bonita (now run by one of his former business partners, Trey Wright) and Maria Peligro (which has since closed).

Piri’s Chicken Burgers debuted at Burgers n Hip Hop in January, where Jules’s efforts, cooking burgers in the snow were rewarded with a second place in the ‘best burgers’ voting.

There was some fine-tuning in March at the rain-affected St Patrick’s Day parade and the Kreuzberg location finally opened its doors on the last weekend in May.

Piri's Chicken Burgers in Berlin

Getting the restaurant ready for opening, Jordi explains took a little longer than expected – there was a bit more work to be done to get the kitchen ship-shape than first hoped.

Menu at Piri's Chicken Burgers in Berlin

The menu is limited to five burger options: The Priri, a breaded chicken burger; The Mojo, ‘same as the Piri but twice as big’; The Buckshot, with cheese steak; The Fiction, a Tofu option for vegetarians; and The Rockness Monstah, with Piri’s extra spicy Trauma sauce.

The buns are bought in from Schiller Burger.  “We could buy cheaper”, Jordi says, “but they’re the best in Berlin.  We want to give people food that they’re going to come back for”.

And the food here certainly is worth coming back for.

Piri Burger In Progress at Piri's Chicken Burgers in Berlin Piri Burger at Piri's Chicken Burgers in Berlin

The Piri burger is a mountain of breaded chicken with Piri sauce, mayonnaise, cheese and iceberg lettuce, €5 on its own, or €7.50 as a menu with a side of Pommes and a soft drink or a small beer.

The chicken is succulent breast meat and the piri sauce has the right level of spice to make things interesting without setting your mouth on fire.

Cheese Steak on the Grill at Piri's Chicken Burgers in Berlin The Buckshot at Piri's Chicken Burgers in Berlin

The star of the show for me though is The Buckshot, chopped steak and cheese with bacon, sautéed red onions, pickle, tomato, iceberg lettuce and Chipotle mayonnaise €6 and €8.50 for the menu.

When I ask for the Trauma sauce on my Pommes, Jules warns me that it’s really spicy (he’s not wrong).  It’s tasty but certainly only to be eaten in moderation.  My advice: dip a chip and give it a go.  In this case, if you go big you probably will go home.

For me, the Pommes are the one element where there is room for improvement.  They’re OK but no better than that – homemade fries or sweet potato fries would take things to the next level.

Free Beer at Piri's Chicken Burgers in Berlin

It is no surprise to me when Jordi tells me that feedback for the food has been on the whole positive “though some people have complained that they weren’t warned about the spiciness of the dishes. Have you seen our logo?  It’s a skull on a chilli with flames.  What do people expect?”

Logo at Piri's Chicken Burgers in Berlin

Piri’s Chicken Burgers is a welcome addition to what is already a bewildering choice of burger options in Berlin.  The fiery sauces won’t suit everyone but if you would like a milder version, just ask – the guys will be happy to accommodate you.

Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin – Abandoned Conference Centre

Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin

It’s been a while since any important meetings were held at the abandoned Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin (the Conference Centre of the Berlin Sport Forum) in Hohenschönhausen and they’re no longer taking bookings at the attached Sporthotel.  Mind you, no one in their right mind would want to stay there – between the smashed windows, detached fire escape and bricked up doors, it’s no longer hospitable or safe.

Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin

The Kongresszentrum and Sporthotel were built to complement the Sportforum Berlin (or Sportforum Hohenschönhausen), which was established in the 1950s as a centre for sporting excellence.

The Sportforum, which is still operational, is the second largest sports complex in Berlin after the Olympiapark and the 35 sports facilities here are used for training elite athletes as well as for recreational sport.

The complex was also previously known as the Dynamo-Sportforum as it was home to SC Dynamo Berlin, the sports club of the Ministry of Police and the Ministry for State Security (the Stasi).

It was here that BFC Dynamo played their home games from 1961 to 1971 and have done again since 1992.  It is said that Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi, was so determined to establish BFC Dynamo as the most successful team in East German football that the players of the then leading team, Dynamo Dresden, were forced to relocate to Berlin in 1954.

Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin

In 1998, the Sportforum was handed over to Berlin by the TLG (Treuhand Liegenschaftsgesellschaft), a successor to the Treuhandanstalt and responsible for the privatisation of former state owned companies of the East German government after reunification.

The Kongresszentrum got added to my list of places to explore when I spotted it from the window of a tram as I went home one evening.

Having checked it out online I set out one afternoon in June 2013 and at first I thought I was going to be thwarted in my attempts to get a look inside.

It was clear that someone had gone to some effort to secure the building – a number of the entrances had been bricked up, other doors and numerous windows on the lower floors had hardboard screwed to their frames.

On this occasion though, my perseverance paid off.  Just when I thought I had exhausted all options, I spotted a panel that had been unscrewed.  I moved the panel carefully to one side and even more carefully, crawled through the broken window making sure to avoid the jagged edges of the remaining glass shards.

Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin

It was then immediately obvious why the owners wanted to keep people out – vandals had clearly run amok in the building smashing or ripping out just about everything they could damage.

Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin

There were however still some signs of the buildings previous use and even some plans for renovation.

In 2007/8 it was used as a set for the Sat. 1 series GSG9 – Ihr Einsatz ist ihr Leben.  There are still remnants of its use for filming – the glass of one room bore the engraving ‘Isolation Station’.

The vandals must have decided that their handiwork was falling short of their desire for destruction and in July 2013 the Congress Centre was the victim of an arson attack and the building burnt for several hours.

In 2010, the land on which the Conference Centre and Sports Hotel stands was acquired by a group of international investors, who have engaged the Moritz Group to develop the site on their behalf.

Moritz Group, led by long-time Hohenschönhausen resident Dirk Moritz, is also responsible for the rediscovery of an abandoned Cabaret Theatre in Mitte that I visited in 2012.

The Square³, as the planned development is currently known, echoes the land’s sporting history with its three towers of varying heights in gold, silver and bronze symbolising a podium.

As with all development projects in Berlin, these things take time.  When I went back to the Kongresszentrum in August 2014 there was no sign of any progress. The entry point I used on my previous visit had been sealed even more securely than before – this time there were some chunky bolts where screws had been used before but some enterprising soul had found another way in.

Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin - an abandoned conference centre in Hohenschönhausen Berlin

Whilst there has been no discernible movement on the demolition and redevelopment of the Kongresszentrum des Sportforums Berlin it is only a matter of time.  The owners are clearly doing their best to minimise the likelihood of explorers so the site is no longer truly abandoned, just dormant and decaying.  If you would like to glimpse this relic of DDR Berlin you will need to hurry.  It seems impossible to imagine the place looking any worse but please respect the opportunity to step into the past and leave the building in the same dilapidated state you find it.

Berlin, ick liebe dir!

Sunset from Elsenbrücke Berlin with a view of the Molecule Man, Oberbaumbrücke and Fernsehturm and a boat on the River Spree

I was writing a new ‘About’ page but somehow it turned into a post about my love affair with Berlin.

‘I’m David and I’m a Berlin-aholic’.

I’ve been living in Berlin for almost three years now and in that time I have seen more than I ever thought possible.  Friends, some of them native Berliners, have asked me how I know so much about the city.  The answer: I’ve walked the streets, I’ve devoured blogs and scoured Twitter, always looking for something of interest in the city I love.

For me, it was love at first sight.

I first came to Berlin in the summer of 2009, lured by the promise of walls decorated with some of the finest Street Art the world has to offer.  What I discovered was a city with so many layers (and with the harshness of the winters here it needs layers believe me).

On that first trip, I spent 5 days getting to know Berlin – I started with the obvious tourist attractions: the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the East Side Gallery but even then I was enamoured with the diversity of the architecture, the proliferation of bars, cafés and restaurants, and the sheer pleasure of drinking a beer bought from a Späti as I wandered.

I returned in 2010.  And then with a trip in the summer of 2011 already booked I decided to quit my job in London and spend a year living in Berlin so I could really experience the place.

The love affair hasn’t waned.  If anything my feelings have grown stronger.  On that first visit I felt more at home in Berlin than anywhere I had been before but now ‘Berlin is home’.

Self Portrait - Reflected in a light shade in a Berlin shop window

Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud to be Welsh, to be British.

Growing up in Cardiff was great and I will always miss my family while I’m here (though Skype makes things a little easier).  Likewise the friends I made at University, in London, in Kent.  But there’s something about Berlin that just gets me.  A feeling that I can’t quite put my finger on.  A feeling that I’m meant to be here.

In my time here, I’ve made great friends and had so many wonderful experiences.  Looking back now it’s strange to read some of my first posts on this blog: it was meant to be somewhere to record my experiences but over time it has become so much more important to me.

When I was looking for a title for my blog, I wanted a pun (like so many others).  ‘andBerlin’ sounded in my head like ‘Ann Boleyn’ but also I remember the reaction when I told people that I was quitting my job to move here – a crazy idea as far as most were concerned.  Then came the question ‘and Berlin?’  The subtext was clear, why stay in one city you could travel the world? (I’d already done this in 1998/99); of all the cities you could choose, why Berlin? (I’ve tried and probably failed to explain that already).

BERLIN - Lettering on a rusted skip

There was also the question directed at the city itself: And, Berlin?

What will you throw at me? What will you mean to me?  What have I yet to learn about you?

Having been here as long as I have, having seen as much as I have, I still find more to add to my ‘to do list’, a list that keeps getting longer, no matter how much I try to see and do, no matter how many items I ‘tick off’.

The ‘never ending Berlin to do list’ isn’t something unique to me.

So many other people have moved here and keep discovering Berlin and inspiring me to do the same – überlin, Slow Travel Berlin, Abandoned Berlin, Digital Cosmonaut and Stil in Berlin deserve a special mention in this regard.

One of my goals when I came here was to learn German.

Things are progressing there.  My German still isn’t as good as I would like it to be.  It’s a cliché, but it’s a difficult language to learn.  Having said that, I can now hold a decent conversation and in May spent 4 days on Mallorca speaking only German.

A German friend recently said that Germans are tolerant of the mistakes that people make when they are learning the language.  “Of course we are tolerant”, he said.  “It’s hard enough for us to speak it”.

The added bonus of moving forward with one of my goals is that I feel that I understand the culture and the people here in Berlin better by speaking the language.

It’s difficult to know exactly what will happen next in a city that is constantly changing but if my experiences here so far are anything to go by, Berlin will continue to astound me, entertain me and thrill me.  I’m still a few years away from a potential 7-year-itch so presumably my love will grow.

Sunday Documentary: The Berlin Wall 1961 – 1989

A boy stands at the Berlin Wall in 1961

Photo: Still from ‘The Berlin Wall 1961 – 1989′

Produced for Berlin Story to accompany the book of the same name, The Berlin Wall 1961 – 1989 is an informative and entertaining documentary covering the lifecycle of the world’s most infamous border fortification.

The usual historical events are covered: the building of the ‘wall’ on 13 August 1961, Kennedy’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech and Reagan’s challenge to his Soviet counterpart, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall”; but there are also personal insights that add colour to the story.

The film lacks a little of the polish of a documentary produced by the likes of the BBC, National Geographic or the History Channel but the abundance of archive footage make this a must-see for Berlin history fans.

The Berlin Wall 1961 – 1989