Sunday, 16 March 2014

Berlin Alexanderplatz

Hanging out on Alex
Alexanderplatz is the much developed commercial centre of Berlin Mitte. It has greatly changed in the times between each of our visits to Berlin and during our time living here, and continues to transition from the former East Berlin epicentre of cultural and political life to a West German imitation of Manhattan, USA. Relics of the DDR such as the Fernsehturm, the World Clock, the horrible Park Inn, and the scruffy Brunnen der Völkerfreundschaft sit incongruously side-by-side with the Galeria Kaufhaus department store, the Saturn store, and the rosy-hued Alexa shopping centre.

I don't know if I preferred it more when there were second-hand clothes and bookstalls under the railway arches rather than fast-food outlets, or whether I quite like all the high-rise modern architecture sprouting up around the otherwise drab plaza bringing fresh blood into the heart of the city. Either way, I feel Alex captures the essence of Berlin, and when I go there I still feel the rush of realisation when I first visited: 'wow! We are on Alexanderplatz!'.

Here are some photos that I hope will express the variety of impressions around this unique spot.

The Alexa shopping centre.
Definitely not a cookie-cutter mall, its architecture mirrors the arches of the elevated railway line, the colours of the nearby Rotes Rathaus, and a golden-twenties 'Metropolis' feel from its heyday as a focus for risqué entertainment and shopping. 

The bubble man.

Galeria Kaufhaus and the New Inn hotel

The World Clock (Weltzeituhr), always a place for meeting-up and for impromptu demonstrations (this one is about the Russian intervention in the Ukraine)

The Fernsehturm towers over the distinctively retro Alexanderplatz Bahnhof, with a ubiquitous Grillrunner selling sausages from a mobile barbeque. 

There is always street entertainment on Alex

The DDR-era Fountain of Friendship between Peoples (Brunnen der Völkerfreundschaft)

The famous Flaggenhaus am Alex. Yes, it is a store that just sells flags of the world, and seems to have been there forever. How much longer this store and Plattenbau apartment block will remain is in doubt.

The former Haus des Berliner Verlages. The Eascados restaurant used to be in DDR times the prestigous Presse Café and used to sport a social realism mural, now gone.

The Haus des Lehrers, which thankfully still retains its social realism mural.

Alexanderplatz is the home to seasonal markets which always present strange juxtapositions of architecture. This windmill is for an Osterfest (Easter Festival)

More colourful buskers liven up the Alexanderplatz experience.

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