PREFACE The challenge: how to devise a concept for a Berlin book that’s not already categorised into an existing pigeonhole? The answer: by creating a new type of Berlin book – a new style, based on the fresh treatment of texts and images, which also sets new standards for literature on Berlin. Succinct texts are followed by opulent illustrations, and vice versa. We believe that tourism-inspired prose is much more rewarding for readers than that which has already been said a thousand times. By presenting topics in a prosaic manner, we bid farewell to the conventional image of the tourist. After all, we know that there’s more than one type of traveller. Metropolitan cities of the 21st century are multilayered, and magic is frequently hidden in the banalities of everyday life. It is here that differences in cosmopolitan centres become apparent, and it is also here that the marketing facades of hackneyed travel guides begin to crumble. The expiration date for this book has been pushed far into the future – and all with no additives or preservatives required. Within these pages, everything that you experience is of a lasting character. After all, trends alone cannot show the prevailing zeitgeist. Unlock the Berlin spirit from its bottle – and accompany it on a journey through the past and the present.
chips à la Fritz
“Fredericus Rex” Frederick ll of Prussia, called “Frederick the Great”
Frederick ll of Prussia, called “Frederick the Great”. Born 24 January 1712 in Berlin, died 17 August 1786 in Potsdam. Prussian King (from 1740), military leader, philosopher, composer. Called “Old Fritz” by the citizens of Berlin. The drawing shows the famous equestrian statue of the King, located in the middle of Unter den Linden, in the historical centre of Berlin. The statue was created by Daniel Christian Rauch and unveiled in 1851. On the plinth: the King himself. Here one can also find Prussian military leaders, and under the horse’s rear end are poets and philosophers of the Frederician era, reciting their works. Honni soit qui mal y pense...
An icon rises up on his high horse. Even though Old Fritz never was entirely comfortable in the saddle. For he was fond of engaging in a bit of small talk with the common folk. Apropos: Berliners are chatterboxes themselves and they like to talk quickly. It is rather easy to enter into conversation with them, even if you’re a stranger. This begins bright and early at the bakery. A brief exchange – quick and breezy, short but sweet, everything in a nutshell. And the conversation continues seamlessly into the night at the cocktail bars. In Berlin, no one has time for giving a long speech. Berliners are “doers”. And sooner or later, those riding the high horse will come tumbling down. The sharp Berlin tongue takes care of this. It’s called “Kodderschnauze” – or the sassy and brash way that Berliners have with words. Berliners like to push the boundaries. But at the last minute, a Berliner will come to his or her senses. After all, charm is frequently held in high esteem. Another typical attribute is Berlin class. And there is only one here. The Berliner is actually rather democratic by nature. What you personally think or believe is irrelevant. As Old Fritz once expressed himself: “All religions must be tolerated...for every man must get to heaven in his own way.” A topic he probably enjoyed discussing for hours.
The Wall “We have no intention of building a wall…” Walter Ulbricht, East German Head of State, a few days before construction of the Wall began, in response to a journalist’s question at a press conference.
A West Berlin woman in a short and rather colourful skirt stands at the Wall, sending a few terms of endearment toward the watchtower. There, a young soldier wears the uniform of the National People‘s Army. Nervously, he looks to the left and right. He’s risking his neck for what‘s taking place right now. An East-West flirt, occurring at some point in the 1980s at the Wall in Berlin-Kreuzberg. It was the first time that it I was conscious of the Wall as a means of separation. Otherwise, it was simply just there. Who even worried about it anymore? Those under the age of thirty didn’t, at any rate. I was twenty-three at the time.
Did something happen there? It’s inconceivable today that the Wall even existed. And because the Wall will always remain inconceivable, it was ultimately torn down at lightning speed, making it invisible once again – banished to that place where the inconceivable is normally relegated. In view of its career, from 1961 to 1989, Europe’s longest architectural structure at 155 kilometres was removed from our visual field in a relatively short period of time. The monster merely left a trail of slime and cobblestones in select places to mark its existence. Now, from the perspective of history, these are the last official markings of an era called the Cold War.
If you search long enough, it’s still possible to find part of the Berlin Wall. In Bernauer Strasse, one section has been reconstructed, true to the original details. The Wall actually consisted of two parallel walls; the wall on the western side was the more famous of the two. A 300–500 metre strip of no man‘s land was located between the rear wall and the official wall, which is what is actually referred to when one mentions “The Wall” today. This fallow no man’s land became notorious as the “death strip”. Heavily armed soldiers and trained guard dogs patrolled the area. In certain locations, land mines were also buried under the soil. The East German soldiers on duty shot to kill. People died here. By 2000, 86 people were officially classified as “victims of the Wall”. But the actual number varies in official reports and will probably be increased over time. This is because many of the official documents on these cases were either destroyed under the GRD regime, or deaths occurring at the Wall were covered up or “reclassified”. Those guards who shot to kill and whose names were known by the authorities were condemned and sentenced in German courts of law. Words of regret were rarely heard at these trails. Most of those accused were more concerned about their reputations. And still are today.
Much too good for clichés – just Berlin as it is!