Leica SL (Typ 601) | Leica Summicron-M 2/35mm ASPH. | f/2 | 1/30s | ISO 800
When I have to stay overnight in Berlin, I usually stay in a very nice hotel close to “Bahnhof Friedrichstraße” train station. I was always fascinated by the architecture and the maze of underpasses and small alleys in that station. It’s extremely confusing. But normally you rush through a train station, you don’t have time to take photographs – or better: you don’t take your time to make them. This time, I was so amazed by the light in the small overpass that crosses Friedrichstraße and connects to the U-Bahn station that I quickly checked into the hotel and went back with my camera and took a few photographs and then edited them right away on my iPad during dinner with Lightroom Mobile. I increasingly like the ability to work on the photographs right away – when they are still fresh in your memory.
Later on today I was then reading a bit about the history of “Bahnhof Friedrichstraße”. I knew a little bit about it, that it was one of the train stations that basically got cut in half and truncated East and West Berlin after the Berlin Wall was built in August 1961. I also faintly remembered that it was one of the biggest gateways for East German Stasi (East German State Police) spies to get into West Berlin. In September 1967 alone 1,700 of those spies crossed the border at Bahnhof Friedrichstraße. That’s a couple dozen per day. One of the reasons why the train station was so heavily frequented was because it was extremely hard to oversee and observe. So it was not only used by Eastern spies but also by Western RAF terrorists to get more or less undiscovered to their Stasi contacts in East Berlin.
When you wander through the train station today you can still see and appreciate why it was such a great place for the Cold War spy business – even I get still lost here sometimes.
This house in Linienstraße 206 in Berlin-Mitte (hence the name “Line 206”) is one of the few remaining apartment buildings in Berlin that are still occupied by squatters. After the German re-unification this building (as many others) was handed back to the original owners (in this case Romanian heirs) and henceforth changed owners frequently while the squatters always remained in the building and kept it at least intact. About 15 people have been living in this building for over 20 years (as of April 2013, I couldn’t find more up to date numbers).
Berlin is seeing an incredible rise in rental costs, many buildings in “fashionable” quarters are being turned into high end apartments that many families and older people can’t afford any more. As a result the indigenous and often very unique cultural scene of these quarters is vanishing and with it flats that the average income can actually pay for. The squatters are trying to set a sign against this development but of course are limited in what they can achieve.
Last year I discovered a similar building in Berlin that used to be occupied by squatters as well, but was then evicted in 2013. You can read more about the “Tacheles” and its history over here.
For my job I regularly travel to Berlin. Usually I’m spending the night there rather than giving me the stress of going in and out in one day. I tend not to consider it a waste of time but instead make best use of it. So I usually try and explore some new areas in Berlin where I have not been before (and take my camera with me).
This time the meeting I was going to attend was in the vicinity of Oranienburger Straße. Since I had heard that it is supposed to be a very lively area I decided to book myself into a hotel in the very heart of this street. I quickly checked in at the hotel and then took my camera and went out for a walk and dinner.
Immediately when I came out of the hotel I noticed a huge building right next to my hotel that looked as if it was never rebuilt since its destruction in World War II. And it was all covered in graffiti. There were also some very old signs of supposedly a movie theater from 2011 as if time had been frozen.
I later found out that the building was called “Tacheles” (German for “straight talking”) and had been occupied since the breakdown of East Germany in 1989 by artists and other young people who just wanted to withstand mainstream and express their own ways of living and culture. The movie theater that still shows the sign of the movie “Anatomie Titus” was an integral part of this community called “High End 54”.
In 2013, however, the City of Berlin decided to finally and completely evict all the premises. As it stands today neither the City of Berlin nor any private investor has funds or interest to rebuild the “Tachales” and make good use of it. So the former stronghold of culture and expression of freedom continues to rotten but at least provides a nice backdrop for photography.