Oct 5, 2018

The Berlin Diaries #4: KaDeWe. Checkpoint Charlie. Topography of Terror.

Say what you will about my sense of direction but it always serves me well when high end department stores and their famed food halls are involved.

Unfortunately, I first found Berlin's KaDeWe (Europe's second largest department store after Harrod's in London) on a Sunday when it was closed.

But I was determined and returned the following evening.

Only a fleeting visit to the business end of the store, I'm afraid because I have no room in my suitcase or my wardrobe back home but rest assured it was wall to wall luxe.

I did pause to appreciate the Aesop counter.  Australia is never too far away from here in Berlin.  It's a lovely, reassuring feeling.

Bottles of perfume with lids that look like records arranged to look like a pop art flower.  I was so tempted to test them out then and there but more pressing matters called.

Namely the sixth floor food court.

How could I not?

It just seemed like most normal and civilised thing to do on a Monday evening at the shops.

Sydney, why are you not onto this?

No one was being unruly. No one was red faced.  There was no crazed shrieking.  Just a bar of people sedately sipping their flutes of champagne.

I am growing very fond of the very precise way Germans like things to be done.

Where do I begin with the food hall?  I loved how spacious it was.  While there were lavish displays of  produce wherever I looked, I never felt afraid that I'd bump into anything and topple it over.

A very patriotic display of local chocolate.  I believe that replica the Brandenburg Gate is made entirely of chocolate.

 Which reminds me, I've got to get started on the gifts I need to bring home for everyone.


The charcuterie counter where your cold cuts can be shaved to order for you.

I wonder what a day in the life of a visual merchandiser at a food hall such as KaDeWe's would be like.

The inventive ways they think of to display everyday foods as well as more exotic items.

Finding ways to make such a diverse array of foods and drinks look interesting yet also to maintain a cohesive sense of the food hall's image as an extension of its department store.

I like how there are chairs and tables dotted around the food hall so that customers can not only buy things to bring home but also enjoy teas (and champagne) immediately.

I'm planning another visit to KaDeWe before I leave on Saturday and I think a slice of one of these cakes will be part of my goodbye meal.

The sightseeing segment of today's post takes in more modern history than what I've previously discussed.

These manhole covers dot the historic streets of Berlin and if you look closely, you can see the images of some of the key buildings of Berlin's history etched into the central circle.

There's a thriving film industry in Berlin and we happened to walk past a crew filming at a train station.

Berlin's architecture is an ever visible lesson in history.  These apartments are prefabricated and are a remnant of the DDR's approach to function over beauty.

Checkpoint Charlie (C for Charlie and C as the third letter of the alphabet) was the third crossing point of the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin.  It was the single crossing point for the use of foreigners and members of the Allied Forces.

The current guard house and sign are replicas of the original structures.  This is a view from the American side of the wall (the KFC and Maccas) are dead giveaways.  The solider in the portrait is American and the sign to the left advises that you are leaving the American sector.

There's a touristy feeling to Checkpoint Charlie these days that belies its blood stained history.

It costs 3 Euros to have your photo taken with the actors in costume at the front of the guard house.  Stall holders across the street sell replica uniforms, dress hats and gas masks as if they were fridge magnets or T shirts.

One of the many tourist friendly businesses on the streets surrounding the former checkpoint.
The official Checkpoint Charlie Museum is nowhere near as touristy as its surroundings.

Along with incredible detail about every aspect of the politics that precipitated the formation of the checkpoints, it also makes some powerful statements about other dictatorships around the world.

Trabis or Trabants as they were officially known are cars manufactured by the VEB car company of the former GDR (East Germany).  The cars were made for 30 years and have a steel frame and solid plastic bodies.  Unfortunately they were infamously unreliable and have been nicknamed 'a spark plug with a roof'.  These days, Trabis travel the streets of Berlin is vehicles for tourists to self drive around the city.

Just minutes away from the Trabi tour offices is the Topography of Terror, an outdoor and indoor museum that documents the oppression of Jews under the Nazi regime.

The museum is located on land that was previously occupied by head offices of the SS.  The original buildings were largely destroyed by Allied forces during World War II.

The cellars in the bottom half of this photo were used to torture and hold political prisoners.

Sections of the Berlin Wall remain erect here and it's the second longest remaining stretch of wall after the Eastside Gallery.

There are some incredibly brave and ingenious people who attempted to escape the East by parachuting and abseiling over this section of the wall and lived to tell the tale.  Their plans depended on gaining access to the buildings directly next to the wall.

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