Banksy Flower Chucker / Thrower in Berlin

Flower Chucker / Thrower - Street Art by Banksy in the courtyard of the Kunsthaus Tacheles Berlin

Did you know that there is a large-scale example of one of the most recognisable Street Art pieces by undoubtedly the most famous Street Artist in the world in Berlin?  Banksy’s Flower Chucker / Thrower has been reproduced by thousands of opportunistic entrepreneurs on posters, mugs and canvases. You can even buy your own stencil.  The piece can be found in the courtyard of what was the Kunsthaus Tacheles (Art House Tacheles).

Flower Chucker / Thrower - Street Art by Banksy in the courtyard of the Kunsthaus Tacheles Berlin

Tacheles is a former department store squatted by a group of artists soon after the fall of the wall that became one of Berlin’s most popular tourist attractions.

Global Warming Exhibition sign inside the former artists squat Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin

Graffitied staircase inside the former artists squat Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin

It was built in 1907 and has a very interesting and chequered past.  Between 1928 and 1980 it was used by AEG as a shop and showroom called Haus der Technik, housed the central office of the SS, was used as a Nazi interrogation centre and then became the home of the Free German Trade Union Federation.

The building was partially demolished in 1980 and it was in order to save the building that the artists collective occupied the building in 1990.

Graffitied staircase and cage inside the former artists squat Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin

Tourists relaxing inside the former artists squat Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin

The last squatters were finally cleared from Tacheles in September 2012 after a protracted legal battle against eviction.

Banksy has been at the forefront of an explosion in the popularity of Street Art and Graffiti over the last couple of decades and his work has risen dramatically in value.

His pieces tend to make a political or social statement and he can count Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Kate Moss, and Jake Gyllenhall among his fans.  The fact that he has so far managed to remain anonymous despite numerous attempts to unmask him only adds to the hype surrounding his work.

In 2010 he released his first film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which he described as “the world’s first Street Art disaster movie”.

Flower Chucker / Thrower - Street Art by Banksy in the courtyard of the Kunsthaus Tacheles Berlin

The piece at Tacheles depicts a youth with a scarf over his face and reversed cap throwing a bunch of flowers as though it was a Molotov cocktail.  Banksy used the image as the cover for his 2005 best-selling book, Wall and Piece.

Update: A comment on my Facebook page suggests that this is not a genuine Banksy and was in fact painted by someone connected to Zapata, the bar that occupied the part of the building on which it is painted.

Banksy originally painted the Flower Chucker / Thrower on the West Bank barrier, a wall separating Israel from the West Bank – it is appropriate therefore that it can also be found in Berlin, a city divided for so long by a wall.

Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch – An abandoned Shopping Centre in Berlin

Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin

Another classic Berlin urbex destination is now on borrowed time.  The Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch, an abandoned shopping centre in Reinickendorf in the former French sector, will be torn down by its new owner, with the aim of building new housing on the site.

The Cité Foch (initially Cité Toucoulou) grew out of the Camp Foch, a settlement of the French Allies in post-war Berlin, and was a restricted area due to the presence of strategic sites, such as the listening post on Rue Montesquieu.

At the height of its popularity in 1991, the Cite Foch, named after Ferdinand Foch, a French Marshall, who was largely responsible for the Allied victory in the First World War, was home to 2,600 people.

The Getränke Markt and Open Door at Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin Eingang - the Entrance at Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin Spair Graffiti at Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin

The Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch was built in the 1970s to house the commissary (the food shop on a military base), a cinema and restaurant.

After the withdrawal of the French military from the area in 1994 there were some issues finding tenants for the housing estate.  Though it is now a popular residential area, the shopping centre did not recover.

At the end of the 1990s, Famila Warenhaus moved in but Kaufland acquired the brand’s operation in Berlin in 2001 and closed the store in 2006.

Inside Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin Inside Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin Inside Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin Inside Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin Inside Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin

The building has been partially empty since then, though an Aldi supermarket and an Elixia fitness centre continued to operate past this time.  The last of the tenants left in 2011.

Since then, the building has been in limbo.  The majority owner since 1998, a Swiss investor was insolvent and the minority owner, BIMA (Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben), the Federal Agency for Real Estate, was for some time unable to contact him.

Several proposals for renovation failed to come to fruition and vandalism and a lack of care took its toll on the building.

In July 2014, the main creditor of the previous owner, a Frankfurt-based asset manager, acquired outright control of the site in a foreclosure sale, having already purchased BIMA’s stake.

The building will now be demolished and sold with planning permission (assuming this is granted) to a developer.

Smashed Lights at Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin Smashed Windows at Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin

When I visited on a cold February day the shopping centre was open to the elements.  Though it was clear that some effort had been made in the past to secure it, I had the choice of several open doors and smashed windows to walk or crawl through.

I had to be careful as I wandered around in the darker corners not to slip on the ice on the floor, formed where the rain had dripped, or in come cases fallen through, cracks in the ceiling and holes in the roof.

The Reception at Elixia Fitness Centre at Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin Elixia Fitness Centre at Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin Easy Chair at Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin Skylight at Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin

Unfortunately, by the time I discovered the place the authorities had taken some measures to make the place safer and reduce the impact of vandalism – much of the building had been gutted, including removing the escalators that were the most impressive feature of the early urbex photos I saw.

Outside Shot at Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin Parking Garage at Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch - an abandoned shopping centre in Berlin

I would suggest visiting the Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch soon for a chance to explore the abandoned shopping centre before the bulldozers move in – though it might already be too late, as recent news footage shows metal fences around the building, which may already have been secured against opportune visitors.

Sunday Documentary: Life Behind The Wall

East German lady and Milka Cow - Thomas Hoepker for Magnum

Photo: Thomas Hoepker for Magnum

In Life Behind The Wall, a short documentary for The Economist, Magnum photographer Thomas Hoepker talks about his experiences in Berlin and his photographs, first in a divided city and then shortly after reunification.

Born in 1936 in Munich, Hoepker is a celebrated photographer with a long association with the Magnum Photos agency, serving as president from 2003 to 2006.

Hoepker first worked in East Berlin in 1959 when he was sent to photograph the ‘10 Jahre DDR’ (10 years GDR) celebrations. He describes a drab city, the grey punctuated only by the red of communism.

In 1972 whilst working as a photographer for Stern magazine, Hoepker and his wife Eva Windmöller, a writer for the magazine, moved to East Berlin on assignment.

Thomas Hoepker’s photos from this time are the backbone of Life Behind The Wall and his memories of and motivations for taking the pictures, along with observations about life in East Berlin accompany an impressive slideshow.

Life Behind The Wall

FlashInvaders – A Street Art App From Invader

Screenshots from the FlashInvaders app from Street Artist Invader

Screenshots from the FlashInvaders app

French Street Artist, Invader took the inspiration for his art from the classic arcade game, Space Invaders.  Now, with the launch of his app, FlashInvaders, he has gone full circle and turned his art into a game.

Invader’s tile mosaics of Space Invaders can be found in many cities around the world, most notably in his hometown, Paris.

The object of the game with FlashInvaders is to ‘flash’ (take photos of) Invader pieces on the street. The app compares the photo to a database of the artist’s work and, using your smartphone’s GPS, verifies that you’ve seen the mosaic in person.

Screenshots from the FlashInvaders app from Street Artist Invader on the App Store

Screenshots from the FlashInvaders app on the App Store

Players (users) are then awarded points for each Invader ‘flashed’ and compete against each other in a ‘highscores’ table.

The app is available for iOS and Android and can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play.

I’ve seen lots of Invader mosaics in London but unfortunately, though he has been here, I haven’t found any of his Street Art in Berlin but if I do I’ll ‘flash’ it with my FlashInvaders app.

District Một – Saigon Street Food in Berlin

The 'street vendor' kitchen at District Mot, a Vietnamese restaurant, in Berlin

Like everyone else in the city it would seem, I’m always on the lookout for Berlin’s Best Burger so when I saw that the Bao Burger ‘De La Sauce’ from District Một was the three times winner of the Burgers and Hip Hop event organised by Stil in Berlin, I had to try it.

Street Food is one of the buzzwords of the moment and though I’ve never been to Vietnam, it’s obvious that the whole restaurant has been decorated to resemble a Saigon street market – quirky but stylish.  Corrugated panels, a backlit wall made from beer bottles, lanterns, a light made from a plastic fuel container and the coloured plastic stools are among the memorable features of the standout interior.

'Banh Bao' a light made from a plastic fuel container at District Mot, a Vietnamese restaurant, in Berlin Gladioli flowers at District Mot, a Vietnamese restaurant, in Berlin A backlit wall made of beer bottles at District Mot, a Vietnamese restaurant, in Berlin

I found it a little strange that we were seated with a lone diner when there were so many free tables in the restaurant but this may be an attempt to replicate the authentic street dining experience.  Other diners, I noticed, also found this unusual and asked for a table to themselves.

As my main objective was to try the burger, I had to resist the temptation of lots of other dishes on the menu, though I’m not sure I’d like to try the Nhộng chiên bộ (deep-fried silkworm, buttered) and the other items in the ‘For The Exotic Tongue’ section.

I chose the Khoai lang chiên (crispy deep-fried Sweet Potato with dip) to accompany my burger and Steffi plumped for the Summer Rolls as a starter.

The De La Sauce Burger (€6) is described on the menu as a ‘steamed “Banh Bao” wheat rice cake bun, 120 gram beef patty, Vietnamese pickled vegetables, pickled red onions, roasted Sesame, fresh coriander, Soy bean skin, fresh Mango with 3 homemade sauces (garlic mayonnaise from an egg yolk base, caramelized fish sauce and red curry sauce).’

The De La Sauce Bao Burger at District Mot, a Vietnamese restaurant, in Berlin

Reading the long list of ingredients, the one thing I wasn’t sure about was the slice of mango. I’m not a fan of ‘sweet and sour’, in fact I have what borders on an aversion and so I wasn’t sure how I’d react to fruit on my burger.  I was very pleasantly surprised – I thought it gave the De La Sauce a balanced and distinctive flavour.

Our food arrived quickly but as we were eating before 18:00 on a Friday evening the restaurant wasn’t busy.

Summer Rolls at District Mot, a Vietnamese restaurant, in Berlin

The Summer Rolls were good but not able to beat the flavour of Steffi’s favourites at Viet Village, just down the road from District Mot. I was surprised when the Sweet Potato, which was tasty but a little greasy, was round rather than cut as chips/pommes/fries.

Sweet Potato with dip at District Mot, a Vietnamese restaurant, in Berlin

Overall, I would say that the food at District Mot was very good – the De La Sauce, is currently set for a place on an upcoming best burgers in Berlin post – but thought that it was a little overpriced.

Fernmeldeturm Berlin-Schäferberg – Berlin’s other TV Tower

Fernmeldeturm Berlin-Schäferberg a TV and radio tower near Wannsee

It seems that I have a thing for TV and radio transmission towers – I fell in love with the Fernsehturm in Alexanderplatz when I first came to Berlin and now I’m also a little bit obsessed with the Fernmeldeturm Berlin-Schäferberg.

At 212 metres it is significantly shorter than the Fernsehturm but situated as it is on the top of a hill it is visible from a considerable distance.  If you’ve been to Wannsee you will most likely have seen its red and white antenna on the horizon, crowning through the trees of the Düppeler Forst.

Fernmeldeturm Berlin-Schäferberg, a TV and radio tower as seen from Wannsee

In operation since 18 July 1964, it is owned by Deutsche Funkturm GmbH a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG and transmits television, analogue and digital radio signals.

Fernmeldeturm Berlin-Schäferberg a TV and radio tower near Wannsee

I first noticed the Fernmeldeturm Berlin-Schäferberg when I watched the sunset over Wannsee from a small beach on the Havelchaussee.  Steffi helped me locate the ‘mysterious tower’ and on a sunny May day last year I decided to get up close and personal, having already visited the Glienicker Brücke and the former DDR exclave in West Berlin, Klein Glienicke.

Fernmeldeturm Berlin-Schäferberg a TV and radio tower near Wannsee

At the foot of the steps leading to the tower from the conveniently located Schäferberg bus stop, is a granite memorial to the Communist Party Chairman Johann Schehr and three other members, Rudolf Schwarz, Eugen Karl Schönhaar and Erich Steinfurth, victims of the Gestapo in 1934.

A memorial to Johann Schehr, Rudolf Schwarz, Eugen Karl Schönhaar and Erich Steinfurth, victims of the Gestapo in 1934, near the Fernmeldeturm Berlin-Schäferberg, a TV and radio tower near Wannsee

A memorial to Johann Schehr, Rudolf Schwarz, Eugen Karl Schönhaar and Erich Steinfurth, victims of the Gestapo in 1934, near the Fernmeldeturm Berlin-Schäferberg, a TV and radio tower near Wannsee

They were shot in the back ‘whilst attempting to flee’ in retaliation for the shooting of the Gestapo informer, Alfred Kattner at the hands of the Communists.

To reach the Fernmeldeturm Berlin-Schäferberg take the S1 / S7 / RE1 / RE7 to S-Bahnhof Wannsee and from there the bus 316 to Schäferberg, which is in Fare Zone (Tarifbereich) B.

Sunday Documentary: Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia

Portrait of Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Grosse) from the BBC documentary 'Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia'

Photo: Still from ‘Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia’

Professor Christopher Clark details the life of one of Germany’s (then Prussia) most famous rulers, Friedrich der Grosse, in the BBC documentary ‘Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia’.

Fritz, as he was affectionately known, was a cultured man who gathered like-minded intellectuals and artists such as Voltaire at Schloss Sanssouci to enjoy music and discuss philosophy in a time now referred to as the Enlightenment.

A complex man, he is also recognised as one of the greatest military strategists of all time.

Frederick the Great came to power in May 1740 following the death of his father, Friedrich Wilhelm I (Frederick William I).  In a move that would shock his enemies, within seven months of his accession, Fritz, the Philosopher King, invaded Silesia.

He then waged war with the Austrians, who had been largely responsible for the violent and hate-filled relationship Frederick had with his father after he was forced to witness the execution of his friend, Hans Hermann von Katte – punishment for a failed attempt to flee the tyranny of his father.

Joseph Goebbels, who produced the Nazi propaganda film, Der Grosse König, adopted Fritz as a symbol of German strength.  Hitler identified so strongly with Frederick the Great that a portrait of the King of Prussia was one of his most prized possessions.

Frederick the Great’s legacy is evident in Berlin in the architecture of the Bebelplatz and his statue stands before it in the middle of Unter den Linden.  The nearby Friedrichstrasse is also named in his honour.

A story of scandal, intrigue, enlightenment and war, the life of Frederick the Great makes for a compelling documentary.

Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia

The International Berlin Beer Festival – Craft Beer on the Biermeile

The crowd at the International Berlin Beer Festival (Internationales Berliner Bierfestival)

It’s International Berlin Beer Festival (Internationales Berliner Bierfestival) time in Berlin so this weekend is the perfect time to expand your drinking horizons whilst you catch some sun.

Karl-Marx-Allee during the International Berlin Beer Festival (Internationales Berliner Bierfestival)

Now in it’s 18th year, the festival takes over the 2.2km stretch of Karl-Marx-Allee from Strausberger Platz to Frankfurter Tor (the Biermeile) and 240 breweries from 87 countries are serving 2,400 different beers.

A Mobile Brewery at the International Berlin Beer Festival (Internationales Berliner Bierfestival) Craft Beer Sign at the International Berlin Beer Festival (Internationales Berliner Bierfestival) Englische Biere (English Beers) stand at the International Berlin Beer Festival (Internationales Berliner Bierfestival)

The motto of the 2014 event is “craft-brewed beer specials”.  Craft beer is a real buzzword at the moment and there is a huge appetite in Berlin for beers that depart from the German tradition and the strict laws of the Rheinheitsgebot.

Störtebecker Strandkorb (Beach Basket) at the International Berlin Beer Festival (Internationales Berliner Bierfestival)

Beer Contraption at the International Berlin Beer Festival (Internationales Berliner Bierfestival)

Buildings on Karl-Marx-Allee during the International Berlin Beer Festival (Internationales Berliner Bierfestival) If you would like to sample a lot of different beers I would suggest that you buy a glass – €3.50 at one of the Information stalls.  A 0.2l refill at any of the beer stands will then cost you €2 and you don’t need to queue to get your Pfand (deposit) back.

Sunset at the International Berlin Beer Festival (Internationales Berliner Bierfestival)

Beer fans should download Untappd to keep track of the beers they taste – the app allows you to rate and comment on the beer you drink, with the option to add photos to your ‘untaps’ and the usual social features.  If you’re on Untappd you can find me – andberlin.

Brauerei Zwönitzer India Pale Ale at the International Berlin Beer Festival (Internationales Berliner Bierfestival)

My beer recommendations? My favourite beer of the evening was the India Pale Ale from Brauerei Zwönitz – their stall is towards the Frankfurter Tor end of the Biermeile.  For fans of Weissbier, a friend told me (enthusiastically and repeatedly) that the Weisse from Hofbräuhaus Traunstein is the best in the world – you can find it at U-Bahnhof Strausberger Platz.

The eighteenth International Berlin Beer Festival (18. Internationales Berliner Bierfestival) is on from 1 to 3 August 2014.

Berlin Songs: Die Berlin Hymne // BERLIN-IST-BESTE

Die Berline Hymne - Berlin ist Beste - BMX Handstand

Photo: Berlin ist Beste

‘Morgens Berlin, Mittags Berlin, Abends Berlin, Nachts Berlin’.  Die Berlin Hymne is a song about how Berlin makes you feel alive from Frank Wolf, the man behind Berlin ist Beste – ‘the unofficial image campaign for Berlin’.

You can find the full song lyrics on the Berlin ist Beste website and for non-German speakers Google Translate is your friend, though it struggles a little with the Berlinerisch.

The video was filmed over 4 sunny days in Berlin and one night at the car park of the ICC for the BMX scenes.  A few tourist attractions feature – there are brief glimpses of the Fernsehturm, Potsdamer Platz and Brandenburger Tor – but only in a section that makes a distinction between this side of Berlin and how Berliners see their city.

‘Eine Stadt, 12 Bezirke, viele Freaks.  Jeder stolz auf Berlin, jeder stolz auf seinen Kiez’.

(One city, 12 districts, lots of freaks.  Each proud of Berlin, each proud of their neighbourhood).

Die Berlin Hymne // BERLIN-IST-BESTE

If you liked that, you might also want to check out another song, Let’s Go Moabit.  You may have seen the ‘Moabit ist Beste’ stickers that Frank leaves around his district.

The BESTE Boys – Let’s Go Moabit

You can keep up to date with the latest news from Berlin ist Beste on their website, Facebook and Twitter.

Tommi’s Burger Joint – From Reykjavik to Berlin

Cheeseburger with Bacon and Fries (close up) at Tommi's Burger Joint Berlin

Tommi’s Burger Joint, the Icelandic burger chain, opened its first restaurant in Germany at Invalidenstrasse 160, Berlin on 9 May 2014, six months behind schedule.  The delays were blamed on German bureaucracy but had the positive effect of building anticipation amongst Berlin burger lovers.

Tómas Andrés Tómasson, the 65-year-old founder who gives his name to the venture has a long history in the restaurant and hotel industries.  He opened his first burger joint, Tommahamborgarar (Tommi’s Hamburgers) in Reykjavik in 1981 but decided to sell up in 1983, having sold over 1 million burgers and expanded the business to include 6 locations.

After spending six months travelling around the world, Tommi returned to Iceland in 2003 and realised that he needed to make money.  “No way!” was his initial reaction when friends suggested he go back to the burger business.

Thankfully he changed his mind.

He enlisted the help of Kristín Gunnarsdóttir to take care of the interior design, which intentionally gave the (false) impression of a burger joint that had been running for years, with a laidback feel.

The Tommi’s franchise now boasts 6 restaurants in Iceland, 2 in London, 1 in Copenhagen and the latest offering in Berlin.

Cardboard sign at Tommi's Burger Joint Berlin

On the opening day in Berlin, the burgers were free.  Having failed to take advantage of the giveaway I was determined to put things right on day 2 when burgers were half price.

Menu at Tommi's Burger Joint Berlin

The menu at Tommi’s is kept deliberately simple.  There’s a choice of: Burger, Cheeseburger, Veggie Burger, or Steak Burger, with the additional option to add extras, the most important of which is bacon.

The ‘Offer of the Century’ combines a burger, fries and a soft drink for €8.90 (there is also beer available, including the Icelandic brew, Viking Gylltur).

Viking Gylltur Beer at Tommi's Burger Joint Berlin

They also serve killer milkshakes – rich and creamy, I’d recommend the Chocolate.

Orders are placed at the counter.

The burgers are cooked on an American gas grill, which is the reason for the enticing and hunger-inducing chargrill aroma that wafts over you as you walk in the door.  They are served in a deliciously soft, slightly sweet-tasting bun, with a little iceberg lettuce, sliced ​​tomato and chopped onion; along with ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.  The whole thing is then wrapped in paper.

The chips / fries / pommes (depending on your nationality) are thin cut and crispy and come with a serving of Béarnaise sauce.

Cheeseburger with Bacon and Fries at Tommi's Burger Joint Berlin

Burger and fries are brought to you in a basket having established your whereabouts by shouting your name.

Under the black and white portrait of a bearded man (Tommi) that hangs on the wall opposite the kitchen is an extras bar.  Here you can add Jalapeños, onions, pickles and numerous sauces of varying spiciness.

Tommi (Tomas Tomasson) Portrait at Tommi's Burger Joint Berlin

Pimp Your Burger sign at Tommi's Burger Joint Berlin

Extras Bar at Tommi's Burger Joint Berlin

I missed this on my first visit and commented to Gilly that the only thing missing for me was a spicy kick.  Thankfully, by my second visit I was aware of what is probably the most important feature of the restaurant thanks to this post on Berlin Loves You.

I have to say that I’m a big fan – I went 3 times in the first week.

And I’m not the only one.  The fact that Tommi’s Burger Joint Berlin has managed to accumulate 1200 likes on its Facebook page in the 11 weeks it has been open is testament to the quality of the food and the strength of the brand.

Cardboard Signs at Tommi's Burger Joint Berlin

Tiles at Tommi's Burger Joint Berlin

As well as serving top-notch food, the service is quick and friendly; even during the busiest times and the tiled and mirrored walls (that remind me of a butcher’s shop) are part of a décor that is effortlessly cool.  The soundtrack of classics from the likes of Elton John, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra contributes to the relaxed and convivial atmosphere.

Tommi has eaten at least one burger every day since he launched over 10 years ago.  He is quoted as saying:

“If you stop to think about it, what’s in a burger? It’s good beef, bread, lettuce and tomatoes with ketchup, mustard and a little mayonnaise.”

So, whilst I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a Tommi-level burger habit, why not adopt his philosophy that a burger is healthy and head to Tommi’s Burger Joint in Berlin for one of the best burgers the city has to offer.