BERLIN: Mitte East

This post starts out east of Alexanderplatz, heart of the former East Zone, and then loops back to the heart of Mitte, the central borough of Berlin.

Soviet-style architecture on Karl-Marx-Allee. An instructor in one of my classes said apartment building toilets in the East Zone often used to be in a central courtyard. Eventually,  toilets were moved indoors — off a corridor and shared. Today the apartments probably have been updated, but they still rent at very reasonable prices.
A closer look at a facade along Karl-Marx-Allee. Buildings constructed of large, prefabricated concrete slabs are called “Plattenbau” here.
Several tour companies run buses along major streets, offering “on/off” privileges to ticket holders. But the original “on/off” service was the city’s 100 bus, which starts at Alexanderplatz and still runs past the Brandenburg Gate and the government quarter, around the Tiergarten (central park) and ends at the zoo.
The TV tower in Alexanderplatz, a symbol of Berlin, is the tallest man-made structure in Germany at 1,200 feet high. I looked around the square for the Zeiss-Ikon store, where in the ’70s I sweated while waiting to buy a sextant for a sailor acquaintance. I was illegally using hundreds of East-Zone marks he had acquired on the black market for one-tenth the official price. But the store is gone.
The blue-and-white tents around Alexanderplatz are for Oktoberfest, which is celebrated in Berlin, too.
After leaving Alexanderplatz, Bus 100 stops in front of Berlin Cathedral, which anchors the southern end of Museum Island. You can go up. 270 steps.
The Old Museum (antiquities collection of the Berlin State Museums), one of the Big Five museums on Museum Island.
The Bode Museum (sculpture, Byzantine art, and coins and medals) sits at the top of the island.
Tropical Islands? In your dreams. The temperature never reached 50 and the wind gusted 15-20 mph. Wind is a more constant companion than rain.
Sculptures of four nymphs grace the bank of the Spree river opposite the cathedral.
The 100 bus passes within sight of Philharmonic Hall, home of the Berlin Philharmonic, which would make anybody’s list of half a dozen best orchestras in the world. When it’s in town, the orchestra offers a free short concert on Tuesdays at 1 p.m.

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  1. I (Richard) remember the Alexanderplatz well fro ma trip I took to the East in 1977. We were in one of the first tour groups designed for Westerners. The last night, when the tour had ended and we were on our own, we walked around a bit, had sausages on the plaza. I appreciated your photo of the big workers’ apartment building. Such architecture was constantly derided as boring. But it’s really in the Bauhaus tradition. If you look at any such buildings put up in the U.S. in the past-war period, you see the same thing. It’s efficiency. I was surprised, however, to learn from you that the toilets were not indoors and private. That’s too much efficiency for me!


  2. Clint,
    That event at the Zeiss-Ikon store was actually in 1983. I was with you. I waited outside with the lieutenant colonel, I believe, for whom you were buying it. I remember that after leaving the store he made an illegal U-turn on the street, saying, “We occupy this country!”
    That was my first trip to Berlin, when you invited me along to help with a group of college journalism students interning at The Stars & Stripes, the U.S. military daily newspaper headquartered in Darmstadt. You were the city editor and I was a new military reporter.
    Ed Metzler


    1. Good catch! I stand happily corrected about the date. We were in Germany together for years, so you’ll likely find other anomalies; feel free to use the comments.

      I’ve gone to Germany many times now to work, study German or just hear how the language is supposed to be spoken. The more years that pass, the more my memories run into one another. Glad you’ll be along on the next trip.


      Liked by 1 person

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