Tag Archives: Berlin

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.

Sunday Documentary: The Big Picture – Berlin Duty

Soldiers in a tank marked Tempelhof from the US Army documentary The Big Picture - Berlin Duty

Photo: Still from the US Army documentary ‘The Big Picture – Berlin Duty’

The Big Picture – Berlin Duty was produced by the Army Pictorial Centre and presented by the United States Army.  What is essentially a propaganda film for the US Army is valuable as a documentary as it includes footage of day-to-day activities in West Berlin as well as key events in the history of the city.

The footage at 6:41 shows the utter devastation wrought on the city of Berlin by the bombers of the Allied Forces during World War II.  Looking at the rebuilt city it is difficult to imagine just how much needed to be cleared and reconstructed in the years following the war.

Amongst the historical moments captured are the Berlin Airlift in 1948-49; the riots in East Berlin in 1953 that came to be known as the People’s Uprising in East Germany (Volksaufstand in der DDR), commemorated in Berlin in the name of one its most famous boulevards, Strasse des 17 Juni; and the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.

Of course no US depiction of events in Berlin would be complete without a mention of JFK’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech – an important sign that the US would not forsake the people of West Berlin.

Keep your eye out for some familiar Berlin sights: Schloss Charlottenburg; the Reichstag; the Soviet Memorial on Strasse des 17 Juni; and Tempelhof Airport for instance.

Also featured is the Protestant Church of the Reconciliation Parish, blown up by the East Germans in 1985 and now the site of the Chapel of Reconciliation (Kapelle der Versöhnung), part of the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer.

The Big Picture – Berlin Duty

Competition: Berlin WelcomeCard Photo Contest

Berlin WelcomeCard Logo

The Berlin Tourist office, visitBerlin, is currently running a photo contest to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Berlin WelcomeCard.

The Berlin WelcomeCard

The Berlin WelcomeCard is a combination travel and discount card, ideal for those visiting the German capital.

The card entitles you to free travel on the Berlin public transport network and offers discounts of between 25% and 50% on 200 tourist attractions.  It comes with a booklet that details the attractions covered and includes maps of Berlin and Potsdam and the transport network.

The Berlin WelcomeCard is available in 8 different variations so you can choose the card that most suits your requirements depending on the length of your stay and your interests.

To find out more, visit the Berlin WelcomeCard website.

Berlin WelcomeCard Photo Contest

What do you have to do?  Here’s what it says on the Berlin WelcomeCard website:

Berlin WelcomeCard Photo Contest

The top prize is a 2-night holiday for two in Berlin and there are several runner-up prizes.

For more details of the prizes on offer and the full competition rules click here.

Best of luck, fingers crossed and thumbs pressed.  Here’s hoping that you can get your hands on that first prize and your next holiday in Berlin is free, courtesy of the Berlin WelcomeCard and visitBerlin.

Trattoria del Corso – Exceptional Italian food outside the Berlin Ring

Close up of Lamb Rump Steak at Trattoria del Corso (Italian restaurant) Berlin

If you’ve got cravings for incredible Italian food in Berlin and don’t want to break the bank, I’d recommend you check out Trattoria del Corso, a large and popular restaurant on the Hauptstrasse in Friedenau.

Where’s Friedenau you ask? Sandwiched between Schöneberg and Steglitz, it may not be a part of Berlin you’re familiar with but believe me, if you’re willing to venture (400m) outside the ring, you’ll be rewarded at Trattoria del Corso with some of the best Italian food in Berlin.

Trattoria del Corso (Italian restaurant) Berlin

If you’re lucky, on a Berlin summer evening, you’ll get a table on the terrace to the side of the restaurant, covered with a series of large, white sun umbrellas.  The waiting staff here are busy so don’t expect overly attentive service but they are friendly and generally efficient.

As in many Italian restaurants fresh bread is brought to the table with the drinks.  It’s wonderfully soft and fluffy with a crisp and flavourful crust.  Olive oil and Balsamico Vinegar are provided on the table for dipping.

Fresh bread at Trattoria del Corso (Italian restaurant) Berlin

The menu has a wide selection of Antipasti, Salads, Pizzas and Pasta dishes and don’t forget to check out the chef’s recommendations – an assortment of specials that changes weekly.

Unless you haven’t eaten for a week or plan to roll home I would suggest skipping the starters – the portions here are generous.

The pizzas are massive – so big in fact that the plates can’t contain them and you’ll need to bring your appetite to finish a whole one. As prices range from €6.80 to €8.30 this represents exceptional value for money.  If you’re a fan of the spicy kick of chillies you’ll fall in love with the spicy pizza oil – the good news if you do is that you can take a bottle home for €12.50.

Pizza Diavola topped with an egg at Trattoria del Corso (Italian restaurant) Berlin

On a recent visit, Steffi opted to have the Pizza Diavola topped with an egg – the waiter didn’t bat an eyelid at the request and the total price was €8.30.  The only disappointment, Steffi hadn’t brought her A-game and couldn’t eat it all!

Lamb Rump Steak at Trattoria del Corso (Italian restaurant) Berlin

I chose the Lamb Rump Steak with Rosemary potatoes and beans from the chef’s recommendations.  The meat was perfectly cooked.  It was tender and succulent and complemented perfectly by the vegetables and a light jus.  I had no problem clearing my plate but felt full and satisfied afterwards.

So, make the most of the extensive and relatively inexpensive transport system in Berlin, take the S-Bahn (S41 / S42 / S45 / S46) or U-Bahn (U4) to Innsbrucker Platz, and treat yourself to delicious Italian food at Trattoria del Corso.

Lost Dreams – Spreepark Berlin

Still from Lost Dreams - Spreepark Berlin by Friedhelm Fischer

Photo: Still from Lost Dreams – Spreepark Berlin by Friedhelm Fischer

Berlin’s abandoned theme park, Spreepark Plänterwald, must be one of the most well-known urbex destinations in the world.

The neglected amusement park has been in my thoughts often since it was bought back by the city of Berlin in March 2014.

Spreepark hasn’t been open as an amusement park since 2002, when the owners ran into financial difficulties. Those troubles were compounded when a botched drug smuggling operation landed the head of the Witte family, Norbert, and his son Marcel in prison.

I wrote more about this intriguing back-story in my ‘Spreepark Plänterwald – Berlin’s Abandoned Theme Park’ post.

Since its closure, Spreepark has been an unofficial playground for curious souls eager to be swallowed by the brightly coloured tiger’s mouth of the Spreeblitz ride whilst the slowly turning Ferris Wheel provides an eerie soundtrack.

This beautifully shot and wonderfully atmospheric video from Friedhelm Fischer has me longing to return to the abandoned theme park by the banks of the Spree – one of those places that makes me think ‘Dat is Berlin!

Lost Dreams – Spreepark Berlin

Olympus OM-D Photography Playground Berlin 2014

3Destruct by ANTIVJ at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

The Olympus OM-D Photography Playground has made a welcome return to the Opernwerkstätten in Berlin.

Now in its second year the Photography Playground consists of a series of 9 installations from international artists that are intended to be both visually striking and interactive.

Epiphyte Membrane by Philip Beesley at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

Transforma installation at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

AlexandLiane installation at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

My favourite installations were those that I thought encouraged the highest level of involvement from the visitors.

My first encounter with the work of Argentine artist Leandro Erlich was a write-up in the Evening Standard on his work in Dalston commissioned by the Barbican.

His work, Berlin Façade, is ideally suited to the Photography Playground and visitors were thrilled with the chance to seemingly defy gravity.

Close Up of Berlin Facade by Leandro Erlich at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

Photo taken with Olympus EM-10

Berlin Facade by Leandro Erlich at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

Photo taken with Olympus EM-10

The most fascinating work for me though was 3Destruct by ANTIVJ, an art collective comprised of Yannick Jacquet, Jeremie Peeters and Thomas Vaquié.

The installation uses strobe lighting to create an environment that is constantly changing.

3Destruct by ANTIVJ at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

A visitor poses in 3Destruct by ANTIVJ at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

Bright Light of 3Destruct by ANTIVJ at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

Surreal in 3Destruct by ANTIVJ at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

Integral to the Photography Playground concept is the availability of cameras from the Olympus OM-D range for visitors to record their experiences.  The cameras have been moved to the ground floor in front of the entrance making this option much more obvious to the casual visitor.

The cameras are loaned out free of charge but those visitors who do not carry a National Identity card will need to hand over their Passport.  The memory card is yours to take away when you hand the camera back.

Last year, I didn’t have the proper identification so I missed out on the opportunity to try out a camera so this year I was determined to give it a go.

Along with details of the artists and a short explanation of the work there are suggested settings for the Olympus camera in front of each of the installations.

I got to walk around with an EM-10 and was impressed with the camera and the photos I was able to produce in the short time I had it.

Olympus OM-D EM-10

Olympus OM-D EM-10

Love for Transforma at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

Photo taken with Olympus EM-10

Installation at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

Photo taken with Olympus EM-10

AlexandLiane at Olympus Photography Playground Berlin

Photo taken with Olympus EM-10

I would be keen to try out the camera again and would particularly like to explore its WIFI capability, as this could be a great everyday camera for Intstagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

The Olympus OM-D Photography Playground Berlin is open daily 11:00 to 19:00 and entrance is free.  You can find more details at the Photography Playground website.

Stinkfish at work on a new piece in Berlin

Street Art by Stinkfish in Haus Schwarzenberg Berlin - work in progress

Today, I had the good fortune to stumble across Colombian Street Artist Stinkfish at work on a piece in the Hof at Haus Schwarzenberg in Berlin.

Street Art by Stinkfish in Haus Schwarzenberg Berlin - work in progress

Street Art by Stinkfish in Haus Schwarzenberg Berlin - work in progress

Street Art by Stinkfish in Haus Schwarzenberg Berlin - work in progress

The piece is being painted with the permission of the owner who was also watching the artist work.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak to Stinkfish and let him know how much I admire his work.  He explained that he was painting the doors in the Hof as part of an exhibition of Central and South American artists currently running at Neurotitan Galerie.

Stinfish is hoping to complete the work today and I will hopefully be able to post photos of the completed work tomorrow.

Street Art by Stinkfish in Haus Schwarzenberg Berlin - sketch of finished work

He is also looking for more walls to paint in Berlin with permission, so if anyone knows of any opportunities contact Stinkfish through his website.

This isn’t Stinkfish’s first visit to Berlin and I have seen a few of his paintings here before.

It was a pleasant surprise to find this painting in a former Panzer Kaserne in Bernau whilst doing some urban exploring last year.

Street Art by Stinkfish in a former Panzer Kaserne in Bernau near Berlin

…and this piece at Urban Spree featured in my Berlin Street Art Vol 9 – Various Artists post.

Bright Eyes at Urban Spree - Street Art by Stinkfish in Berlin

If you’d like to see more work from Stinkfish including more Street Art in Berlin, check out his website and Flickr stream.

Sunday Documentary: Bauhaus – The Face of the 20th Century

Titles from the documentary Bauhaus: The Face of the 20th Century

Source: Titles from the documentary ‘Bauhaus: The Face of the 20th Century’

Bauhaus: The Face of the 20 th Century, a 1994 documentary, traces the development of the Bauhaus movement from its formation in Weimar by Walter Gropius to the establishment of the Bauhaus School in Dessau to its last stand in a derelict factory in Berlin.

Like so many aspects of life in Germany in the first half of the twentieth century the Bauhaus was affected by the political situation in the country – its lifecycle mirrors that of the Weimar RepublicBerlin-born architect Walter Gropius formed his ideas of simplistic design with an altruistic ideology following his service in the army during World War I.  He first put his ideas into practice in 1919 in Weimar, the political centre of the new Germany.

The growth of National Socialism in the area around Weimar and the school’s opposite political views effectively forced the Bauhaus to move to Dessau where a new building, which fully reflected the movement’s philosophy and designs was to be its new home.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the end of the Bauhaus’s struggle with the Nazi party.  The school in Dessau was also forced to close and became a training school for party functionaries.

Gropius was able to gather an impressive faculty of important names from the fields of art, design and architecture including Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and Mies van der Rohe, who was to be the school’s last director.  He found new premises in Berlin, a derelict factory in Steglitz, and moved operations there in 1932.

The reprieve was short-lived and the Bauhaus was forced to close its doors forever when the Nazis again intervened in 1933, the year they came to power in Germany.

Though its tenure was unfortunately short, the Bauhaus movement has had a far-reaching influence on modern art, design and architecture.  Its mark can still be seen in Berlin – the Hansaviertel, Gropiusstadt and Neue Nationalgalerie all bear its architectural fingerprint.  And of course there is the wonderful Bauhaus Archiv, with an extensive collection of Bauhaus objects and designs.

Bauhaus: The Face of the 20th Century

Berlin Hippo Habitat Under Threat – The Abandoned Wernerbad

Hut and Steps at the abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

My search for forgotten and overlooked places in Berlin led me this week to Kaulsdorf and the Wernerbad (an abbreviated name for the Freibad Wernersee) where I found Knautschke, a concrete hippo, patrolling the long grass at the edge of the abandoned swimming pool.

Knautschke the Hippo (Nilpferd or Flusspferd) at the abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

Since 2002, when the Wernerbad closed, Knautschke has had the waters of the deserted pool to himself.  Named after a popular hippo (Nilpferd or Flusspferd in German) at Berlin Zoo, the sculpture, along with a group of penguins that supervised the queues at the water fountain, was created by local sculptor Erwin Kobbert.

Penguin Drinking Fountain by Erwin Kobbert at the abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

The original Knautschke was born in 1943 and survived the war thanks to the efforts of keepers at the zoo, who kept him watered after bombs destroyed part of the hippo enclosure.  Unfortunately, having survived the bombing raids, he was so badly wounded by his own son Nante in 1988 that he had to be put to sleep.

The fate of the concrete Knautschke is just one of the issues that has concerned local residents since plans to reopen the pool were shelved.

Dolly's Restaurant and Kneipe at the abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

The history of the Wernerbad begins at the turn of the twentieth century when Wilhelm Werner bought the land surrounding what is now the Wernersee (previously referred to as Katzenstertpfuhl or Achtruthenpfuhl).  In 1901 he opened the Badeschlösschen, a restaurant and bathing lodge at the edge of the water, which assumed the name Wernerbad and was formally opened in 1905.

Predating the opening of the Strandbad Wannsee by two years this means that the Wernerbad was Berlin’s first open-air swimming pool (Freibad).

The ownership and running of the Freibad was taken over by the city of Berlin in 1951 and between 1957 and 1959 a 50m tiled pool was created.

The abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

A new system was installed at considerable cost to improve the quality of the water in the naturally fed pool in 1991, which was again closed for refurbishment in 1994 before finally closing its doors to visitors in 2002 due to new concerns about the water quality.

Changing Rooms at the abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

Kneipe (Dolly's) and Gates at the abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

The association Freunde des Wernerbades e.V was established in 2006 with the aim of reopening the pool to the public but a number of issues meant that it was  unable to achieve its objective.  There were concerns over the lack of adequate parking, noise levels and the effect of increased traffic in the area.  In addition the overgrown pool now provides a natural habitat for wildlife.  The cost of the project also played a part as significant investment would be required to install a water treatment system capable of bringing the water quality up to current standards.

The abandoned and overgrown swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

Steps and Hut at the abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

Wassertiefe sign at the abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

As a result, on 13 June 2013 the Abgeordnetenhaus von Berlin (the state parliament or House of Representatives) approved the declassification of the Wernerbad as a sports area.  This removes the site from the responsibility of Berliner Bäder Betriebe, the body that manages the swimming pools in Berlin, and allows for the sale of the land to an investor for development.

The latest proposal is for a home for the elderly with facilities for the treatment of dementia to take up the majority of the land.  The Eastern shore of the Wernersee will remain accessible to the public.

The slide at the abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

Since the closure, Marzahn-Hellersdorf is the only district of Berlin without a Freibad.  The local council has been hoping for some time to expand the Kinderbad in Bürgerpark Marzahn for adult swimming but lacked the funds to do so.  It is now hoped that some of the proceeds of the sale of the Wenerbad can be used to finance this project.

Hut and Lamp Post at the abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

As for Knautschke, Sven Kohlmeier, the SPD representative for Marzahn-Hellersdorf in the Abgeordnetenhaus von Berlin is determined to ensure that the hippo remains in Kaulsdorf.

The abandoned swimming pool Wernerbad (Freibad Wernersee) in Kaulsdorf, Berlin

For now though, the reeds continue to grow around the roaring (or is he yawning) beast as he stands perfectly still in the dirty water of the Wernerbad, and the abandoned swimming pool in Kaulsdorf, like many of Berlin’s derelict sites and buildings is visited only by those out for a little urbex adventure.