Tag Archives: Berlin

Sunday Documentary: The Iconic Photo of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Anthony Suau - Iconic Photo of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Photo: Anthony Suau | Time Magazine

On the 9th of November 1989 the eyes of the world were on Berlin.  TV crews and journalists from all corners of the globe gathered in the German capital to document one of the 20th century’s defining moments – the fall of the Berlin Wall.  25 years on from that incredible night it is only right that today’s Sunday Documentary should be about the Mauerfall. Photographer Anthony Suau was amongst those capturing the scenes of jubilation and euphoria for Time Magazine and he recounts his experiences in The Iconic Photo of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

As thousands of people gather in Berlin to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the opening of the border that separated East and West it is time to reflect on the events that made it all possible.

Tonight in Berlin the border is visible once more.  The Lichtgrenze (Border of Light), an installation of 8,000 illuminated balloons marks the course a 15km stretch of the wall from Bornholmer Strasse to the Oberbaumbrücke.

Like the Lichtgrenze, on 9th November 1989 it all started at Bornholmer Strasse.

In response to mass protests and a giant tear in the Iron Curtain making it possible for citizens to escape through Hungary into Austria, the East German government decided to relax it’s border controls and allow travel between East and West.  In a fortuitous twist of fate an uninformed Günter Schabowski appeared at his daily press conference and told the gathered reporters about the easing of restrictions.  Asked when the new directive would take effect he replied ‘As far as I’m aware, immediately. Straight away.’

And so the fate of the Berlin Wall was sealed.

East Berliners curious to see the Western half of their city went immediately to the border crossing points and thousands gathered at Bornholmer Strasse.  Harald Jaeger was the guard in charge of Passport Control at the crossing point and under increased pressure from the crowd he disobeyed the orders of his superiors and opened the border.

As a symbol of Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate was a natural gathering point for the celebrations that night.

No doubt emboldened by alcohol, the new sense of freedom afforded to them and a feeling that the guards no longer had the same power over them, revellers climbed onto the wall.  But even that wasn’t enough for some and they began attacking the barrier that had divided the city for 28 years. The wall had fallen symbolically that evening but many were determined to see it fall literally too.

With knives, hammers and pick axes they set about destroying the Berlin Wall.  It was this destruction that was captured by Anthony Suau for Time Magazine in what has become one of the iconic photos of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Iconic Photo of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

In the Belly of a Whale – El Bocho

Berlin-based Street Artist El Bocho At Work On The Street In Berlin

Prolific Berlin-based street artist El Bocho speaks to Andreas Lamoth und Frederic Leitzke about his work and his motivations in 2013 in a new episode of their award-winning documentary In the Belly of a Whale.

You may recognise a number of the pieces featured as El Bocho has appeared many many times on andBerlin.  Street art from his Citizen series, Little Lucy and most recently Tina Berlina characters pop up regularly on the streets of Berlin.  You can see more of his work on his website and Facebook page.

In the Belly of a Whale – El Bocho

Autumn Colours in Berlin

Autumn Foliage at Gemeindepark Lankwitz in Berlin

There is something magical about autumn in Berlin.  Pushing aside all thoughts of a hangover after the first Schmankerl-Hüttn of the year in order to take advantage of the sunshine and unseasonably warm Berlin weather we headed for Gemeindepark Lankwitz yesterday.

The sun brought out the best in the autumn foliage and having picked the park at random from a Google Maps search we were pleasantly surprised to find deer, goats, sheep and ducks there.

Stag at Gemeindepark Lankwitz in Berlin Doe a Deer at Gemeindepark Lankwitz in Berlin Duck at Gemeindepark Lankwitz in Berlin Squirrel at Gemeindepark Lankwitz in Berlin War Memorial at Gemeindepark Lankwitz in Berlin War Memorial in Gemeindepark Lankwitz in Berlin Steffi and Dave Gemeindepark Lankwitz in Berlin

Autumn Colours at Gemeindepark Lankwitz in Berlin

As we have enjoyed a hot and dry summer and mild, sunny and sometimes positively balmy autumn in Berlin so far this year I can only assume that the winter is going to be ridiculously cold to compensate.

Sunday Documentary: Clive James – Postcard from Berlin

Australian comedian and broadcaster Clive James was a darling of British television in the 1980s and early 1990s.  As part of his Postcard From… series, James visited Berlin in 1995 and produced the documentary, Postcard from Berlin.

It’s interesting to see how much some of the places shown have changed in the last 20 years.  For instance, the area around the Führer Bunker was then a wasteland – unrecognisable as the site of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

However, some things don’t change – there are still cranes everywhere.

Clive James – Postcard from Berlin

Shepard Fairey – Obey the Giant in Berlin

Elephant - Street Art by Shepard Fairey (Obey the Giant) in Berlin

One of the most recognisable names in Street Art, Shepard Fairey, has been in Berlin painting a large-scale mural for Urban Nation as well as leaving some of his iconic Obey the Giant images and other posters and stickers around town.

If you think you haven’t seen his work, think again.  Do you remember that Obama ‘Hope’ picture used during the 2008 presidential campaign?  Well, that was Shepard Fairey.

Fairey is no stranger to Berlin and on his Obey Giant website refers to his time in the city for Backjumps in 2003.

Make Art Not War - Street Art by Shepard Fairey (Obey the Giant) in Berlin

The Make Art Not War mural in Kreuzberg was organised by Urban Nation, who have been bringing lots of artists to Berlin, including Ben Eine, Fin Dac and Nick Walker, who have all painted near their office on Bülowstrasse.

Make Art Not War was completed by Fairey and his team in two days and faces another excellent large-scale piece by Danish artist Don John.

Shepard Fairey’s Street Art career started when he was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design when he created his Andre the Giant Has a Posse sticker campaign.  This sticker was previously featured in my Berlin Street Art Vol 8 – Various Artists post.

André The Giant Has A Posse Sticker - Street Art by Shepard Fairey in Berlin

The story of the origins of the Andre the Giant image and Fairey’s exploits is told in OBEY THE GIANT – The Shepard Fairey Story a film by Julian Marshall, his thesis film, whilst at the same Rhode Island School of Design and funded partly by a Kickstarter campaign.

OBEY THE GIANT – The Shepard Fairey Story

From those humble beginnings a global brand has grown, Andre the Giant morphed into Obey the Giant and spawned a clothing label.  Further artwork followed.

Andre the Giant - Street Art by Shepard Fairey (Obey the Giant) in Berlin Obey the Giant - Street Art by Shepard Fairey in Berlin Obey V-sign - Street Art by Shepard Fairey (Obey the Giant) in Berlin

Berlin-lovers might like this Berlin Tower print, unfortunately now sold out.

Berlin Tower - print by Shepard Fairey

Photo: Berlin Tower – print by Shepard Fairey from www.obeygiant.com

The good news is that this isn’t the last we’ll see of Shepard Fairey in Berlin, as he states on his website that he will be back for more projects with Urban Nation, until then, you can follow Fairey and Obey the Giant on Twitter and Facebook.

Bearpit Karaoke – Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark

Sean from Poland sings at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

Sean from Poland sings House of the Rising Sun at Bearpit Karaoke

Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark or Bearpit Karaoke as it is commonly known has grown from an innovative busking idea into an internationally known regular entertainment event and Berlin guidebook staple.

Joe Hatchiban at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

Joe Hatchiban at Bearpit Karaoke

It all started in 2009 when Joe Hatchiban (real name Gareth Lennon) rode around Berlin with some friends and a Karaoke machine.  One of the places they stopped was Mauerpark and the Bearpit Karaoke was born.

Rest assured the name Bearpit Karaoake isn’t a reference to the ferocity of the crowd but rather the stone amphitheatre in the former death strip at Mauerpark that hosts it.  In fact the crowd will always find some reason, whether it is a note perfect performance or an enthusiastic but tone deaf rendition, or maybe the singer’s obvious enthusiasm or shyness, to give very vocal support to those with the balls to perform.

For the thousands of people, tourists and Berliners alike, drawn to the regular Sunday flea market, Flohmarkt am Mauerpark, across the park, the Karaoke provides entertainment and a respite from the haggling hordes.

The crowd at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

If you’re lucky enough to find a spot on the steps of a sunny Sunday, you can rest your feet and enjoy a cold beer, whilst a parade of plucky would-be entertainers takes to the stage to belt out their favourite songs.

Irena from Italy sings at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

Irena from Italy sings at Bearpit Karaoke

A singer at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

A singer performs Wish You Were Here at Bearpit Karaoke

Diana from Chicago sings at Bearpit Karaoke

Diana from Chicago sings at Bearpit Karaoke

On an unseasonably warm and sunny Sunday in the last weekend in September Steffi and I joined the gathered crowd and spent an hour or two enjoying the show.

Berlin Bearpit Karaoke – Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark

This being Berlin, sooner or later one of the local nut jobs gets on the stage looking for some attention, not wanting to sing but rather to detract from those people who have been patiently waiting their turn.

Joe, though, has seen it all before and finds a way to bring the attention back to the singers.  In fact, his rapport with those who put themselves out there is one of the charms of the event. Each, is introduced by name with a little info about where they’re from and what they are doing in Berlin.

The Sonntags Karaoke in Mauerpark is funded by donations and so Joe walks around the crowd from time to time with a tin collecting money.  There have been some difficulties in the past due to the availability of permits and increasing costs so it’s important that you give a little something if you enjoy the show and want it to continue.

There are a few enterprising individuals who have spotted the opportunity to make a few Euros from such a captive audience.  A couple of guys walk around the Bearpit selling beer – all I can say is that they must have ridiculously strong arms to carry the crates around for hours like they do.

Another set of enterprising Berliners collect the empty bottles to cash in for the Pfand – for those not familiar with the German system an 8c deposit is paid on each beer bottle to encourage recycling.

The added bonus of this is that one of the council’s potential issues with the continuation of the Karaoke is a perceived rubbish problem.  This along with Joe’s constant encouragement to the crowd to take any other items away with them ensures the area is kept relatively tidy.

A performer at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

Weather and permits allowing, Joe Hatchiban is at the Mauerpark with his Karaoke machine Sundays from 15:00 but best to check the Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark Facebook page to avoid a wasted trip.  Bearpit Karaoke really is a uniquely Berlin thing (as far as I’m aware) so whether you’re visiting the city for a weekend or are a permanent resident it is something you should experience at least once – whether you should sing or not, well that is something you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Tag der Deutschen Einheit (The Day of German Unity)

Die Wölbung der Hände (La voûte des mains in the original French) at the former inner German border near Helmstedt

3 October 2014 marks the 24th anniversary of the re-unification of Germany, celebrated each year with a public holiday for Tag der Deutschen Einheit (The Day of German Unity).

Ask any non-German when the country was reunified and they will probably tell you 1989.  The images beamed around the world on 9 November 1989 of cars queuing at border crossing points and Germans celebrating on top of or attacking the wall with pick-axes are burned into the memories of many but East Germany didn’t cease to exist overnight.

There were of course many bureaucratic and organisational differences between East and West Germany – the two countries didn’t only have opposing political ideologies.  Preparations for the reunification of the country took some time so it wasn’t until 3 October 1990 that Germany was made whole again.

Die Wölbung der Hände (La voûte des mains in the original French) at the former inner German border near Helmstedt Former Inner German Border (Ehemalige innerdeutsche Grenze) SignErected at the site of the former inner German border at Helmstedt, the statue Die Wölbung der Hände (The Curvature of the Hands) or La voûte des mains, the title given to the piece by its creator José Castell, is one of the ways the German people have commemorated this important day.

Recognising the significance of the date, entry to the wonderful Deutsches Historisches Museum (German History Museum) is free on 3 October.

Reunification has on the whole been very successful and Germany is once more the economic powerhouse of Europe but even after 24 years there are still some obvious differences between the former East and West.

This graphic representation from Berliner Zeitung of the 2013 German Parliamentary Election (Bundestagswahl 2013) results in Berlin shows there are still political differences.

German Parliamentary Elections 2013 (Bundestagswahl) Results Map

Photo: B.Z.-Grafik

Commander Chris Hadfield, looking down on Berlin from the International Space Station observed the differences in the street lights between East and West – the yellow glow in the East is produced by Sodium-vapour lamps, the white in the West from mainly Fluorescent bulbs.

The East West Divide in Berlin Lights As Seen From the International Space Station

Photo: Commander Chris Hadfield

And it would seem that Ronny was a much more popular name in the East, as this illustration of the frequency of the name in every 10,000 Facebook users shows.

German Facebook Users Named Ronny

Photo: Zeit Online

There are plenty more interesting (and sometimes amusing) differences (auf Deutsch) in the article Das Geteilte Land on Zeit Online.

The official celebrations of Tag der Deutchen Einheit in Berlin centre around the Brandenburg Gate but perhaps more appropriately people all over the city will be enjoying the public holiday in their own way, celebrating their day of freedom from work.

Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap – Cult Favourite Döner in Berlin

Close up of Hähnchen Gemüse Döner at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin

Emerging from the U-Bahn station on the west side of Mehringdamm in Berlin Kreuzberg, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was the first day of the sales or that a famous celebrity is signing autographs but the long line of people you see are queuing for a Döner at Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap.

The queue at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin

Strolling down almost any street in the German capital you’ll find a handful of options for Berlin’s most popular snack options the Currywurst and the Döner Kebap.  Mustafa’s has been a cult favourite since it started selling a twist on the traditional kebab made with chicken and roasted vegetables.

Mustafa’s has appeared in numerous Berlin guide books and newspaper articles that guarantee it a steady stream of tourist trade to add to the local interest.

If that wasn’t enough, the guys made an advert.

All this adds up to spectacularly long queues.

Just walking along the pavement on Mehringdamm is difficult at times because the queues from Mustafa’s and another local legend Curry 36 often meet each other.

It’s not unusual to have to queue for 30 minutes or more.

The queue at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin The queue at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin

The big question: is it worth the wait?

I have to say that I’m a big fan of the Hähnchen Döner mit Gemüse (Chicken doner with vegetables).

As is the norm, there is a choice of three sauces: Kräuter (herb), Knoblauch (garlic), Scharf (spicy) and the usual array of salad.

For me though, it’s the finishing touches that make the kebabs here special.

The serving window Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin

Firstly, shortly before serving a mystery liquid (Mustafa’s secret ingredient) is squeezed onto the meat and vegetables.

Hähnchen Gemüse Döner at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin

Then, the pièce de résistance a crumbling of Feta cheese and a squeeze of juice straight from the lemon add a freshness that elevates the Gemüse Kebap above the average Döner.

Whether it is worth standing in the queue for upwards of half an hour to get your hands on one really depends on how busy you are and what else you could be doing with your time.

The obvious question when confronted with such a popular spot is why there aren’t branches in every corner of Berlin.  There were outposts under Eberswalder Straße U-Bahnhof and on Oranienburger Straße near Hackescher Markt in 2012 but neither lasted unfortunately.

Other shops and stalls have popped up all over Berlin selling Gemüse Döner though so there are alternatives if you can’t face, or don’t have time, for the queues – I would recommend K’UPS Gemüse Kebap on Kastanianallee.

With so much hype surrounding a kebab shop it would be easy to write Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap off as a Berlin tourist trap but the truth is that the Döner here is something special – and they do say the best things in life are worth waiting for.

Tourist Information From Tina Berlina by El Bocho

Tina Berlina - 'Top Secret Info' - Street Art by El Bocho in Berlin

It was around the start of 2014 that I first noticed Tina Berlina, a new character from prolific Berlin Street Artist El Bocho.

Tina has been popping up on the streets of Berlin this year offering advice to tourists and giving German lessons.  Unfortunately, I’ve missed German Lesson 3.

Tina Berlina - 'Beware of Boring Areas': Street Art by El Bocho in Berlin Tina Berlina - 'Don't Believe The Dealer' - Street Art by El Bocho in Berlin Tina Berlina - 'Don't Go To The Oktoberfest' - Street Art by El Bocho in Berlin Tina Berlina - German Lesson 1 - Street Art by El Bocho in Berlin

Translation: Will I get into Watergate like this?

Tina Berlina - German Lesson 2 - Street Art by El Bocho in Berlin

Translation: Is there also something by Banksy here?

Tina Berlina - German Lesson 4 - Street Art by El Bocho in Berlin

Translation: I would like to buy the loft…please.

There’s lots of El Bocho Street Art from his Citizens and Little Lucy series elsewhere on andBerlin and here’s hoping that Tina Berlina keeps appearing on the walls of Berlin, offering her pearls of wisdom to the city’s many tourists.

Sunday Documentary: Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin

Jesse Owens lines up at the start of the 100m final at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin

Jesse Owens Returns To Berlin is a documentary written, directed and produced by Bud Greenspan and filmed during a visit to Berlin in 1964, which recounts Owens’ incredible achievements during the 1936 Olympics.

The rise of National Socialism in Germany and Hitler’s anti-semitic policies and advocation of the superiority of the Aryan race resulted in several calls for a boycott of the games.  Against this political backdrop, Jesse Owens’ haul of four gold medals is all the more significant.

For a black athlete to demonstrate clearly his superior athleticism and so convincingly outperform his white counterparts was a massive slap in the face for Hitler and made a mockery of his racist theories during his Nazi showpiece games.

Standing in the box at the Olympiastadion where Hitler sat to watch the games, Jesse Owens tells with pride that the flag of the US team was the only one not to be dipped as the athletes passed the Führer.  It may be my imagination but it seems that Hitler’s jaw twitches as he observes this act of defiance.

It was at 28:48 in this documentary that a legend was born.  Standing in the Olympiastadion with Luz Long’s son Kai, Owens tell the remarkable story (disputed like so many other great tales) of his father’s part in his victory in the Long Jump (then known as the Broad Jump).

Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin is a wonderful documentary that delivers on many levels: it is a fascinating account of sporting prowess, an important historical record and a tale of good beats evil, and for Berlin fans there is the added interest of seeing the Olympiastadion and Lustgarten as they looked during the 1936 Olympics.

Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin