Our Third Weekend Guide to Berlin, Germany
Mauerpark Flea Market, Bernauer Straße 63-64
Every Sunday, thousands of Berliners pour into Mauerpark flea market to seek out quirky retro furniture, cameras, leathers, military memorabilia and rows and rows of vintage clothes. Unlike your average European flea market, the stalls are wedged in a somewhat organic setting amongst the trees, which makes the experience a little more tranquil - although the musicians and karaoke sets will certainly keep you on your toes.
I would recommend waking early to dive in and scope out the most obscure objects. You can fight the bitter cold by perusing the food stalls with some vegan chilli hot chocolate in one hand and one of their fabulously indulgent pink falafel wraps in the other.
If you want a more serious breakfast then wander up to the kitsch little vegetarian café Huftongol, Oderbergerstrasse 27, where the berry cheesecakes, spicy omelettes and rainbow salads are divine. The ladies behind the counter are a little frosty though so tread carefully when ordering - there's also a bike rental across the way.
Jewish Museum, Lindenstraße 9-14, 10am-8pm
The Jewish Museum was recommended to me time and time again, because of its evocative power and its ability to shock and anger you. As a result of the architecture and the curation, you are immediately immersed in the suffering and injustice of the Jewish population. Designed by the Jewish architect Daniel Libeskind, the concept is ‘between the lines.' This is soon sensed as you traverse his vertigo-inducing floor plan.
Despite the complexity of his design, he has always stressed that everyone is free to their own individual interpretation of his work. Instead of windows, there are violent diagonal slashes in the walls, which define three corridors; the axis of exile, the axis of holocaust and the axis of community. Each axis is punctuated by clusters of sentimental objects to help us empathise with their late owners' tragic stories. The space is shaped like a zigzag line with voids extending along the interfaces to join the building’s height and in the axis of exile we’re reminded that although 280,000 German Jews fled the Nazi regime, a further 6 million European Jews were also murdered.
Ahead of entering the haunting Holocaust tower, I was particularly moved by the story of the Jewish doctor Leo Scheuer who had lived in a ghetto in southern Poland. When faced with persecution he was hidden by a sympathetic patient and survived nearly two years of being buried in a hole of soil at the end of their garden. There are endless stories of similar experiences of solitary confinement within the museum and the Holocaust tower strives to simulate the horror of it. You force open a heavy door and as it closes behind you, you find yourself inside a slanted cell. As a result of the ban on overcoats, the shivers up your spine as you contemplate spending even a few minutes in this dark prison are all the more evocative. I was flooded with dark thoughts, feeling a crippling sense of claustrophobia as I thought of Dr. Scheuer facing two years, let alone two minutes of this hell.
Outside is the axis of exile, a well publicised ‘garden’ of 49 tilted columns, which stand perilously on sloped ground. A scattering of auburn autumn leaves drift between them, but the grey concrete pathways are predominantly bare. Walking amongst these angled structures is nauseating and reminds us of the transience of the hope that exile gave the Jews. They thought they had escaped to freedom, but most suffered isolation and poverty in their foreign dwellings. In sharp contrast, we were all relieved to see the uplifting photographs of Jews from 1934-9, which showed them celebrating their escape to Chile, the United States and South Africa.
Finally, the Tel Aviv-based artist Menashe Kadeshman’s sculpture Memory Void, 1997-2001 is a metaphor for the destructive loss of Jews from society. As you approach the void you hear what sounds like the ominous echoes of chains being whipped, but this is in fact a clever result of visitors traversing the unsteady floor made from thousands of emaciated metal faces. As you walk across them and are unable to avoid treading on their pained expressions, the sound is reminiscent of screams and suddenly you are made to embody the role of oppressor.
Seoul Kitchen Wasabi, Warschauer Str.
After being rendered somewhat fragile by the Jewish Museum, we dived onto a train back to Kreuzberg to indulge in one of the best meals of our lives at Seoul Kitchen Wasabi. We shared piles of spicy salmon sushi, edamame, miso soup, seaweed salads and avocado in a gorgeous candlelit setting with exposed brick walls. It’s a little off the beaten track, but well worth the visit when you see the East Side Gallery at the traffic lights further down.
Madame Claude, Lübbener Straße 19
For drinks, we went underground and discovered the sultriest little hideaway Madame Claude, Lübbener Straße 19. It’s an underground apartment built in an abandoned brothel, so there are inevitably many intimate corners for games of ping pong, a gentle twirl or to sink into one of their velvet couches. The wine is cheap and the cocktails are cheaper, so the crowd is the sea of the shabby chic Berlin hipsters you’d expect.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com