Certainly, the current German capital is a patchwork of buildings; restored, repaired, and rebuilt. From the remants of Imperial Prussian grandeur to the stocky tenements of the industrial revolution, East German Plattenbau, and the glass and steel structures of the cosmopolitan contemporary city.
Of course, as any seasoned traveller knows: the real cherished city experiences are to be found in-between these markers. They consist of the conversations, the interactions, the sounds, the smells – and as a matter of orientation (and admiration), the sights.
In the following guide, I’ve chosen to shift the focus from the macro to the micro – and deal instead with the objects that define Berlin and similarly serve to anchor any experience in the city. When discovered!
Not necessarily as easy to find as the landmarks – or hard to miss – these are the statues, the graves, the memorials, the token unique items buried in museums. Signifiers directly connecting experiences in the past with the present. Punctuation points in the greater story, in the form of treasures, artefacts, and relics – a worn item perhaps or a symbollic mass.
They elicit commentary about culture, the conditions of a society – and like landmarks, these objects act as more than phyical matter, they are also the materialised essence of the city.
This collection could have continued ad inifinitum – as there are certainly plenty of objects in Berlin that carry at lot more weight than can be measured with a metric or imperial system.
Far from a definitive object-based guide to the entire city or the story of Berlin’s chequered history through its relics, this is an opportunity to connect the dots – and find stories, secrets, and intrigue embodied in physical form.
Note: Clicking ‘Find This Object On The Map’ under each entry will bring you back to the map above – by clicking the sidebar navigation you’ll get a list of all 101 objects and can explore by location.
01 | The Berlin Flag
Flying high across the city, accompanying both civil and state offices, the Berlin flag is easily identifiable by its red-white-black colour scheme, and the city mascot – the Berlin Bear. As Berlin is not only a city but also one of the sixteen federal states, you may also spot a slight variation of the civil flag, where the bear appears as a coat of arms – inside a shield capped with a crown. This is the official Berlin State flag, whereas the civil flag features just the lone bear without any decoration – arms stretched out facing the left of the flag.
Importantly, if you’re looking to take one home as a souvenir, bear in mind that it only counts as the genuine article if the grizzly is positioned slightly left on centre – not exactly in the middle!
Address: Various Locations
02 | The Flächenschwerpunkt
Berlin is a city of many centres; but only one – the geographical centre – has its own polished granite tablet telling you exactly where you are. Ground zero – tucked away in a small park in the city district of Kreuzberg. This was first calculated in 1990, and reconfirmed in 1994 and 1997 – with the coordinates 52°30’10″N /13°24’15″E.
Other contenders for the title of ‘centre of Berlin’ have been considered as the city has changed and in 2010 the former head of the Potsdam planetarium proposed that the exact centre of Berlin is actually now in the district of Neukölln – in front of the house on the Spremberger Straße 4. Although there is no plaque there, so does it really count?
Address: Alexandrinenstraße 12, 10969 Berlin
03 | The Quadriga
Overlooking the historic district of Mitte from atop the Brandenburg Gate is the four-horse drawn chariot – the Quadriga – carrying the goddess Irene. Without a doubt Berlin’s most famous statue this image also features on most 10/20/50 cent coins minted in Germany.
Designed by famed Prussian sculptor, Johann Gottfried Schadow, the Quadriga was added to the Brandenburg Gate in 1793 – and shared the same fate as the Horses of St Mark in Venice when it was looted by French Emperor Napoleon and taken to Paris in 1806. When the Quadriga was finally returned eight years later, the goddess was awarded an Iron Cross – still visible inside the wreath atop her staff.
Address: Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin
04 | The Bust of Nefertiti
Housed in the Neues Museum is the star attraction of the Berlin state museum’s collection – the bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti – face of the American plastic surgeons association and ‘the most beautiful woman to have ever lived’.
Remarkably despite how highly regarded the piece is, as part of the state collection, the bust of Nefertiti is the only artefact on display that visitors are not allowed to photograph – unless stood in the adjoining rooms. It is common practice in museums to forbid flash photography so as not to damage artefacts, certainly here the no-photos policy helps with the sale of postcards – and limits damage to the museum’s bottom line.
05 | The Granite Bowl
When English Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish, commissioned the production of a huge granite basin in 1826, Prussian King Frederick William III responded by stating his desire to produce a version that would surpass the British bowl.
Reminiscent of the enormous porphyry basin in the Vatican, this huge Granite Bowl now sits in front of Berlin’s prestigious Altes Museum. With a circumference of 21.7 metres, it is considered the largest bowl in the world made from a single stone. Originally intended for exhibition inside the rotunda of the museum, its size meant it only made it as far as the entrance, in 1831.
06 | The Ishtar Gate
One of the original seven wonders of the world, the walls of ancient Babylon were constructed more than 2500 years ago by King Nebuchadnezzar II. This ceremonial entrance – named after the goddess Ishtar, previously sat at the end of long processional street and was constructed using glazed bricks mainly of an intense lapis lazuli blue colour while featuring rows of bas-relief animals, representing ancient Babylonian deities.
Although this is the smaller part of the entrance gate, it offers visitors to the Pergamon Museum the rare and exciting opportunity to enter ancient Babylon – without even leaving Berlin.
07 | The Stadtschloss Cross
Although the original Stadtschloss was almost entirely destroyed in 1950, this palace-shaped replica now sits on the southern edge of Museum Island – topped with a rather controversial Christian cross bearing the name of its mail-order-catalogue czar benefactor.
An extremely controversial project, not least as in order to make way for this project the former East German parliament (the Palast der Republik) had to fall to the wrecking ball.When finished, this new reconstruction is set to serve as home of the Humboldtforum – with a museum exhibiting non-European art nestled inside this faux-Baroque Prussian residence.
08 | The Stadtschloss Portal
The only surviving original piece of the Berliner Stadtschloss, this balcony is where German Communist, Karl Liebknecht, proclaimed the short-lived German Socialist Republic in 1918 – fittingly now attached to an international business school.
Liebknecht’s speech at around 4pm – following a similar proclamation by Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann from the Reichstag building the same day announcing a German Republic – would trigger a civil war in Germany. The fight for control of that new republic leading to violent clashes and Liebknecht’s murder, by right wing paramilitaries, on January 15th 1919.
09 | The Berliner Stadtmauer
The original ‘Berlin Wall’, a customs and exise barrier that dates back to the Middle Ages, previously encircled the dual towns of Berlin-Cölln and the royal palace. The only remaining piece in the city is now to be found on Littenstrasse, near Alexanderplatz.
This particular piece survived demolition due to its location and use as a boundary wall for residential buildings that have since been cleared. It was declared a listed protected landmark in 1948. As the city grew, the original Berlin Wall was expanded and linked to medieval gates and fortress gates – the only one still standing now being the Brandenburg Gate at Pariser Platz.
Address: Waisenstraße 25, 10179 Berlin
10 | The Kreuzberg
The city district of Kreuzberg gets its name from a Prussian memorial – the National Monument for the Liberation Wars – constructed at the highest point in central Berlin. A cast-iron memorial designed to resemble the spire of a Gothic church, crowned with a cross – it commemorates the soldiers and civilians who gave their lives to liberate Prussia from Napoleon’s forces in what are sometimes also called the Wars of the Sixth/Seventh Coalition.
Had Napoleon stayed confined to the island of Elba in 1815 – and not been conclusively defeated at Waterloo the same year – it is possible that this famous district, and hill, may have aquired another name.
Address: Viktoriapark, 10965 Berlin
11 | The Neue Wache Pieta
Twentieth-century German sculptress Käthe Kollwitz’s most famous work can be found inside a former Prussian guardhouse turned war memorial in central Berlin. A secularised pastiche of Michaelangelo’s Pieta depicting a mourning mother holding her dead son, this statue was added in 1993 as this building was transformed into the ‘Memorial for the Victims of War and Tyranny’.
Placed directly underneath an oculus, the ‘Mother with her Dead Son’ piece is intentionally left open to the elements – meaning that when it rains the statue is soaked while the visitors remain dry – to witness the water dripping down the mother’s face like tears.
12 | Marx and Engels
Before establishing themselves as the founding fathers of Communism, both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels spent time living and studying in Berlin – in-fact it was during his studies at the Berlin University that Marx adopted the concept of the Proletariat to his work – previously a Roman term meaning a household with nothing to contribute but its children.
These two bearded revolutionaries – so integral to the former ruling ideology of East Germany – can still be found resting in a small city park near Alexanderplatz. According to the popular joke: they are sat on their suitcases getting ready to leave for the West as they realise Communism has failed.
Address: Karl-Liebknecht-Strase, 10178 Berlin
13 | The Auschwitz Trees
These 320 birch trees, nursed in the soil surrounding the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, were introduced in Berlin back in 2012 – a provocative way of commemorating the victims of the Holocaust right in the heart of the city that previously served as the capital of Nazi Germany.
The work of Polish conceptual artist, Lukasz Surowiec, they can be found in the former Jewish section of the Mitte district – in the courtyard of the KW Institute – and also outside the Grünewald train station (one of the three major deportation stations used during the Nazi period to ‘resettle’ Jewish Berliners to be murdered further east in places like Auschwitz).
14 | The Ephraim Palais
This beautiful residence was constructed by Prussian Mint Master, Veitel Heine Ephraim – famous for debasing the Prussian currency to finance King Fredrick II’s wars. Due to its elegant rococo style, it became known as ‘the most beautiful corner of Berlin’. This heavily restored former residence, with its preserved original facade, houses a museum that often serves to showcase art and cultural exhibitions.
Amidst the surrounding area of the Nikolaiviertel that was severly damaged during the Second World War, only to be rebuilt by the East German government as a prefabricated Plattenbau form of medieval-Berlin Disneyland.
15 | The Weltzeituhr
The Weltzeituhr (World Clock) at Alexanderplatz has been a popular meeting spot since its installation in 1969, when this square was part of the capital of East Germany. As it rotates throughout the day, it is possible to make out the time in 148 major cities around the world – the clock is constantly in motion, although moving too slow to be noticed by the human eye.
Its unique design and history led to it being listed as a landmark of “historically outstanding importance” in 2015 – four years later the copyright was rescinded by the Berlin State, so now it is possible to buy souvenir versions of this technical marvel and meet elsewhere.
Address: Alexanderplatz 1, 10178 Berlin
16 | Frederick the Great
As the first King of Prussia, Frederick II, developed a reputation as a feared military leader – but in private dreamt of becoming a respected philosopher. This equestrian statue of Old Fritz, sits on Unter den Linden in the Forum Fridericianum, the artistic and intellectual centre of enlightenment-era Prussia. Its presence on this street – where first introduced in 1851 – says a lot about the changing politics of memory in East Germany.
Having been encased in concrete to survive the Second World War, the statue was shuttled to various locations, until the Socialist state could reconcile the nuances of Prussian history and felt comfortable bringing Frederick back.
Address: Unter den Linden 9, 10117 Berlin
17 | The Olympic Bell
One of the few publicly visible instances of Nazi iconography in Berlin, this Olympic Bell was commissioned and cast for the 1936 Summer Olympics – also known as the ‘Nazi Games’. Damaged by anti-aircraft fire during the Second World War it now rests outside Berlin’s Olympic Stadium – with a variation on the German eagle that graced the helmets of Nazi era soldiers, and the Nazi swastika disfigured although still discernible.
The bell tower itself was extensively damaged at the end of the war but has since been reconstructed and offers a magnificent panoramic view across the stadium and of Berlin – but also as far west as neighbouring Potsdam.
18 | Erich Mielke's Desk
Once the personal office of the East German ‘Master of Fear’ – Erich Mielke – head of the infamous STASI secret police, this preserved space is now part of the Berlin Stasi Museum in Lichtenberg. While considered secret for their activities, the existence of the East German state security service was in-fact well known to citizens and foreigners alike.
What lay beyond the public eye was the conspiratorial world behind the closed doors of the prisons and former administrative headquarters such as this site. Open to the public 7 days a week, the present day museum now allows an unrestricted view of the inner workings of one of history’s most secretive organisations.
19 | The Rosa Luxemburg Memorial
When the co-founder of the German Communist party, Rosa Luxemburg, met her end in January 1919, it was at the hands of a right wing paramilitary Freikorps group. ‘Red Rosa’ had risen to become a prominent figure in the struggle for power following the end of the First World War and abdication of the German Kaiser. This memorial marks the spot where her corpse was thrown into the Landwehr Canal following her execution.
Although her body has never been positively identified, she has a grave prominently located in the heart of the Socialist Cemetery in Berlin Friedrichsfelde – considered a martyr of the Communist struggle.
Address: Lichtensteinbrücke, 10787 Berlin
20 | The Dicke Marie
Berlin’s oldest tree, the Dicke Marie (Fat Marie), is speculated to even predate the establishment of Berlin – and likely first started taking root all the way back in the 1100s. Situated in the district of Tegel, this English Oak was in-fact named by the famous Humboldt brothers – after their cook. It can be found a short distance from Schloss Tegel (where the brothers lived).
It has been speculated that the tree may only be around 400 years old, due to its circumference of 6 metres – as oak trees older than 800 years usually reach at least 8 metres. The core of the tree has sadly rotten away, so calculating the exact age using the trees annual rings is no longer possible.
Address: An der Malche 1, 13507 Berlin
21 | The Mengenlehreuhr
If you’re looking for the weirdest clock in Berlin – this is it. At first glance, what may appear to look more like a futuristic traffic light, is actually the first public clock in the world that registers time by means of illuminated, coloured fields. Not only does the Mengenlehreuhr feature in the Guiness Book of World Records for this achievement, but also a famous, and so far unsolved, CIA cryptology puzzle. Read from top to bottom the rows of lights represent five hours, one hour, five minutes, and one minute.
Previously located on West Berlin’s celebrated Ku’damm shopping street, the clock was moved to its current location – outside the Europa Center, opposite the Zoo – in 1995.
Address: Budapester Strasse 5, 10787 Berlin
22 | Ronald Reagan's Chainsaw
While celebrated for calling on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this Wall“, US President and Cold War warrior Ronald Reagan was himself no stranger to destruction of property. Reagan spent much of his presidency at home in his rural Rancho del Cielo – dubbed the Western White House – where the sound of his trusty chainsaw would echo through the valley, as the President took to chopping down trees for firewood and to build fencing – when not engaging in other manly pursuits.
The chainsaw is now one of the more unusual items to be found in the Checkpoint Charlie Museum – along with Gandhi’s sandals and Nikita Krushchev’s hat.
23 | Checkpoint Charlie
Beyond the Brandenburg Gate, no other object in Berlin better represents the Cold War division of the city – and antagonism between the competing Eastern and Western powers – than this Checkpoint Charlie border crossing box. Unlike the replica version that now stands in its place at the junction on Friedrichstrasse where the US military crossing once was – depicting the earlier wooden-hut form – this is the box that stood on the frontier when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
It is now on show outside the Allied Museum, near the US embassy, in the West Berlin district of Dahlem – although if you want to see the original wooden version, that is here too inside the museum!
24 | The Karl Liebknecht Statue
On August 1st 1916, Sparticus League leader, Karl Liebknecht, organised a demostration against the First World War at Potsdamer Platz – and as a result was sentenced to over four years in prison. Released early, he played an important role in the November Revolution of 1918, as co-founder of the German Communist Party and the man who announced the ‘German Socialist Republic’ from the Berliner Stadtschloss. Following his murder in January 1919, Liebknecht would be celebrated as a martyr of the movement.
On what could have been Liebknecht’s 80th birthday, the East German government erected this pedestal as the base for a future statue in his honour – that never arrived.
Address: Potsdamer Platz, 10785 Berlin
25 | Adolf Hitler's Desk
There are very few objects directly connected to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler that have survived the Second World War to be exhibited in Berlin. Looting and treasure hunting rife in the aftermath of the Battle of Berlin deprived the city of many of these artefacts. Undoubtably, also, the issue of weighing glorification against educational value also needs to be taken into account – in a country where the display of “symbols of unconstitutional organisations” is prohibited.
This mammoth desk, however, that previously stood in Hitler’s personal study can be found on display in the German Historical Museum.
26 | Dem Deutschen Volke
The inscription on the front of the German parliament – Dem Deutschen Volke (to the German people) – has a peculiar history. Added in 1916, during the height of the First World War, the lettering was forged out of bronze canons captured from Napoleon’s forces in the 1800s.
Although originally intended to grace the building when it opened in 1894 – as the architrave was designed for the inscription – it would take more than 20 years of debate about the typography, the meaning of the phrase, and potential alteratives, before it was eventually applied – with the font specially designed by famed typographer Peter Behrens.
27 | Moses Mendelssohn's Grave
Undeniably one of the most important figures in the Jewish Englightenment movement (Haskalah), 18th century philosopher Moses Mendelssohn rose to prominence in Berlin with a work addressing the immortality of the soul – earning him the nickname ‘the German Socrates’. It was however his advocacy of integration, assimilation, and secularisation, that had a more lasting impact of Berlin’s Jewish inhabitants and secured Mendelssohn’s reputation as a towering figure of the Englightenment-era.
He was buried in the Grosse Hamburger cemetery in 1786, where a replica tombstone can now be found, standing tall and solitary amongst the ivy.
28 | Knut The Polar Bear
The other Berlin bear, Knut was previously the star attraction at the West Berlin zoo, until his tragic death in 2011. Rejected by his mother at birth, he was raised by his zookeepers – only to experience the distress of losing his long-term carer to a heart attack in 2008. Knut lived for another three years and was considered solely responsible for a massive increase in revenue as the media hyped ‘Knutfever’ and zoo entrance numbers soared. After registering ‘Knut’ as a trademark, the Zoo saw its shares double in value on the stock market.
The famous polar bear can now be found on display at the Natural History Museum, surrounded by other celebrity animals.
29| The Great Elector Statue
Now located in the courtyard of the Charlottenburg Palace, this bronze equestrian statue depicts Frederick William I – the Great Elector – considered the Grandfather of the Prussian state. Celebrated as one of the most important works of Baroque sculpture in the world – its beauty is cast in the shadow of the Great Elector’s role in enabling Prussia to become a major slave trading power.
In 1682, the Great Elector officially entered the Transatlantic Slave trade by founding the Brandenburg Africa Company, subsequently establishing the Brandenburg Gold Coast in nowadays Ghana to arrange the shipment of slaves and exotic animals.
30 | The Rudolf Virchow Statue
Considered the first person to develop a systematic method of autopsy to identify cause of death, Rudolf Virchow is often referred to as the father of modern pathology. Although an opponent of Charles Darwin and critical of modern Germ theory, Virchow contributed greatly to the city of Berlin – in particular by advising on the construction of the city’s sewage system.
Virchow considered politics “nothing else but medicine on a large scale” and was elected to the German parliament in 1880. He was also famously challenged to a duel by Otto von Bismarck, following a dispute over financial policies – to which he insisted he would only participate if they fought with sausages.
Address: Reinhardtstraße 40, 10117 Berlin
31 | The Berlin Wall Kiss
There is little of the Berlin Wall left visible in the city; of the around 160km that once stood – there is perhaps 15km remaining. The most famous section, known as the East Side Gallery, is now the largest and longest open air gallery in the world – covered in graffiti street art.
The most famous work, the Brezhnev-Hoenecker Kiss is based on a real event, captured as East German leader Hoenekcer and Soviet leader Brezhnev embraced back in 1979. A common fraternal pleasantry among leaders of Socialist states, the Brüderküss (Brotherly Kiss) was often considered a measure of the level of relations between the countries involved.
32 | The Cafe Moscow Sputnik
Once the pride of East Germany, the Karl-Marx-Allee boulevard stretches from Alexanderplatz east towards the city limits in the direction of the Socialist sister states. Previously there were restaurants named after the capital cities of those states along this grand avenue, where it was also possible to dine on the national cuisine.
Cafe Moscow is the only venue remaining, capped with this replica of the Soviet Sputnik – the first satellite launched into space back in 1957. With the launch of this small sacred object, the Soviet Union clearly demonstrated its position leading the Space Race at the time, 12 years before the United States put men on the moon.
33 | The Tallest Aquarium
Housed in the lobby of the Radisson Blu is the largest acrylic cylindrical aquarium in the world – 82 feet in height, this monster is home to around 1,500 fish, floating around in about 1 million litres of water. It is now the main attraction of the Berlin Sea Life Centre, where for a hefty sum you can pay to ride the internal elevator up through the aquarium for an unusual view of this unusual attraction.
If you get there are the right time you can also either see the diver inside cleaning the tank or the feeding of the fish – unfortunately being a guest at the hotel no longer grants you the possiblity to ride in the elevator to your room.
34 | The Banana
Cologne artist Thomas Baumgärtel (aka the Banana Sprayer) has developed been spray painting bananas onto art venues and museums as a sign of approval and seal of quality since 1986. With around 4,000 cultural institutions worldwide inducted into his exclusive club, Baumgärtel has managed to elevate his Dadaist street action into an internationally recognised icon of the art scene.
This instance can be found on the Sammlung Boros gallery, a former Nazi-era air raid shelter converted into an art gallery in the 1990s – although fittingly it also served during the East German times as a storage facility for exotic fruits – including bananas!
35 | The 88mm Flak Canon
Part of the arsenal of weapons at the disposal of Berlin’s desperate defenders in April/May 1945, the 88mm Flak Canon was originally intended as an anti-aircraft weapon (FLugAbwehrKanone – FLAK). In the face of advancing tanks, however, it was often reappropriated as an anti-armour weapon. Considered one of the most effective weapons of the Second World War, the 88mm Flak Canon’s use in this dual role dated as far back as the Spanish Civil War – and it would eventually be adapted as the main battlegun of the Tiger I tank.
This preserved example of an 88mm Flak 36 is now exhibited inside the German Historial Museum.
36 | The Schwerbelastungskörper
Doubts about the feasibility of Adolf Hitler’s plan to establish Berlin as the capital of the world – the Welthauptstadt Germania – led to the creation of this heavy load testing weight in the district of Schöneberg in 1941. Introduced to measure the level of ground subsidence, in preparation for the construction of a Truimphal Arch – intended to be three times larger than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris – the Schwerbelastungskörper embarrasingly revealed the need for expensive stabilisation measures to make the ground suitable for construction.
This monstrous cyclinder remains a physical proof of the colossal and delirious vision of Hitler’s future capital.
37 | The Soviet Soldier
One of three major Soviet war memorials in Berlin, the Treptower Park memorial commerates 7,000 of the 80,000 soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin in 1945. It features this 12-metre high statue of a Soviet soldier saving a child whilst triumphantly stood over a broken swastika, sword in hand.
This piece is, in-fact, part of a triptych stretching back to the Russian industrial city of Magnitogorsk – with a statue of symbolising the forging of the sword (the Rear Front Memorial) – to Volgograd and a female figure raising the sword (The Motherland Calls), leading finally to Berlin with the soldier can be seen finally driving the sword into the ground.
Address: Treptower Park, 12435 Berlin
38 | The Günter Litfin Tower
Günter Litfin’s death at the hands of East German transportation police while attempting to flee the country in 1961 set a dangerous new precedent. That the East German government would use deadly force to stop anyone from compromising the Berlin Wall. Litfin was shot and killed while attempting to swim across the Humboldt harbour to West Berlin on August 24th 1961 – he was a tailor by trade and had acquired a job in the British sector of the city.
This watchtower was taken over by Litfin’s surviving brother in 2003 and opened as a memorial – to the first person murdered due to the Berlin Wall. Sadly at least another 138 people would join this list until 1989.
39 | The Bridge of Spies
A staple backdrop of any Berlin spy thriller, this iron bridge was constructed across the river Havel, served as a crossing point between the Soviet and US Cold War zones and would find fame due to a number of spy exchanges here – including that of U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, for Soviet spy Rudolf Abel, back in 1962. Powers who had been shot down while on a top secret CIA espionage mission flying over the Soviet Union.
Despite its nickname – there were only three exchanges that took place here, in 1962, in 1985, and in 1986 – with the bridge chosen as it was the only crossing between the East and West that fell completely under Soviet, and not East German control.
Address: Königstraße, 14467 Berlin
40 | Japanese Cherry Trees
By following the Berlin Wall trail (the Berliner Mauerweg) it is now possible to walk, or bicycle, along the entire 160km of the former Berlin Wall and ‘death strip’. Visit in early spring and you’ll have the opportunity to see these beautiful cherry blossoms, planted at numerous locations along the Mauerweg in the 1990s following the so-called Sakura Campaign led by a Japanese television network (TV Asahi).
Around 140 million yen (1€ million) was raised in donations from around 20,000 people and paid for 9,000 trees. The first were planted next to the Glienicke Brücke (the Bridge of Spies) although this avenue next to the Bösebrücke is perhaps the most famous location.
Address: Norwegerstraße, 10439 Berlin
41 | The Stauffenberg Memorial
The assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler on July 20th 1944 was largely coordinated by a group of German Army Reserve officers based at the Bendlerblock Headquarters in Berlin, which now houses the fantastic German Resistance Museum. The plan to mobilise the German Replacement Army to take control of German cities, disarm the SchutzStaffel (SS), and arrest the Nazi leadership once Hitler had been assassinated failed after assassin Claus von Stauffenberg’s unsuccessful attempt to kill Hitler with a bomb placed at his Wolf’s Lair hideout.
This memorial statue in the courtyard marks the location where von Stauffenberg was executed by firing squad – less than 24 hours later.
42 | The Candy Bomber
When Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, attemped to starve West Berlin out of existence in 1948 – US, British, and French forces responded by undertaking the largest airlift ever carried out to import fuel, food, and supplies. The main workhorse of the US effort was the C47 Skytrain, nicknamed the ‘Candy Bomber’ due to the habit that some pilots had of tilting their wings on approach and dropping sweets to children gathered near the Tempelhof airport landing strip.
The airlift would continue for more than a year while the Western Allies gathered enough supplies in the city to better weather any future storm the Soviets might inflict.
43 | The Bonzen-Volvo
While most East Germans able to procure a car had their choice limited to the rickety Trabant (the Trabi) or its larger and more powerful alternative – the Wartburg – important members of the ruling Politburo would be chauffeuered around in more luxurious Swedish Volvos. The decision was largely a matter of capital. When faced with importing Tatra limos from the Socialist brotherland of Czechoslovakia, the government opted for the quiter, more reliable – and cheaper – Volvo from neutral Sweden.
This 264TE limousine previously belonged to Party Secretary of the Economy, Günter Mittag, and is now on display at the DDR Museum.
44 | The Berlin Wall Rabbits
Due to the lack of human activity in the ‘Death Strip’ area of the Berlin Wall, many different species of wild animal would come to call this isolated zone home – in particular, wild rabbits. While East German border guards would initially take pot shots at the little bunnies, in an attempt to control the population, the government would eventually prohibit this practice – else anyone assume the sound of gunfire was indication that the guards were in-fact shooting at people.
When the Wall fell in 1989, these rabbits lost their habitat and were left to roam the city – their brief foray into mass urban living commemorated by this installation to be found on Chausseestrasse.
Address: Chausseestraße, 10115 Berlin
45 | The Bierpinsel
Like many buildings constructed in the 1970s, this odd structure has a distinctly futuristic feel. Designed by the same architects responsible for the monstrous Berlin Convention Centre, the Bierpinsel (Beer Brush) was originally opened as a restaurant – and housed one of Germany’s first salad bars – although has since been plagued by funding and tenancy issues.
A rare inclusion of a building on our list of objects, the Bierpinsel arguably qualifies as it is not only an iconic testament to the hideously attractive aspirations of pop-architecture in the 1970s but has probably spent as much time empty as it has occupied.
Address: Schloßstraße 17, 12163 Berlin
46 | North Korean Propaganda
Few countries maintain diplomatic ties with the Peoples Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea). Berlin’s North Korean embassy dates back to the East German time, as the current building was constructed in 1975 on the site of the former Hotel Kaiserhof (Adolf Hitler’s unofficial residence as his rose to power in 1933).
The embassy entrance boasts this cheery streetside display of party propaganda, depicting the great achievements of the North Korean state and Great Leader Kim Jong Un. The adjacent City Hostel, finally closed in 2020 after a protracted battle to stop North Korea making money from rent, in violation of UN resolution 2321.
Address: Glinkastraße 5-7, 10117 Berlin
47 | Alexander von Humboldt
The most famous of the Humboldt brothers, Alexander was a highly regarded botanist, biologist, and explorer, responsible even for inspiring Charles Darwin to hop on the HMS Beagle and embark on his career as a scientist.
This lifesize resemblance now sits outside the university that bears his name – with the base of the statue bizarrely crediting him as the ‘second discoverer of Cuba’. The statue was in-fact a gift from the University of Havana – as Alexander von Humboldt is considered to be the first person to have extensively studied the animal and plant life of the region. Beyond the university there are plenty of things out there that also bear his name.
48 | The Georg Elser Memorial
To date there are more than forty known assassination attempts against Nazi leader Adolf Hitler that have been registered. One of the most significant occured in 1939, when a young carpenter named Georg Elser tried to blow up Hitler and key members of the Nazi leadership at a beer hall in Bavaria, only to narrowly miss and be arrested by border guards when attempting to flee to Switzerland. Elser was tortured, imprisoned, and finally executed in 1945.
This memorial to the lone assassin can be found on Wilhelmstrasse – a stone’s throw away from the site of the Führerbunker, where Hitler would eventually take his own life in 1945.
Address: Wilhelmstraße 49, 10117 Berlin
49 | The Teufelsberg Radomes
Often simply known as Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain) this now defunct facility was constructed as an NSA/CIA listening station during the Cold War period on top of a mountain of rubble scraped out of the city at the end of the Second World War.
Around 75 million m3 of debris between 1945 and 1965 was dumped here – on top of the remains of Albert Speer’s Military Technical College – producing the highest peak in Berlin (around 120m elevation). The former spy facility on top is now open to visitors as a museum and art space – with the radar domes sometimes use as exhibition spaces or for private dining.
50 | The Rock Paper Scissors
Constructed as a tax bridge spanning the river Spree, the Oberbaumbrücke now connects the neighbourhoods of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. It would see use as a border crossing during the Cold War period, until the ‘Fall of the Wall’ in 1989. One of the iconic landmarks in this area of the city, it often serves as the further point east on the river for tour boat trips.
Come here at night and you’ll find this illuminated art piece installed on the train bridge – where it is possible to play rock-paper-scissors. If you’re feeling really brave, swing by in the summer, when residents organise an annual food fight pitching Kreuzberg against Friedrichshain.
Address: Oberbaumbrücke, 10243 Berlin
51 | The Benno Ohnesorg Memorial
The murder of young protester, Benno Ohnesorg, in 1967, near the West Berlin opera house, would serve as an important turning point for post-war West German identity – as student groups rallied against what they saw as the internalised fascism of the state – particularly as Ohnesorg’s killer was a police officer.
While protesting against a visit from the Shah of Iran, Ohnesorg was shot by Karl-Heinz Kurras – who was later twice acquited of any wrongdoing. A result used as justification for the violence that militant groups, such as the Red Army Faction and the Movement 2nd June (named after the date Ohnesorg died), would unleash.
Address: Bismarckstraße 35, 10627 Berlin
52 | Erich Hoenecker's Chair
The East German state struggled endlessly throughout its existence to balance its books – weighed down by its extensive spending on border controls, secret police, and subsidies – ever more so from the 1970s as ‘consumer socialism’ was introduced and the continuous trade deficit with the West threatened stability.
This olive green armchair was famously used by Erich Hoenecker in 1983 to receive Bavarian Prime Minister Franz Strauss and negotiate a one billion mark loan to help prop up the ailing state for another seven years – when the promised political concessions and economic reform finally arrived as a result of the ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall’.
53 | Die Wehrmacht Statue
When Adolf Hitler’s immense New Reich Chancellery, co-designed by court architect Albert Speer, was deemed complete in 1939 – two statues from sculptor Arno Breker were chosen to feature in the court of honour entrance, the first thing visiting dignitaries would see on arrival.
A copy of one of these statues, Die Wehrmacht (the Army), is now exhibited in the foyer of the German Historical Museum – having been recast in the 1980s. The original was lost at the end of the war – which makes this reproduction even more fascinating. The second statue, Die Partei (the Party) can be found on the grounds of the Arno Breker museum in Nörvenich.
54 | The Kaiser's Sarcophagus
The final resting place of German Emperor William I can be found hidden away in the tranquil gardens of the Charlottenburg Palace, where the man responsible for unifying Germany in 1871 is depicted in true Barbarossa-style slumber – his eyes resting while he clutches his sword and waits to be reawakened.
The mausoleum housing William was originally constructed for his mother, Prussian Queen Louise, who would be joined by her husband in 1840. Although neither of William I’s successors would be interned here – with the last German Emperor, William II, buried in the Netherlands after his abdication.
55 | The Cross of Nails
When the Second World War came to its overdue end, reuniting the populations of the former belligerent nations in peace and ensure that such a tragedy never happen again became a high priority. One of the most recognisable symbols of this sentiment is the Coventry Cross of Nails, named after the English city devastated by a Luftwaffe air raid in 1940 – and made of charred nails salvaged from the ruin of the city’s Cathedral. Further crosses were subsequently made and given to various organisations as a sign of friendship and hope.
This cross of nails can be found in the entrance room of the war damaged Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
56 | The Day The Wall Came Down
One of two statues created by US artist Veryl Goodnight reimagining the feverish excitement surrounding the end of the Berlin Wall – these five horses (one stallion and four mares) can be found galloping across damaged replica pieces of this infamous concrete barrier, near the US embassy on Clay Allee, in the west Berlin district of Dahlem. Described as a visualisation of the deep-seated humour desire from freedom, the statue was a gift from the United States government and was unveiled in 1998 by former US President George H.W. Bush.
The original version of this statue is now exhibited outside the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library in Texas.
Address: Clayallee, 14195 Berlin
57 | The Pink Pipes
More than merely a matter of adding a dash of colour to the otherwise restrained pastel-based palette of Berlin’s cityscape – these pink tubes actually serve as overground waste removal pipes – to the horror of many visitors. Temporarily installed across the city to deal with Berlin’s high water table and the swampy ground that makes construction work more hazardous.
For more than a century a company called Pollems has been responsible for the introduction and maintainance of these colourful pipes: choosing the colour pink after consulting a psychologist and being told that it is soothing and inoffensive – and that it would also be popular with children.
Address: Various Locations
58 | The Prometheus Statue
A strange choice of allegory, perhaps, considering the previous ownership of this impressive statue, depicting the Greek myth of Prometheus in chains – the Titan who stole fire from the gods to give it to humanity, only to be condemned to eternal bondage as a result. Created in 1902 as one of Neo-Baroque artist Reinhold Begas’ last works, this piece survived the Second World War as part of Nazi court architect Albert Speer’s personal collection – walled up in the Academy of Arts until discovered during renovation work.
It can now be found hidden away at the back of the building when entering near the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe.
59 | Bertolt Brecht's Grave
One of the most well-known exile artists to return to Germany after the end of the Second World War, Bertolt Brecht followed his political convictions all the way back to East Berlin – where he had established his reputation as a writer during the Weimar-era and exponent of ‘dialectical theatre’. His work The Threepenny Opera – featuring the hit song Mack the Knife – was first performed at the Theatre am Schiffbauerdamm, transformed into the Berliner Ensemble by Brecht and his wife in 1949.
The celebrated playwright is buried in Berlin’s Dorotheenstädtischer cemetery alongside his wife and collaborator, actress Helene Weigel.
60 | The Red Suitcase
Holding the reins of power in a state such as Cold War East Germany could be a dangerous game, a country which despite its public image of Socialist camaraderie would expect its leaders to either ‘hang alone or hang together’ – for fear of factionalism (conspiring against the party and people). Politburo members often had as much to fear from each other as the Imperialist enemy.
A phenomenon embodied by this red suitcase, exhibited in the Stasi Museum, that belonged to secret police chief Erich Mielke – and contained documents implicating East German leader Erich Honecker in anti-Communist activites. Secrets kept to ensure his commitment to the cause.
61 | Nikita Kruschev's Hat
At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s and 60s, the Soviet Union was ruled over by portly strongman Nikita Kruschev – who developed a penchant for banging his footwear on podiums mid-speech for added dramatic effect. After emerging victorious in the scramble to succeed Joseph Stalin in 1953, Kruschev would be left to wrestle with the recurring question of the status of divided Berlin and Germany – referring to West Berlin as a “malignant tumour”.
His hat and shirt, exhibited inside the Checkpoint Charlie museum, don’t have the star appeal of a Kruschev shoe – but prove that the man who once held the fate of the planet in his hands certainly wore big boy clothes.
62 | The Passport Control Box
Following the construction of the Berlin Wall, in 1961, it would eventually be possible to cross from West Berlin into the East of the city as a tourist – although rarely the other way around. Visitors would commonly enter East Germany in a car or bus – although sometimes also by train. Friedrichstrasse station held the distinction of being the only crossing point that was actually inside East Berlin – where tourists disembark straight into the East rather than pass through a checkpoint on the border of East Berlin.
Returning home from here would involve passing through one of these threatening looking passport control cabins – still to be found in the former Friedrichstrasse station border control office.
63 | The Empty Library
In the centre of modern-day Bebelplatz – previously known as Opera Square (Opernplatz) – is a memorial for an event that has come to be known simply as the ‘Nazi Book Burning’ – when on May 10th 1933 some 20,000 pillaged books by banned writers were condemned to flames on this square. In-fact organised by the German Student Association, the event would be attended by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, and officially portrayed as a day of “Action Against The Un-German Spirit”.
Now commemorated by this empty library, sunk into the ground beneath the square – the work of Israeli artist Micha Ullmann – and a plaque presenting the prescient words of Heinrich Heine.
Address: Unter den Linden, 10117 Berlin
64 | The Debt Clock
As Europe’s biggest economy, Germany has managed to burden its tax payers with a considerable amount of debt. In an attempt to raise awareness of this lack of fiscal responsibility, the German Taxpayers Federation installed a Debt Clock outside their headquarters in 2013 to highlight the misuse of public funds and promote the reining in of government spending.
The clock continues to rack up the debt – although there was a time back in 2018 when it started moving in the opposite direction – at a rate of 78€ per second. Meaning that at that rate it would take only 800 years to pay back the 2€ trillion worth of federal and state debt.
65 | Helmuth von Moltke
Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest military theorists to have ever lived, Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke is said to pioneered the decentralised use of armies and subordinate officers in the field, in response to his oft-quoted protestation that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”.
Although he was popularly known in his own time as the ‘Great Quiet One’ – due to his preference for few words, Moltke now bears the distinction of being the only person born in the 18th century to still have a preserved audio reproduction of his voice, as he was recorded reciting Goethe and Shakespeare by one of Thomas Edison’s assistants, in 1889.
Address: Spreeweg 1, 10557 Berlin
66 | Otto von Bismarck
The founding father of the German Empire – the George Washington of his time – no other person did so much to bring Germany together as one country as Otto von Bismarck – affectionately dubbed ‘The Iron Chancellor’. The German Empire’s first head of government can now be found next to the Siegessäule (Victory Column) in Berlin’s Tiergarten, near his compatriots Moltke and Roon.
Like the other statues, Bismarck previously stood in front of the Reichstag building before being moved here to make way for Adolf Hitler’s mammoth Germania project – with the streets around the Siegessäule redirected to form a big star (Grosse Stern).
Address: Spreeweg 1, 10557 Berlin
67 | The Orange Bins
Although in many German cities – and train stations – it is common to find segregated rubbish bins for recycling paper, packaging, and compostable waste, the Berlin litter bins are easy to spot due to their bright orange colour and comical slogans. Even though Berlin is a city of smokers, it seems few people realise these bins also have ashtrays.
Due to the country’s bottle recycling policy, you might see people reaching into the bins looking for empty containers. Feel free to leave your bottles underneath these orange bins to save them the dirty task- or you can return your own empties to a supermarket and expect to be rewarded with up to 25 cents per bottle.
Address: Various Locations
68 | The Trabant
In East Germany, the Trabant (or Trabbi for short) would be touted as the car of the common man – or woman – even though each common person could expect to wait more than a decade, on average, to receive one – as car production was a low priority in comparison to western capitalist countries.
These sputtering fibreglass-shell junkers can still be seen cruising around the city – easily noticed due to their roaring engine sound and tell-tale smell. The butt of many a joke; the Trabant has stood the test of time and although hardly desirable now, their simple mechanics mean far more are still on the road that might be expected – as they are easy to repair.
69 | The Bridge of Scars
While estimates vary as to the exact percentage of Berlin that lay ruined by the end of the Second World War, certainly by modern standards much of the former Nazi capital was in a truly unlivable state – courtesy of the hundreds of Anglo-American air raids and the Soviet ground invasion.
This bridge near the government quarter still bears the obvious pockmarked damage of bullets and shrapnel. Especially in the former Cold War East of Berlin, there remains lots of this damage to be found – courtesy of the lack of expenditure on repairs by the government of the GDR, and the contemporary desire to preserve these traces of history in place.
Address: Reinhardtstraße 52, 10117 Berlin
70 | The Litfass Column
A relic of the advertising monopoly that 19th century entrepreneur, Ernst Litfass, oversaw from 1855 – when the first 100 of these cylindrical advertising columns were introduced in Berlin. Presented as a solution to the cluttered mess of pamphlets and signs that previously littered the city streets, these ‘Litfass Columns’ were also an effective way of ensuring government censorship and regulating revolutionary political expression.
By banning flyposting elsewhere, and effectively making everything displayed on these columns subject to police review – the Prussian state established a system of controlling dissent with Litfass providing and profiting from the infrastructure.
Address: Various Locations
71 | The Rosenstrasse Memorial
When in February 1942, Berlin’s Gestapo arrested thousands of Jewish men – many married to non-Jewish women – some 1,800 were gathered inside a welfare office for the Jewish community, located on Rosenstrasse. In response, a demonstration was organised by the wives of these men, calling for their release – which eventually came after more than a week of protesting.
The memorial on Rosenstrasse commemorating this event is a focal point of the historical debate on the effectiveness of collective action against the Nazi state – whether these wives achieved their goal through protest or in-fact their husbands’ release was more a result of internal Nazi Party politics.
72 | The Neptune Fountain
The Roman god Neptune can now be found bathing in front of the Berlin City Hall (Rotes Rathaus) after being moved from his original spot in front of Portal II of the Berlin City Palace (Berliner Stadtschloss) – previously ground zero for Imperial Prussia; the point all Prussian milestones would lead back to.
Reference to the Fontana del Moro in Rome and the Latona Fountain at Versaille can clearly be seen in this bronze and granite ensemble designed by famous sculptor Reinhold Begas. With the four maidens representing the rivers that served to define the boundaries of Imperial Prussia – the Rhein, the Oder, the Elbe, and the Vistula (now in Poland).
Address: Rathausstraße 1, 10178 Berlin
73 | Martin Luther
Few people have had such a huge effect on Berlin as Martin Luther – whose form of Christianity would be hugely popular here. Responsible for translating both the Old and New Testament into German and effectively standardising the German language at the time, the Evangelical reformer can be found holding ‘the good book’ in full view of Berlin’s second oldest church – the Marienkirche, near Alexanderplatz.
Although the church dates back to the 14th century, Luther is not known to have managed to visit – however, in 1964, his namesake Martin Luther King Jr. did offer a sermon to a standing-room only audience of around 1,500 East German Christians.
74 | The June 17th Mural
This mural was added to the exterior of the former Nazi Aviation Ministry in 1952 by artist Max Lingner at the request of the East German government – as by that time the building was being used as the House of Ministries for the German Democratic Republic. At 18 metres long, and painted on Meissen porcelain tile, this colourful panorama depicts the idealised Socialist utopia – complete with smiling teachers, workers, and politicians.
Tragically, it would serve as the backdrop to the uprising that would take convene on this square on June 17th 1953 – as East Germans called for democratic reforms and were instead met with Soviet tanks.
75 | The Executed Soldiers
As the Nazi regime convulsed in its dying throes, Berliners experienced the kind of horror that the city had largely been spared for the duration of the Second World War – and as part of a last ditch attempt to defend the city against the Soviet forces descending on Hitler’s capital thousands of civilians – old and young – were press ganged into military service.
Suspected deserters were subject to swift courts martial and execution, such as these two young German soldiers hanged by an SS unit and commorated on this rare plaque under the Friedrichstrasse station – fighting in a war that had already been lost, to defend a regime that prefered slaughter to surrender.
76 | The Döner Kebab
Whether it was truly invented in Berlin is still debated to this day, also certainly it is hard to deny that the Döner Kebab is an essential part of the city’s foodscape. This mixture of shaved meat, vegetables, and sauce, usually served wrapped in a triangle-shaped pita bread is a staple snack – widely available across the city and consumed with or without alcohol.
The first Döner Kebab in Berlin is said to have been served at the Zoologischer Garten train station by Turkish-German immigrant Kadir Nurman – although if you’re looking for an authentic Berlin Döner now, you would be best venturing into the neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukölln.
Address: Various Locations
77 | The Currywurst
Back during Berlin’s heady Cold War days, the hot Currywurst became an icon of ingenuity in the face of shortages – as a resourceful sausage seller named Hertha Heuewer combined chopped sausage with an improvised tomato ketchup sauce to make this tasty snack.
While Heuwer’s Imbiss (snack stop) is long gone – the company that supplied her sausages and helped design her trademark sauce still exists and serves up this Berlin staple near Charlottenburg S-bahn station – look out for the little yellow hut and you’ll find Maximilian. Over the road, there is still a sign to indicate where Hertha Heuwer’s Currywurst shop used to be (now an Asian supermarket).
Address: Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße 52, 10627 Berlin
78 | The Ketwurst
While the Currywurst rose in popularity in the West of Berlin during the Cold War period, the East German authories on the other side of the Berlin Wall responded by introducing their own equivalent (almost) – the Ketwurst. Inspired by the Currywurst, this German sausage is presented inside a carved out bread, stuffed with sausage and tomato sauce – that is then smeared on top to complete the look – although lacking in the spice of its Western sister snack.
A rarity still to be found if you know where to look. One of the city’s original Ketwurst stands still exists next to the Schönhauser Allee train station in the district of Prenzlauer Berg – the Alain Snack stop.
Address: Schönhauser Allee 116a, 10437 Berlin
79 | Wolf Biermann's Microphone
One of the most controversial voices to come out of East Germany – singer and songwriter Wolf Biermann recorded an entire album in 1968 using this Sennheiser microphone, which needed to be smuggled into East Berlin after Biermann had been placed on a government blacklist as a ‘Class Traitor’.
The subsequent release would solidify his stance as a critic of the East German state’s Stalinist policies and lead to him being kicked out of the country in 1977. The microphone is now on display at the Tränenpalast museum, a short distance from Biermann’s old Chausseestrasse 131 apartment where the album (also called Chausseestrasse 131) was recorded.
80 | The White Crosses
This memorial for some of the known victims of the Berlin Wall, is one of two in this area and can be found a short walk from the German parliament and the Brandenburg Gate – close to the line where the Wall once ran through the city. The other is on the bank of the river Spree.
Although it does not document the names of all of the 140 people who fell victim to the East German government policy of securing its border with concrete and bullets – some of the more well-known victims, such as Chris Gueffroy, Ida Siekmann, and Günter Litfin feature. There is also a cross dedicated to the victims of the 1953 Uprising and the violent response from the Soviet and East German authorities.
Address: Ebertstrasse, 10117 Berlin
81 | The Deserted Room
The home has no walls. The chair has fallen. The residents have disappeared. This bronze memorial on Koppenplatz, entitled ‘The Deserted Room’ is dedicated to the victims of the Nazi Reichskristallnacht attacks (known in German as the November Pogrom). Commissioned by the East German government in 1988, it was only later added to this former Jewish neighbourhood in 1996 – evocative of the tragic scenes that occured in the homes in the area during National Socialist rule.
Fused around the base of the memorial is a poem from German-Jewish writer, Nelly Sachs, which begins: “…O die Wohnungen des Todes, (Oh the houses of death)…
Address: Koppenplatz, 10115 Berlin
82 | The Numbered Trees
The Berlin government’s act of counting and numbering the city’s tree population certainly does little to counter the pervasive German stereotype of pedantic behaviour and tendency to indulge in unnecessary bureaucracy. Around one third of Berlin is made up of parkland and greenery – with more than 430,000 counted trees.
Make sure to check the tree trunks as you pass by – and you’ll notice little blue or white signs featuring a number. Although these do little to explain anything about the trees, there area over fifty different species lining Berlin’s streets, with the five most common being linden, maple, oak, plane and chestnut.
83 | Willi Lammert's Memorial
Persecuted by the Nazis as a ‘degenerate artist’ and deported to Siberia by the Soviet authorities – only to be released as a ‘special exile in perpetuity’ – Willi Lammert eventually settled in East Germany to work as a sculptor and dedicate himself to memorialising the victims of the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, near Berlin.
His most celebrated work being the ‘Pietà of Ravensbrück’ overlooking the Schwedtsee next to the camp. This piece, commemorating the Jewish victims of National Socialism, was originally intended for exhibition at the camp memorial but now sits outside the former Jewish cemetery in Berlin’s central Mitte district.
84 | The Table Tennis Table
Believe it or not, Berlin is widely considered the capital of hobby table tennis. If in doubt, try visiting any of the recreational areas dotted across the city. You’ll find the city is full of these sturdy concrete tables – more than 1000 of them – often covered in graffiti and bird poop, where it is not uncommon to see Berliners swatting at a ball and swigging cheap beer in the summer sun.
This kind of recreation was particularly popular in what was East Berlin – perhaps due to the low cost investment needed to attain maximum fun – whereby once you have acquired the necessary tools (bats and ball), all you need is to find an empty table.
85 | The Potsdam Conference Table
When Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill, the leaders of the Big Three nations to have collectively defeated Nazi Germany, met for the final time in 1945 – the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam would serve as the venue for their first, and last, post-war plenary sessions. Completed in 1917, it was the last of the palaces built for the German royal family, in a distinctive Tudor style.
It was chosen for the Potsdam Conference not only for the security it offered, surrounded as it is by plenty of open land, but also the configuration of the interior – with its main meeting room with three entrances for the Big Three leaders – to sit around a purpose-built round table as equals.
86 | Mount Fuji
A less than subtle nod to the homeland of the company responsible for the construction of this corner of Potsdamer Platz in the 1990s, the top of the Sony Center is capped with this huge glass and steel roof designed to resemble the summit of Mount Fuji. The area below is a plaza centred around a water feature; best experienced at night when the fan-shaped tented roof acts as the illuminated cherry on top of the whole Potsdamer Platz ensemble.
Although Mount Fuji is considered holy in Japanese culture, as the residence of the Kami (divinities) – the structure proved no lucky charm for Sony, who incurred a substantial loss when the area was sold in 2008.
87 | The Panzerdenkmal
Driving into what was West Berlin from former East Germany, through the old Checkpoint Bravo border crossing, you will now encounter this strange art installation featuring a pale pink snow loader pointing into the sky, high on top of a pedestal.
For much of the Cold War period there was a Soviet T-34 tank mounted on this concrete spike, facing into the US sector of Berlin, and said to serve as a war memorial for the Soviet soldiers who had fallen in the Battle of Berlin. This was replaced in 1992 by the pink snow loader – perhaps as a comical reference to the recently ended Cold War – and that it was finally time to shovel away the chilly antagonism?
88 | The Sachsenhausen Gate
Prisoners force marched into the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, between 1936 and 1945, would be confronted daily with this infamous lettering – Arbeit Macht Frei (Work makes one free) at the camp’s main Tower A entrance. While the exact meaning of the phrase is still debated by historians and survivors to this day; it served as an added humiliation to the unforgiving and brutal reality of the camp.
The sign now stands preserved to offer visitors the chance to not only enter the camp memorial through this gate, and pass this insulting slogan, but experience what thousands of prisoners were denied – the opportunity to leave the camp and return to life and normality without the burden of brutality and degradation.
89 | The Molecule Man
These three 30-metre high aluminium figures on the river Spree have no doubt confused plenty of visitors to the city. Created by American artist, Jonathan Borofsky, this 45 tonne art work is actually positioned to illustrate the intersection of three Berlin neighbourhoods – Kreuzberg to the south, Friedrichshain to the north, and Treptow to the east – the holes represent “the molecules of all human beings coming together to create our existence.”
Borofsky has other Molecule Men elsewhere, although this is the largest – with the figures actually modelled from a Sports Illustrated photo depicting two college basketball players congratulating each other, having won the NIT basketball tournament.
90 | The Mutilated Statues
Keeping with the theme of the Martin Gropius Bau as a venue for arts, designed by Martin Gropius (great uncle of Walter Gropius, the ‘founding father’ of the Bauhaus movement), these two statues on the northern side of the building depict two famous German artists – Peter Vischer the Elder (left) and Hans Holbein the Younger (right).
Extensively damaged during the Second World War, likely either by the Anglo-American air raids or trophy hunting Soviet soldiers, they are preserved in-situ in their mutilated form. Damaged statues remain a common sight throughout the city, although these two are particularly prominent and often encountered due to their location.
91 | The Berliner Weisse
A distinctly Berlin phenomenon, the Berliner Weissbier is said to have been referred to by Napoleon’s occupying troops in the 1800s as the ‘Champage of the North’. A top-fermented beer that is brewed with a large proportion of wheat malt, it is typically served with a syrupy shot of woodruff or raspberry.
Although some Berlin breweries, such as Brauhaus Lemke, have awardwinning naturally flavoured versions that omit the sugary shot in preference for more ‘authentic’ ingredients. Regardless of the ingredients, the short stubby glass is always the same – and if you want to indulge in true Berlin style, you’ll drink it through a small straw.
92 | The Eiffel Tower
Little remains in Berlin as evidence of the French occupation of roughly one quarter of the city (the districts of Wedding and Reinickendorf) during the Cold War period – with the major exception of Tegel Airport!
This easily identifiable faux-landmark sits outside the Centre Français de Berlin, which was inaugurated, in 1961, as a cultural centre run by the French allied forces in the city. Surprisingly the Berlin Eiffel Tower is a poor reproduction of the original – with the intersection of the four pillars on the second floor being inaccurate – truly a poor representation of one of France’s great cultural icons on the site of the French cultural exchange.
93 | Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
As an official advisor to George Washington, Prussian Officer Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben helped to reorganise and revolutionise the fighting tactics of the Continental Army during the War of Independence – many historians also consider von Steuben to have been one of early America’s most open LGBT figures.
Von Steuben had served as Prussian King Frederick the Great’s personal aide before joining the American revolutionary forces on the recommendation of Benjamin Franklin – rising to the rank of Inspector General. For his support he is now suitably honoured with this statue a short distance from the current US embassy – similar to the one to be found in Washington DC.
Address: Clayallee, 14195 Berlin
94 | The Coca Cola Plattenbau
These towering prefabricated Plattenbau apartment blocks – peak Socialist housing – can still be found dotted across the eastern part of Berlin. Concrete monuments to central planning – with their distinctly drab East German flair. Although previously highly desirable in East Germany, these residential blocks have fallen out of favour with many Berliners.
Above the Spittelmarkt train station, along the busy Leipzigerstrasse thoroughfare, you can find a prime example of this type of architecture, now fittingly topped with a huge Coca Cola sign – fusing the cliches of capitalism and communism in one location. Pure ideology.
Address: Seydelstraße 37, 10117 Berlin
95 | Alone In Berlin
The real life inspiration for Hans Fallada’s 1947 novel Jeder stirbt für sich allein (Alone in Berlin), the working-class Hampel couple lived at this address in Berlin Wedding – now commemorated by a porcelain plaque. After the death of their son in France, the couple began engaging in acts of civil disobedience, distrubuting postcards urging resistance before being discovered by the Nazi regime and executed.
Italian writer and Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi, famously described Fallada’s work as the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis. When an English translation was finally released in 2009, it became a runaway bestseller.
Address: Amsterdamer Straße 10, 13347 Berlin
96 | The Art Automat
There is no shortage of art in Berlin, whether it be in galleries or on the streets – thanks to the kind of people the city attracts, and the notoriously cheap rents over the last 30 years (even if that has now changed).
This funky Art Automat (Wunst Kunst) can be found in a courtyard near the Hackescher Markt, dispensing original works in exchange for a small handful of coins. Although seemingly unique, this concept has proven so popular that there are now a number of different versions of the art automat dotted across the city. This box is tucked away in a small passageway leading to the Otto Weidt Workshop museum, and the Haus Schwarzberg.
97 | The Potsdamer Platz Lights
Potsdamer Platz’s reputation as the Times Square or Picadilly Circus of Berlin is largely due to the immense amount of traffic that this junction attracted at its peak in the 1920s and 30s. It came to be regarded by many as the busiest intersection in Europe: ripe for the addition of this famous five sided traffic light tower – produced by Siemens & Halske.
Installed in 1924, they were initially operated by a solitary policeman who would sit inside the cabin, until in 1926 the tower was upgraded to become the first automatically operated traffic light system in Europe. The version that currently stands at Potsdamer Platz, however, is a replica added in 1997.
98 | The Train Ticket Machine
Berlin’s extensive transportation network is the second largest is Europe (behind London) – and not only is it relatively fun to ride but also relatively straightforward. Purchasing a ticket is a simple as navigating through the touchscreen displays to be found at each station (also available in English) and acquiring your paper ticket from the dispenser at the bottom.
However, don’t forget to feed the ticket into one of these validation machines before you board the train – as an unvalidated ticket can earn you a 60€ fine. This only applies to train tickets, as if you buy a bus or tram ticket on board your ride it comes automatically stamped with the departure time.
99 | The Kindertransport Memorial
Over a period of nine months following the 1938 Reichskristallnacht attacks (the November Pogrom), thousands of predominantly Jewish children were permitted by the Nazi state to emigrate to western European countries like Great Britain – as part of a large-scale evacuation programme known now as the Kindertransport (Refugee Children’s Transport). By the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, some 10,000 children had made it to Great Britain.
This bronze sculpture, entitled ‘Trains to life; Trains to death’ at Friedrichstrasse station is the second of five memorials designed by artist Frank Meisler – himself a Kindertransport refugee, who left Friedrichstrasse in August 1939.
Address: Georgenstraße 14, 10117 Berlin
100 | The Stolpersteine
Personalising a genocide whereby millions of people lost their lives is an important, and effective, way of remembering those who were murdered. Thousands of these bronze Stolpersteine (Stumbling Stones) can be found across Europe, listing the names and dates of birth, and often dates of death, of people who fell victim to the National Socialist regime.
These three commorate a mother, father, and young daughter – the daughter who was deported to Auschwitz and the two parents who faced with the extent of this tragedy preferred instead to take their own lives. They can be found on the pavement in front of the site of the magic shop the family once owned.
101 | The Ampelmann
In the feverish days of the early 1990s many remnants of the East German era were erased, demolished, or intentionally neglected. The Ampelmann is a rare survival story. East Germany’s unique traffic light man – who remains a popular and celebrated object in the Berlin cityscape.
This cult icon is still a relatively good indicator of which side of divided Cold War Berlin you would have once found yourself – as the Western part of the city had the more generic figures that largely still grace that side today. Copyrighted and trademark in the 90s, the Ampelmann is now available in souvenir shops – on coffee mugs, t-shirts, and in gummi bear form.