Category archives: exploring berlin

Exploring Berlin | Siegessäule

Why hello there.  After an unexpected blog hiatus, I am back. Well sort of.  We still don’t have internet in our new apartment (after a month and a half. Dear Telekom- it is 2014!!!) and have no idea when it will be connected. This post has been sitting in my drafts for a good 8 months or so, and after a long break from blogging, this surely doesn’t exactly feel worthy of the first post after 3 months…. but if I don’t push publish today, I probably never will.  On one of the first warm-ish days last spring, Andreas and I spent a Saturday at the Winterfeldtplatz market and decided it was too lovely of a day not to walk home back to Mitte.  Along the way we passed the Victory Tower or Siegessäule and decided to go to the top for a few sunset photos.

 

Victory Tower/ Siegessäule

open daily: 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. (April – October), and 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (November – March)

Exploring Berlin | Botanischer Garten

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 A few weeks ago when it was still very much winter here in Berlin, Thea and I found comfort in a warm oasis within Berlin.  We were doing a bit of location scouting at the Botanischer Garten for the cover shoot of the new issue of sisterMAG (which I photographed and will be released in early May).  Spending just a short time in the warmth of the greenhouse did wonders on my mood.  We spent all of our visit exploring the different climates within the greenhouse, but I imagine the space outside in the surrounding gardens are beautiful in the spring and summer when they are green and blooming, it is a shame that during our visit they were still covered in snow.  We will just have to make another visit back now that it is finally spring!

 

Berlin Botanischer Garten
Königin-Luise-Straße 6-8
14195 Berlin

S-bahn (S1): Botanischer Garten

exploring berlin | stasi museum

Stasi Museum Berlin (1)

A few weeks ago on a very snowy Sunday afternoon, Andreas and I ventured east to Lichtenberg to visit the Stasi Museum.  The museum is housed in the former  Stasi Headquarters building which was stormed by protesters on January 15, 1990 during the collapse of the GDR.  When it became clear the East German government was going to fall, Stasi officials had holed themselves up in the building destroying and shredding Stasi documents and after the some of the shredders broke from overuse, the officials continued to shred the papers by hand.  The protesters believed those documents, many of which detailed the personal lives of GDR citizens, should have been available to the people and been made public.  Since 1995, a team of people in Zirndorf outside of Nuremberg, has been working to piece back together by hand, the 15,500 sacks of paper which were recovered.  A fascinating article was written in the Guardian detailing the documents and the efforts to piece them back together, read it here.

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a camera which was disguised as a button.  The wide array of hidden cameras displayed in the museum are fascinating (especially for photography nerds, like me),  there was even a camera hidden inside a watering can.  The great lengths the Stasi went to spy on the citizens of East Germany is unbelievable (and really sad).

Stasi Museum Berlin (12)

Stasi Museum Berlin (2) Stasi Museum Berlin (3)Stasi Museum Berlin (6)

Infrared flash cannot be seen by the human eye, but can be used to photograph subjects at night without being seen.  Infrared flashes were hidden in the doors of this car to photograph along the roads.  The watch was used as a recording device.

Stasi Museum Berlin (7) Stasi Museum Berlin (8)Stasi Museum Berlin (4)

Stasi-Museum-Berlin

one of the most well known parts of the museum is the office of the last Minister of State Security, Erich Mielke.  His office and those of his colleagues have been restored and are pretty much exactly as they were left over 20 years ago.

Stasi Museum Berlin (9)Stasi Museum Berlin (13)

Stasi Museum Berlin
Ruschestraße 103, Haus 1
10365 Berlin

exploring berlin is a series following my explorations of my adopted home city.

*Note to non-German speaking visitors, most of the text in the museum is NOT translated.  There is a LOT of text to read, detailing the history of the Stasi and the GDR government and those who stood up against it.  Although I do think for those who don’t understand German, it would still be really interesting, I just wanted to write a little warning to prepare you.

 

Exploring Berlin | Hansaviertel

Hansaviertel Berlin Photo Hansaviertel Berlin Photo

The Hansaviertel is one of Berlin’s most unique neighborhoods.  It was almost completely destroyed after World War II, and it became a sort of experiment for modern urban planning in the 1950’s.  In response to East Berlin’s massive apartment blocks on the former Stalinallee, the Hansaviertel was based on the idea of a “garden city” where the apartment buildings were separated by large green spaces and lots of trees.  53 architects from 13 countries were invited to design a range of apartment blocks in the Hansaviertel, representing what was then thought to be the “city of tomorrow”.   I find the idea of the neighborhood and the urban planning ideas which created the space fascinating.  Even though I know practically nothing about architecture, walking the quiet streets of the Hansaviertel almost transports you back in time, and I love that.

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Thanks again to Context Travel for inviting me to experience their Divided City tour, I highly recommend it to visitors and Berliners alike.

Context Travel Divided City Tour | Karl Marx Allee

As time moves on the visual distinction between east and west Berlin continues to become less defined, but the majority of Karl Marx Allee, the grand boulevard of East Berlin, has remained virtually untouched architecturally.  The wide street lined by eight-story tiled apartment blocks has long been one of my favorite streets in the city to photograph and explore. When Context Travel contacted me and asked if I was interested in joining a group of bloggers to experience their Divided City Tour, exploring the architecture and history of Karl Marx Allee, of course I jumped at the opportunity to learn more.

a map detailing the destruction after World War II in Berlin. The blue areas where buildings had been destroyed.

Towers stand at both ends of the two kilometer long street at Frankfurter Tor and Strausberger Platz.

This tour along with the Paris by Mouth tour I took back in September dramatically changed my attitude towards “tours”, which I have long associated with tour buses and guide book toting group tours void of any real cultural significance.  This tour was not only incredibly interesting, but also a great opportunity to catch up with old and new Berlin blog friends.  I would highly recommend the Divided City tour to both tourists and locals who are interested in either architecture or the DDR.  I am really looking forward to my next Context tour, whether that be here in Berlin or on my next adventure in Europe.

Stay tuned from images from the second half of the tour of West Berlin’s apartment “blocks” in the Hansaviertel.

überlin also recently went on a Context tour and blogged about it here.

Inside C/O Berlin


I have professed my love for my favorite Berlin museum here on the blog once or twice before, so I am sure you can imagine how excited I was when I was invited to C/O Berlin’s first blogger event which included a private tour and chance to go inside the building’s dome.  The museum is housed in the former Postfuhramt (Royal Post Office) which was built in 1881, and the space itself is one of the reasons the museum is so special- the peeling paint, ornate tiled floors, even a basketball court where exhibits are held.  We were given a private tour of the current exposition, Zeitlos Schön (Timeless Beauty) – 100 years of Fashion photography, which features some fantastic, never before seen images from the Vogue archives.  Afterwards we made our way up to the attic of the building, to the dusty space between the dome and the cupola and were told to stay together, as the floor was old and potentially not safe.  (We all came out in one piece)  The dome had been badly damaged in the second world war and was carefully restored.  The show is incredible, I have now visited three times and they just extended it for another week (until November 4th).  If you have not yet had a chance to visit, make sure to go now (I promise you will thank me).

 

C/O Berlin – International Forum for Visual Dialogues

Oranienburger Str 35/36 . 10117 Berlin

a few other great posts from the night at C/O on Finding Berlin, Überlin, Jenni Fuchs’s Museum Diary & The Field Office

exploring berlin | Schlachtensee

It seems that we may have already seen the last days of summer here in Berlin, but we did have a few lovely and hot days spent by the water.  When the temperatures spike, it seems everyone in the city sprints to the lakes and the Schlachtensee is one of the easiest to reach (as it lies directly off the sbahn line 1)- that also means when the weather is nice, it is VERY crowded.  I have heard lots of complaints about the lack of summer-esque weather this year in Berlin, but we were lucky to have spent a few days at the Schlachtensee, enjoying the trail which wraps around the lake and trying (albeit sort of unsuccessfully) to teach Hazel to swim.  My fingers are crossed in hopes of a few more summer days before I break out my jackets and scarves once again!

More snaps of the lake by Zoë in Überlin’s post

exploring berlin | Liquidrom



I have professed my love of spas many times before, so you may already be well aware of how much I love living in a country who appreciates a good thermal bath.  We used to live a half an hour from Baden Baden, which is one of those most famous spa towns in Germany with two thermal baths, Caracalla and Friedrichsbad, both of which I love.  We went to the Caracalla often, whenever a few hours lounging around in thermal pools sounded like a good idea.  When I lived in San Francisco, I lived down the street from the Kabuki Springs, a wonderful Japanese spa- if you go, get a shiatsu massage and then enjoy the pools, trust me- it is amazing :)

Yesterday was my birthday, which admittedly I wasn’t too keen on celebrating this year.  Nevertheless, Andreas made it a really lovely day spoiling me rotten and we ended the day at Liquidrom, a spa near Potsdamer Platz.  The main feature is a large salt water pool where music is played under water in which you float almost weightlessly and all the stresses of life seem to just wash away.  They have DJs once a week as well as a classical music night- last night was a mix of music ranging from Edith Piaf to down tempo stuff.  In addition to the pool, they have a fabulous steam room and multiple saunas (although be warned they are not for the modest as the Germans apparently have a love of nudity- swimsuits are notallowed in the sauna or steam room, but required for the pool).  It was exactly what I needed after a very busy past few months and I realized how much I have missed a spontaneous trip to the spa since we moved to Berlin- we will definitely be back.

Liquidrom

Möckernstraße 10

Exploring Berlin is a series following my favorite discoveries around my new home city.

images courtesy of Liquidrom

exploring berlin | Prater Garten

 

The Prater Garten has quickly become one of our favorite spots to relax after a work day and catch up with friends over a beer.  Prater is Berlin’s oldest biergarten, serving beer on Kastanienallee in Prenzlauer Berg since 1837.  I think the food is far better than most biergartens, with lots of options beyond the usual bratwurst fare- and corn on the cob is always a winner in my book.  Surely with the lovely summer weather we have had here in Berlin lately, we will be spending many more lazy evenings at Prater.

Prater Biergarten
Kastanienallee 7-9   Prenzlauer Berg

exploring berlin is a series following my favorite discoveries around my new home city.

exploring berlin | reichstag dome


can you find us??
You might already know this, but I am allergic to most tourist hot spots.  Seriously. I get a bit queasy, dizzy and anxious when surrounded by throngs of tourists-  and if you knew where my apartment stood, this would make you laugh since I live in the tourist epicenter of Berlin (and yes, I sometimes wonder why).  Usually when I travel I avoid most of the places in tourist books or soak up the landmarks as quickly as possible and then find solace roaming streets off the beaten path.

One thing that does not bother me is free tourist attractions- especially those that do not require you to stand in line. :)  So when I saw this post on Travels of Adam, I immediately made a reservation to visit the Dome of the Reichstag (the German Parliament building) for the following week when my oldest friend, Caroline, would be visiting Berlin.  I thought even if it wasn’t amazing, at least it would be free, right?  My expectations were low before our visit, but it beat paying the 13€ to go to the top of the Fernsehturm, which seems like a crazy amount of money to take an elevator.  Admittedly it was pretty cool, offered great views of the city and was informative- I said to myself several times: “oh that’s what that building is..”about places I pass several times a week.  The dome itself is quite picturesque, and was designed by Norman Foster after the capital was relocated to Berlin in 1999 after the reunification of Germany.  It does require a bit of planning, as you must pre-register all guests online in advance– but I would say well worth the 5 minutes online you will spend securing a spot to visit.
All these 4 days weeks in May have spoiled me, but I am so happy it is already Friday!  Do you have big plans for the weekend?
exploring berlin is a series detailing my explorations of my new home city.