what I'm doing, what I'm seeing, what I'm thinking

20/12/2013

Berlin and Leipzig

Berlin is supposed to be hip destination number one - at least as far as the arty vibe is concerned - it's certainly an interesting city to visit and definitely not of the 'theme-park' variety like Prague for example, which I've previously reported on.


Of course the area to hang out - and the most visually interesting - is the former East Berlin. This crazy structure (top of a newspaper building I think) is a remnant of communist era design and it's great to these down

Large parts of East Berlin escaped bombing so many stately terraces are still intact - this is a typical street in the Prenzlauer Berg district. The streets are incredible wide in Berlin hence plenty of space for pavement cafes and bars, one of the best features of the city I think. Of course the buildings have all been massively restored since the Wall came down - if you want to get an idea how it all would have looked before the early 90s, see my pics of Budapest!
The UBahn and SBahn run underground and above the street on high level tracks, making the vistas from many station platforms quite complex and fascinating.


I wouldn't say Berlin is a top design destination - it's more of a fine art city - but I did come across some pretty cool shop windows here and there. Loved this hat designer (I would wouldn't I?!)

And I thought this fashion store window design in Mitte was very clever - just post-it notes. I love it when a cool ideas result from low-key, minimal materials.

You constantly catch glimpses of the iconic Tele Tower hovering above the skyline - luckily this echoing sphere happened to be floating by as I glanced up.

I absolutely fell in love with Hauptbahnhof- the central railway station. It's kind of futuristic and retro at the same time and COMPLETELY different from any British railway station. Impressively, the tracks are stacked on top of each other so you can hear and see trains running overhead. Below is the view of our platform as we descended the escalator. 
Main differences from British stations being
A) spare, industrial (futuristic) design and 
B) NO ONE ON THE PLATFORM!!  I don't think I've ever seen a whole platform in one of the main-line London platforms with not a soul on it - well that was what I thought while waiting for our train to Leipzig.



Hauptbahnhof - opened in the 90s - is also a kind of shopping centre on different levels. All quite confusing concept-wise.

More from the hat shop - FYI, the designer in question is............



We just can't help laughing at how some German words read in English. This is a bank! 


Back to the station - the coolest lights. I'd have a fainting fit if I ever saw contemp design like this in a British station.

The combination of stark, oversized graphics with strongly coloured geometric shapes create a 'symphony' of economical, abstract composition - always my favourite.

viewed from another Ubahn station platfrom with the zoom - I'm a big fan of water towers, especially globe-shaped ones. Love the weight and simplicity 

There's a lot of fascinating recent history to discover in Berlin. This is a sculpture - taken from the photo below - of the East German guard who famously defected to the West by jumping over the barbed wire as they erected the Berlin wall 



We had a stroll around the Volkspark Friedrichshain on the edge of Prenzlauer Berg and I was totally thrilled to come across this ultra-cool original 60s cafe, another hangover from the communist era. 

I have a love affair with chequerboard and I WISH our rubbish lorries looked like this in London.


More Hauptbahnhof





London is basically all white or grey stucco or red brick so I enjoyed the colour-wash terraces in Berlin


Guess what the red line indicates?? Whereabouts on the platform you are currently standing in relation to where the carriages will be when the train pulls up - one of which you have a seat booked on. I know, I know, far too complicated a concept for the British rail network to get their head around!





Inside a Ubahn station (mirror for the driver to check who's on the platform) - just liked the composition and unexpected pastels!





That cafe again - really it's the concrete barrier blocks that give the modernist 60s vibe, but they made an effort with the contemp chairs to keep the style going.  The park behind looks to me like a mural in this picture - there used to be a lot of murals like this in French cafes and hotels - I've found a few still remaining 




Our platform for the train to Leipzig, a city about an hour south of Berlin and also in the former East Germany.


It was very cheap to go first class - check out the carriage!! We can only dream of such luxury and design.


The whole experience of booking and riding on the ICE train to Leipzig, as well as being luxuriously comfortable and stylish, was an impressive technological experience!. We booked on-line in England, downloaded a QR code (one code only for both our return tickets) to a smart phone, boarded the train to find a discreet digital reservation sign above our seats and when the conductor came round, just showed her the smart phone! And guess what? 2 hours before the journey I heard a train whistle from my phone and there was a text reminding me of our departure time and platform. I know, all just a distant reverie for us..........

I realized how much I love stations, catching trains, arriving at places - all of it!


You'll see from the photos, it couldn't have been a gloomier day in Leipzig, it barely got light - but that made the station quite atmospheric and certainly all the illuminated signs glowed beautifully.

Leipzig is much more old-style than much of Berlin - presumably it wasn't bombed so much in the war - and the centre is 18th /19th century and the buildings are almost completely restored since unification.

The best thing we found were these fantastic interior arcades which criss-cross the city centre, cutting through from street to street. I suppose it made sense given the climate - freezing winters, hot summers - for people to shop inside warm (or shady) covered streets.
The arcades are beautifully restored and the cafes are so gorgeous - plush old-style with fantastic coffee and luscious cakes.




Liked this 'still life' window display in one of the arcades.





Where we had lunch - potato and bacon soup - delicious!!


Things started to get a bit desolate (restoration not reached here yet) when we took a cab for the 15 minute journey from the city centre to the 'art central' of Leipzig .....

............known as the Spinnerai.  This huge industrial complex is a former cotton textile factory, abandoned half a century ago and now finding a new lease of life providing spaces for artists and galleries.  We went to Eigen + Art to see the Neo Rauch show.

It's a strange old place, pretty gloomy on a dull day but very convenient for the art scene to have most of the contemporary galleries in one spot and the spaces are absolutely huge. The studios are massive too and a darn site cheaper than London.








No idea...


Back to Leipzig Bahnhof for the train back to Berlin.


..but be aware, they only print very, very tiny photos!


Just for me (ha ha) they had installed a model village with working trains!! I love model buildings - use them a lot on my plaster busts - and am always on the look out for them. The best model cityscape I've come across to date is Mini-Europe in Brussels. 

And check out my collection of architectural models, snapped in French estate agents 


Not to mention my own personal chalet collection


Loved those signs in the evening gloom as the train glided from the station ..........bye bye Leipzig!  
If you're planning a trip to Germany any time, take the train!

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