‘New Berlin’ to me: Bikes, Trees and Political Sticker Art.

Visiting Berlin you were unable to escape the past. Every discussion incorporated the past; how do people interact with the past? What do people feel about the past? And how does Berlin remember the past?  Something questioned within: FLASH OF REMEMBERANCE OR GUILT  (VOA5, 2017).  As I struggled to articulate my first impressions, illustrated by the image below, I realised something was missing from my experience; an understanding of the present and the ‘New Berlin’.



With this in mind I noticed three symbols of Berlins present; bikes, trees and political sticker art. They began to resonate with me, developing my understanding of Berlin’s identity today. The video below provides a glimpse into my experience and understanding of Berlin today, through the use of images and soundscapes that I encountered and collected.


Whilst taking in Berlin’s past I was abruptly brought back to the present by the ringing of bicycle bells behind me, exemplified through the video and image below displaying my experience of the cities bike culture. The use of bikes is juxtaposed to the cities restricted past; as you learn about the divided history you look up and see the freedom of


Berlin Bike Culture (Mansfield,2017)

the present (Large, 2001). Even at memorials people were learning about the restricted past, whilst utilising the freedom of the present. The extensive network of bicycle lanes created to support the bike culture gives the city space a sense of freedom (Griffiths and Maile, 2014). The bike culture is incorporated within the tourist industry with rental bikes available outside many hotels, signifying how it has become part of Berlin’s identity today (Griffiths and Maile, 2014). Overloaded bike racks outside apartments across Berlin confirmed how it places centrally in the lives of Berliners today and the unification of the city (Kennedy, 2017). Bikes aided my understanding of Berlin today and the ‘New Berlin’, by displaying the strong feeling of freedom and movement throughout the city, so juxtaposed to its past and my imagined geographies of the city.


Trees fill Berlin from memorials to residential areas and were interwoven into my experience of the city by providing a sense of resurrection to Berlin (Jones and Cloke, 2002), illustrated through the image below. Whilst many of the trees were part of


Tree Landscapes in Berlin  (Mansfield,2017)

the past they play a role in ‘New Berlin’ as they can symbolise the regrowth of Berlin through the reconstruction of the tree landscape (Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, 2017). Tree landscapes such as those in Berlin can be bound with many powerful cultural constructions due to their strong material and symbolic character (Jones and Cloke, 2002). Maintaining the tree landscape as it was before World War Two displays how the city has healed and grown into a new place whilst not hiding its past (Jones and Cloke, 2002). Today a tree numbering system has been adopted citywide, combining the city, a far cry from the past (Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, 2017).


Political sticker art:

The city is a canvas for political sticker art, something recorded by blogger Stickerkitty (StickerKitty, 2011). On every surface, you find the political ideologies of ‘New Berlin’, illustrated in the images below. Covering many political issues from national and trans-national identity to right-wing extremism, gentrification, surveillance and capitalism, the political freedom and geopolitical stand of the city is clear to see (Tedford, 2017). Contemporary sticker art against surveillance shows how the city stands strong against modern political concerns similar to those of the past, such as the strict surveillance of East Berlin (StickerKitty, 2011).


(Mansfield, 2017)





Berlin today to me:

Berlin is a complex multicultural city that cannot be defined simply (Griffiths and Maile, 2014).These three aspects displayed in the image below, to me encapsulate ‘New Berlin’. They

ALL bikes no trees


combine to display the political, liberal and natural space I encountered that gave me my clear understanding of the city today. The combination of bikes, trees and sticker art, work together to display the identity and political stand of the city, as the free and unified city it is today (Kennedy, 2017). They provide a symbolic image of how far Berlin has evolved, to become a city in which its people are free in their movement’s, views and healed from the past.  Each of these elements played a part in the past but it is the new attitude that links these elements to ‘New Berlin’, such as creating a culture revolved around free movement, protecting the tree landscapes and the allowance and continued use of sticker art (Griffiths, D. and Maile,2014). However, it is important to consider the possible staging of ‘New Berlin’ something discussed within Clean Pavements Vs Rebellious Walls: Reinventing Berlin’s Reputation (Johnson, 2017). ‘New Berlin’ may have developed due to the interplay between place marketing and place making in contemporary urban governance (Colomb,2012), questioning, how real is ‘New Berlin’?


ALL bikes



Suggested Further Reading:

Colomb, C. (2012). Staging the New Berlin. 1st ed. London: Routledge.

Environment, Transport and Climate Protection (2017). City Trees. Available at: http://www.stadtentwicklung.berlin.de/umwelt/stadtgruen/stadtbaeume/en/schutz_pflege/index.shtml [Accessed 19 May 2017].

Griffiths, D. and Maile, S. (2014). ‘Britons in Berlin: Imagined Cityscapes, Affective Encounters and the Cultivation of the Self’, in: M. Benson and N. Osbaldiston, ed., Understanding Lifestyle Migration Theoretical Approaches to Migration and the Quest for a Better Way of Life, 1st ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.139-159.

Johnson, E. (2017). ‘Clean Pavements Vs Rebellious Walls: Reinventing Berlin’s Reputation’, Tracing Geopolitics in the Urban Landscape, 8 May. Available at: https://leicesterberlinfieldtrip.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/clean-pavements-vs-rebellious-walls-reinventing-berlins-reputation/ [Accessed 8 May 2017].

Jones, O. and Cloke, P. (2002). Tree cultures: the place of trees and trees in their place. 1st ed. Oxford: Berg.

Kennedy, S. (2017). Bike city: Berlin: Community unification. Treadlie, (20), pp.74-80.

Large, D. (2001). Berlin. 1st ed. London: Penguin.

StickerKitty (2011). ‘Surveillance, monitoring, and control stickers in Berlin’, StickerKitty, 3 January. Available at: https://stickerkitty.com/2011/01/03/surveillance-monitoring-and-control-stickers/ [Accessed 19 May 2017].

Tedford, C. (2017). Takin’ It to the Streets and Stickin’ It to the Man: Contemporary Sticker Art as Social and Political Protest. A11.cgpublisher.com. Available at: http://a11.cgpublisher.com/proposals/143/index_html [Accessed 19 May 2017].

VOA5 (2017). ‘Flash of Remembrance or Guilt?’, Tracing Geopolitics in the Urban Landscape, 7 May.  Available at: https://leicesterberlinfieldtrip.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/flash-of-remembrance-or-guilt/ [Accessed 7 May 2017].



Experiencing Berlin’s transit system

Stepping into the vast network of Berlin’s public transport system was pretty much the first thing we did when we got to the airport. Straight away I was trying to pronounce the names of the stations and trying to navigate myself through hypothetical journeys around Berlin. It was on this first S-Bahn journey that we were faced with our first and only ticket inspector. He was dressed conspicuously, perhaps more like a homeless man than a ticket inspector, suggesting the presence of authority in Berlin is not so overpowering. We quickly realised that we rarely, if ever, needed our ticket passes. This ease of passing through stations unchecked poses a completely different experience to that I am used to in London. Instead of cramming in between people at the ticket barriers, there was space. So too on the platforms, which rarely felt cramped, even at busy hours.


The wide platforms denote an availability of space and time. Photo was taken in the Naturkundemuseum station, Berlin.

I quickly came to realise just how many different types of transport served the city, and how easy it was to incorporate multiple modes of transport into one journey. The tram, bus, U-Bahn and S-Bahn serve the road, allowing for ferries to transport people across the river. The transport was reliable and efficient, and yet it didn’t have the look and feel of modern transport. The yellowish colours on the transit system have been maintained throughout the years. Though new rail models have been installed, the stations also try to maintain specific identities (Merrill, 2015). Travelling through the different stations, it was apparent that they were ‘constructed spaces with an overarching topic or narrative, designed to make commuting a meaningful and immersive experience’ (Rui et al., 2015)


Much of the old designs are still used today – U-Bahn


Amongst the motorised transport was plenty of space afforded to cyclists in a city that holds an abundance of green space in comparison to other capital cities in Europe. Berlin was pretty flat, making cycling less exhaustive than, for example, London. It would also acceptable to bring cycles onto buses and trains, which completes what for me was a fully integrated transport system.



Reference list:

Merrill, S. (2015). Identities in transit: the (re)connections and (re)brandings of Berlin’s municipal railway infrastructure after 1989. Journal of Historical Geography, 50(1), pp. 76-91.

Rui, A., Plewe, D. and Röcker, C. (2015). Themed Passenger Carriages: Promoting Commuters’ Happiness on Rapid Transit Systems through Ambient and Aesthetic Intelligence. Procedia Manufacturing, 3, pp.2103-2109.





(Sub) terranian spaces of Berlin

(Sub) terranian spaces of Berlin

The cityscape of Berlin is well documented, with the famous memorials, historical buildings and Berlin wall dominating the ever-increasing tourist gaze (Urry, 2002). However, there is also an intriguing subterranean world in Berlin that should not be overlooked, found in the charismatic U Bahn system. Public spaces such as these are often branded as placeless spaces (Seamon & Sowers, 2008). However, the U Bahn network in Berlin appears to have negated this issue. I spent some time during my visit documenting a few of the stations I frequented, to illustrate how this has been achieved, and to reveal how the U Bahn’s idiosyncratic designs offer fascinating insights into the identity Berlin possesses.


1)This image displays the art installation found on the surfaces of the Westhafen U Bahn station. The station walls are adorned with the words of the human rights declaration (1948). Reflecting Berlin’s attempt to disassociate itself from the fascist rule that resulted in its formation. The typographical style of the words and the design (Bauhaus) also reflects the city’s rejection of Nazi tyranny which attempted to suppress these artistic styles (Inscribe, 2014). Hence, the subterranean station reflects how the city is attempting to learn from the past horrors it has witnessed, while also inferring the cities new-found artistic sovereignty.IMG_20170327_145048982

2) This is was taken at the Heinrich-Heine-Straße situated in the hipster capital of Berlin: Kreuzberg. The platform had a utilitarian feeling with little to gaze upon, suggesting the unassuming past of this region. However, the entrance to the station was awash with vibrancy, produced through the intricate graffiti that has been plastered across its entrance. The graffiti in the station, correlates with the countercultural spirit that has come to define this former enclave of West Germany. Kreuzberg is now renowned for its saturated walls portraying political messages and transforming urban spaces (Samutina & Zaporozhets, 2015). This mantra has clearly transcended into the subterranean world of its U Bahn network and definitely is worth a look.


3) This is the eerie Nordbahnhof station, which sits underneath former ‘No mans land’.  The image depicts the display there commemorating the spaces past reputation as a ghost station for West Berliners. The exhibit reminds current travellers of the pervasive nature of the division that came to define Berlin from 1961 to 1990. In doing so, the Nordbahnhof U bahn denotes how the ideological clash that materialised in Berlin transcended all aspects of public life, even the subway. Furthermore, the notion of a ghost station, epitomises the very nature of the cold war of which this station was on the front line. The accessibility of information today however, implies the Berlin’s newfound unity and commemorative instinct.


 4) This image was taken at the U-Bahnhof Afrikanische Straße which is in the North Westerly borough of Wedding. The African landscape depicted in the image is one of an assortment of archetypical African scenes displayed in this otherwise simplistic station. The African theme is an acknowledgement of the migrants of African heritage who have settled in the district, and thus serves to imply how the city has come to accept and celebrate the rich diversity of the 3.5 million Berliners. Although, the colonial connotations found in the street names of the Wedding district is still subject to debate as the city wrangles with its exploitative colonial past.


 5) The final image was taken at the Märkisches Museum U Bahn. The picture displays one of the maps adorning the walls of the station commissioned by the GDR in 1988. The maps plot the city’s development; from its genesis of two separate settlements in 1237, to representations of the city in the late 80’s (as seen by the GDR, deliberately omitting the Western part of the city). Hence, the subterranean space evokes the cities historical identity while simultaneously displaying how memories and representations of Berlin were permeated by geopolitics. Definitely worth checking out next time you visit, next to the Municipal Museum.

Clearly, Berlin boasts an enchanting city scape that should be visited as it  withholds powerful symbols of Germany (and Europe’s) turbulent history. However, I hope this blog has made a good case for the subterranean spaces of the U Bahn to be included in the tourist gaze, due to their charismatic nature and ability to provide fascinating windows into the development of the Berlin we know today. The five stations alone inferred the cities peaceful nature, its counter cultural tolerance, it’s divided past, its diversity and its primitive beginnings. So next time you visit Berlin make sure to study the subterranean spaces as well.



Samutina, N. Zaporozhets, O., (2015) ‘Berlin, The City of Saturated Walls’, Laboratorium, 7 (2), p.p 36-61

Seamon, D. Sowers, J., (2008) ‘Place and placelessness (1976): Edward Relph’, IN Hubbard, P. Kitchin, R. Valentine, G., (2008) Key texts in Human Geography, Sage: London, p.p 43-52

Urry, J., (2002) (2nd ed) ‘The Tourist Gaze’, London: Sage

Laura Horelli’s Namibia Today Exhibition

On February 19  2017, the Namibia Today exhibition located on the Schillingstrasse Underground Station, was at last revealed to the public.


Figure 1: Namibia Today exhibition at Schillingstrasse Underground Station

18 eye-catching posters of the former Namibia Today Journal have been displayed at the Schillingstrasse Underground Station. Laura Horelli, the Finnish Berlin-based artist behind the exhibition, assembled posters depicting the liberation struggles in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia, accompanied by written extracts which detail the journals historical links with the German Democratic Republic.  The posters prompted my curiosity to learn more about Germany’s hidden histories and the city’s connections with distant places, particularly Germany’s colonial past and the impact that African bodies have had on the current political and cultural landscape of Germany.

Throughout my time in Berlin, a mere 6 days, I noticed memorials dedicated to holocaust victims, Soviet soldiers and one for the homosexuals persecuted under Nazism. What became apparent, was the absence of spaces dedicated to black victims of the war. There were no permanent structures or sites commemorating these victims.

I came across the Namibia Today exhibition a few days prior to my departure and was completely taken aback by its presence, as I was convinced that such spaces were non-existent. The history behind the exhibition is one centred on the GDR’s post-World War relations with African states. To provide some context, following the partition of Germany into East (Soviet Bloc) and West, West Germany quickly garnered international recognition due its political associations with the United States and France (the Allies). In an attempt to acquire the same sovereign status as West Germany, GDR forged political links with newly independent states of the Third World, whom in return supported their quest for international acknowledgement. By 1980, East Germany had formed diplomatic links with 46 of the 49 OAU (Organisation of African Unity) states.

Figure 2: Namibia Today Exhibition at Schillingstrasse Underground Station

Situated in former East Berlin, the exhibition is a symbolic representation of East Germany’s historical ties with South West Africa, known today as Namibia. During Namibia’s struggle for independence, SWAPO (South West Africa’s People Organisation), like other Southern African liberation armies, operated in exile. East Germany’s support was therefore, a key factor in sustaining the Organisations efforts. Whilst the editorial board of the journal operated underground in Luanda (Angola), reports relating to the struggle for independence were being mass printed by the organisation Druckerei Fortschritt, in Erfurt, former East Germany.

Laura Horelli uses her exhibition to merge Germany’s overwhelming support for Namibia with its bleak historical past. Horelli simultaneously introduces us to Germany’s links with Africa, whilst leaving room for the audience to critique this narrative. The title ‘Namibia Today’, evokes curiosity about Namibia’s Past. What Namibia is today, is largely the result of Germany’s fleeting colonial rule of South West Africa (1884-1915). Between 1904 and 1908 the German genocide of the Herero and Nama people claimed more than 80% of the Herero community. Namibia has often been referred to as Germany’s testing ground for the Jewish holocaust. Horelli attempts to communicate a message that remains hidden from the wider public; present-day Germany cannot be understood without confronting its dark colonial past. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 05.13.38
Figure 3: Steinmetz and Hell (2006) National Archives of Namibia, Concentration Camp located on Shark Island, 1906-07

Germany’s present denial of colonial atrocities is largely the result of Cold War politics. As East and West Germany attempted to forge their own unique national identities, the GDR attached both World Wars and colonial responsibilities on to the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and its capitalist allies. In this way, the GDR managed to reconstruct a new identity as an “anti-colonial” and “anti-fascist” ally of the Third World, and equally parted with their colonial responsibility.

The Herero and Nama people to this day are waiting for an official apology. A recent article by Onishi (2016), titled Germany Grapples with its African genocide, puts into perspective how Germany’s delayed response is being perceived by Herero and Nama communities.

“The only difference is that the Jewish are white in colour and we are black,” says Kambazembi (51), a Herero chief whose great-grandparents escaped during the genocide.

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 05.08.20
 Figure 4: Steinmetz and Hell (2006) National Archives of Namibia: Ovaherero people surrendering to Germans, 1904-05.

Germany’s refusal to pay reparations and accept responsibility is being viewed as a disregard for black lives. Herero and Nama communities frequently refer to Germany’s forthcoming acceptance of their wrongdoings in the Word Wars and the billions ($) paid in the form of reparations to the Allies and victims of the holocaust. They in turn, are demanding the same acknowledgement.

The Namibia Today exhibition marks some progress in communicating Germany’s colonial and post-colonial relations with African states. However, more needs to be done to address and accept its former colonial relations as an integral part of past and present day Germany.


References and suggestions for further reading

Hall, S. (2000) ‘The multicultural question’, in Hasse, B. (ed.) Un/settled multiculturalisms: Diasporas, Entanglements, Transruptions. London:  Zed Press, 209-242.

Harring, S. L. (2001). German reparations to the Herero nation: An assertion of Herero nationhood in the path of Namibian development. W. Va. L. Rev.104, 393.

Kuhns, W. J. (1985). The German Democratic Republic in Africa. East European Quarterly, 19(2), 219.

Onishi, Norimitsu (2016) ‘Germany Grapples With Its African Genocide’, The New York Times, 29 December [ONLINE]. Available at: (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/29/world/africa/germany-genocide-namibia-holocaust.html?_r=0) Accessed 29/03/17.

Steinmetz, G., & Hell, J. (2006). The visual archive of colonialism: Germany and Namibia. Public culture, 18(1), 147.





Clean Pavements Vs Rebellious Walls: Reinventing Berlin’s Reputation

Germany’s dark past means the need for a new Berlin. There have been attempts by the local authority since the 60s to white wash the graffiti, seal off controversial Kreuzberg and silence student protest. However, after years of repression and punishment for Hitler’s invasion of Europe, Berlin’s citizens have made the streets their own. Where can I see this in Berlin? Simply look down and side to side towards the pavements and the walls. In New York you find yourself forever looking upwards towards. In Berlin we found ourselves staring at the walls, bins and shop windows which  are frequently covered in political stickers, posters and graffiti. In contrast are Berlin’s very clean streets. I want to address the contrast of the clean pavements I saw in Berlin, which reflects a part of Germany’s strict efficient national identity, against the graffiti, chewing gum and political slogans on the walls of Berlin, which symbolise Berlin’s alternative rebellious reputation.



On the one hand Berlin has attempted to create a reputation of clean modernity, consisting of well behaved citizens and neat urbanism. This was evident in 1982 when President Regan came to West Berlin. The walls were white washed of their graffiti and Kreuzberg, full of immigrants and alternative culture, was concealed with barbed wire (Read and Fisher, 1994). Thus, ‘real’ Berliners were kept from Reagan’s speech (Read and Fisher, 1994:297). This implies that the local authority were terrified of the international media exposing the graffiti and vandalism. This is perhaps because vandalism and graffiti can indicate lack of control, disorder and uncivilised behaviour (Rose, 1994; Smith, 2000; Ogborn, 2000). Furthermore, in order to  make amends for Berlin’s troubled past  the authorities started to market Berlin as a new globalised modern city (Colomb, 2013). I suggest that modernity and Berlin’s new clean reputation IMG_20170323_173532578is reflected in my observations of the city’s clean and well kept streets. I observed modern looking streets with minimal litter. Whilst I was sitting in a café in Bornholmer Strasse I saw litter spread on the pavement. Within 10 minutes it was quickly cleared away. I also observed a large amount of bins provided. Berlin’s close to perfect pavements are potentially part of Berlin’s place-making regime. Place making or place branding is defined as selling a place defined by a geographical area, such as Berlin (Philo and Kearns 1993). In summary since Berlin’s controversial past, Berlin’s local authorities have attempted to re envision the city as modern, orderly and neat. This is reflected through its clean streets.





However, aside from the pavements I did not remember Berlin as clean and strict. In contrast to Berlin’s clean pavements are Berlin’s walls. The walls of many buildings especially in Kreuzberg had political stickers, large scale graffiti and slogans. I suggest that in response to Berlin’s oppressive past including world wars and the 1960s student protest in which things turned ugly resulting in the shooting of antiauthoritarian – Rudi Dutschke (Slobodian, 2012), protest has since been tolerated. I observed this tolerance within the political voice and disobedience seen in graffiti and political stamps on the walls. This activism and disobedience has been turned into place branding of Berlin. In contrast to the orderly nature of German identity (Read & Fisher, 1994) and the clean streets of Berlin, the alternative atmosphere of anti oppression, multiculturalism has been harnessed as a brand for Berlin. Till (20 05) describes this as an attempt to be new, youthful, creative and cosmopolitan in order to create fundamental change and political re-representation following an ugly past. In this way Berlin is re-imagined and marketed as a new liberal globalised city and staged this way to visitors (Colomb, 2013) through the streets. The streets in Berlin allowed myself as a tourist to experience the visual representation of political activism and participate in the Berlin’s culture (Amin, 2000). It seems that initially Berlin’s local authorities attempted to sanitise Berlin’s walls and alternative politics before the fall of the wall. This part of Berlin’s clean vision of modernity is seen in the urban through well kept litter free streets. However following Berlin’s troubled oppressive history, the local authorities have tolerated graffiti and political stamps on the walls. This has been embraced as part of Berlin’s place branding. Berlin’s pavements as clean and modern and Berlin’s alternative rebellious walls contribute to a contrasting representation of Berlin.

Further Reading

Amin, A. (2000) ‘Street life’ IN Pile, S. and Thrift, N.J., (eds)  City az. Psychology Press, pp 240

Colomb, C. (2013). Staging the New Berlin: Place marketing and the politics of urban reinvention post-1989. Routledge.

Ogborn, M. (2000) ‘Pavements’ Pile, S. and Thrift, N.J., (eds)  City az. Psychology Press, pp 176

Kearns, G. and Philo, C. (1993) Culture, history, capital: A critical introduction to the selling of places. Selling places: The city as cultural capital, past and present, pp.1-32.

Read, A. and Fisher, D. (1994). Berlin: the Biography of a City. Vintage.

Rose, T., (1994). Black noise: Rap music and black culture in contemporary America. Wesleyan.

Slobodian, Q. (2012). Foreign front: Third world politics in sixties West Germany. Duke University Press.

Smith, S. (2000) ‘Graffiti’ IN Pile, S. and Thrift, N.J., (eds)  City az. Psychology Press, pp 86.

Till, K.E. (2005). The new Berlin: Memory, politics, place. U of Minnesota Press.


The way to Berlin’s heart is through the stomach?

When visiting a new city, eating out is something that happens more than when you are at home. I always like the opportunity to try local traditional and cultural foods that you do not necessarily come across in the UK. Although the globalization of culture and food tends to mean you can find specific cuisines where ever you are there is still always new things to discover. What we discovered was interesting about Berlin is that the restaurants we went to varied in terms of cuisines and cultures. While this is perhaps not uncommon for a global city, it does provide some interesting insights into the diversity of Berlin but also how we as tourists reacted to the different foods we tried, often placing the traditional German food on a pedestal.

During our stay in Berlin, visiting restaurants was a chance to take a break from the sight-seeing and researching of Berlin’s history. However this did not necessarily mean I stopped learning more about Berlin. On one particular evening we visited a restaurant called “Joseph Roth Diele”. The restaurant’s décor seemed to be in a particular traditional German style and a homage to the 1920’s with wooden paneled walls and red and white table cloths. Hanging on the walls were black and white photos and writings. After looking at its Tripadvisor page, I learnt that these photos and writings were about Joseph Roth, whom the restaurant was named after, was a Australian Jewish writer who lived next door and was exiled during Nazi Germany. Showing that even when the sightseeing of Berlin’s history for the day is done, restaurants can provide an alternative way to learn about Berlin’s history.


Joseph Roth Diele

I was particularly excited to visit Joesph Roth Diele as it was a chance to try classic German dishes such as Beef Roulade and Spätzle, a soft egg noodle that had a doughy texture. I had neither tried nor heard of these foods before but they were very tasty. My personal highlight was probably the cakes sold in cafes all over Berlin, delicious and inexpensive they put cafés in the UK to shame! Currywurst was another dish that I was determined to try before leaving. Currywurst is a popular German fast food consisting of a sausage covered in curry sauce that was sold round every street corner in Berlin. I did particularly noticed them at tourist sites (I took my chance to try them at the East Side Gallery) suggesting the stall owners are capitalizing on the tourists who want to try its famous dish. This reflects Mak et al (2012) discussions about how tourists often strive for novelty, to try dishes that are famously German, different and unfamiliar, however the unfamiliarity can sometimes leave tourists afraid to try.


Rhubarb Crumble Kuchen

Over the course of the week I ate food from a variety of different cuisines. This was something that was often discussed among the group as we found it interesting how diverse food places seemed to be. Staying in Kreuzberg meant we often ate there. Kreuzberg is known to be a culturally diverse area of Berlin with in particular a large Turkish community. We ate food from various cuisines including Italian, Indian, Singaporean, Croatian, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Turkish. The map below shows where these restaurants where situated. Often we came across these places by chance. While this diversity of food is perhaps a sign that Berlin is a global city where globalization has brought diversification to Berlin’s culinary landscape, it does still help demonstrate the existence of various ethnic communities in Kreuzberg. The Young African Art Market, a vibrant place with a beach, market stalls and Caribbean nightclub which sold Caribbean and African food such as Jerk Chicken and plantain, highlighted Berlin’s African community as it is clearly a focal point for cultural diversity. Keurzbeurg also has one of the largest Turkish communities in Berlin. We visited the Turkish market in Kreutzberg where I tried Sigara Böreği, a delicious filo pastry cheese roll. The Turkish market has also become a popular tourist destination showing that tourists are to interested in the variety of Berlin’s culture and food. The fact there were also foods and items being sold that were not necessarily Turkish could suggest the market has lost its cultural significance. However Bell (2002) argues this is a postmodern metropolis where cultures are ‘allowed to collide’ instead of distinct ethnic quarters preserved in a “protective fortress of ethnicity”. Therefore the presence of various cuisines and cultures in Berlin suggests it is not simply the globalization of food but also that Berlin seems to be a moving towards a postmodern metropolis where cultures develop and mix in the landscape.


Map showing some of the food places I ate at while staying in Berlin

So is the way to Berlin’s heart through the stomach? It is certainly one way but as Bell (2002) says only fragments of Berlin’s cultural and culinary geographies can be discovered. I am sure if you visited you would find different wonderful and hidden culinary gems in the city.

Further Readings

Bell, David. “Fragments for a new urban culinary geography.” Journal for the Study of Food and Society 6.1 (2002): 10-21.

Latham, A., McCormack, D. & McNamara, K. (2009). Sites and practices. In Key Concepts in Human Geography: Key concepts in Urban geography (pp. 159-194). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Mak, A.H., Lumbers, M. and Eves, A., 2012. Globalisation and food consumption in tourism. Annals of Tourism Research39(1), pp.171-196.

Satler, G. (2000) Restaurants. In Pile, S., & Thrift, N. J. (2000). City az. Psychology Press. Pp. 203-204

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise

Whilst walking around the streets of Berlin you are constantly surrounded by this incredibly diverse city’s history and geopolitics, whether it be the controversial anarcho-collective squats or the famous street art, leaving you in a state of awe and confliction. But beware; you had better keep your eyes peeled as you navigate the urban jungle for there’s something lurking out there. There is no escape in any section of tBuddy Bearhe city from the stare of the bear! A quick glance over your shoulder at any time or any place and you will catch a glimmer of one of the thousands of urban bears seemingly stalking you around the city. The bear of Berlin has become an iconic image having survived wars, segregation, reunification and more recently become a symbol of Berlin’s liberal attitudes towards life. The bear has been used by Berlin for hundreds of years forming its coat of arms throughout the turbulent times in the cities contemporary history. In 1954 the crest was altered slightly to represent East Berlin and West Berlin but still the mighty bear remained at the forefront of the coat of arms the image transcending the iron curtain, conflicting ideologies and the formidable wall; clutching to the memory of a united Berlin.

Berlin Crests

East Berlin crest (Right), seeklogo n.d.          West/current Berlin crest (Left), Madden 2006

After the wall came down in November 1989 the cities healing process could begin and what better way to reunite a city than give them something to rally behind, one which can surpass the fundamentally different societies that cohabited the city and tie them together. Smith, 2013, argues that symbols can be used to remind people of their common heritage and in doing so can help strengthen the sense of common identity and kinship. This philosophy has been whole-heartedly adopted with the bear being seen across both East and West Berlin as a constant reminder of the now united identity of the city. The bear can be seen everywhere, whether this be on shop windows, beer bottles, t-shirts, necklaces and tattoos, thus demonstrating the extent to which this symbol has been fully incorporated into the lives of many Berliners.

Collage of Bears

Berlin’s iconic image of the bear has developed further in contemporary times with the creation of Buddy Bear; the brainchild of two masters students from Berlin United Buddy Bear 1University of Arts. The bears were designed to reflect the tolerance and understanding of the people of Berlin and their liberal culture. The instant success of the project has lead the pair to develop the concept into something with a far greater propose than just to entertain; the United Buddy Bear. These bears represent each of the countries recognised by the United Nations. The design of each nations’ bear comes from a nativUnited Buddy Bear 2e artist this invites the observer to take a virtual trip around the world. The unique posture of the bears is a deliberate design so that when placed in a circle all the bears are holding hands symbolising the vision of global peace and unity. Now as the bears tour the world raising money for charity they are in essence taking the identity of Berlin with them, demonstrating to others how a once segregated city can be reunited.

United Buddy Bear circle

Circle of United Buddy Bears in Berlin, Meros 2015

This demonstration of the many different roles taken on by the Berlin bear, whether it be the illustration of the divide between East and West Berlin, or conversely becoming a symbol for the city to rally behind upon its reunification as well as being an example of global peace and tolerance is extremely significant to what makes the Berlin Bear particularly special. At first it was used to impose its symbolic shared identity upon the population giving the people its identity as a collective Berlin. Then through the Buddy Bear project the roles have reversed and now it is the identity of the people, their tolerance and compassion that has become attached to the bear and is becoming an international representation of the people of Berlin. 


Hull, R., Lam, M. and Vigo, G. (1994). Place identity: symbols of self in the urban fabric. Landscape and Urban Planning, 28(2-3), pp.109-120.

Madden (2006). Coat of arms of Berlin (1935). [image] Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coat_of_arms_of_Berlin_(1935).svg [Accessed 6 May 2017].

Meros (2015). United Buddy Bears. [image] Available at: http://meros.org/en/wonder/view?id=769 [Accessed 6 May 2017].

Schatz, R. and Lavine, H. (2007). Waving the Flag: National Symbolism, Social Identity, and Political Engagement. Political Psychology, 28(3), pp.329-355.

Seeklogo (n.d.). Coat of arms of Berlin 1954 Logo Vector. [image] Available at: http://seeklogo.com/vector-logo/32799/coat-of-arms-of-berlin-1954 [Accessed 6 May 2017].

Smith, A. (2013). National identity. 1st ed. Reno, Nev. [u.a.]: Univ. of Nevada Press.

Flash of Remembrance or Guilt?

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Walking around the city of Berlin, one thing that stood more than anything was its history. It appeared as though you didn’t have to travel too far or look for too long before you were confronted with a reminder of the history of the city. It felt almost like it was flashing constantly before your eyes, clearly a part of everyday life manoeuvring the city. It was in the street surrounded by apartments and stores, it was a part of everyday commutes taking over underground train stations and public parks. However, what was uncertain was if this collective memory was to serve the purpose of creating a city of remembrance or a city of guilt.

Oclick (1999) argues that collective memory plays an important role in both society and politics, he suggests that it provides a way for contemporary society to “settle” the issues created by their ancestors (Oclick, 1999, p.333). From this, it is plausible to understand that collective memory can be used as a political tool. This post looks to share one understanding of how collective memory manifests itself in the city of Berlin. The constant ‘flash of remembrance’ of the brutal past began to fill my mind with ideas surrounding the “politics of regret” (Oclick, 1999, p.333).

The city showcases remembrance in a variety of spaces, this included memorials and monuments remembering past battles, key spaces and moments in Berlins history and sites remembering Germany’s colonial history. These various sites act as evidence that it is within the political interest for the city to contain strong collective memories of the past as it is literally built into the cityscape, which Eco (1986) states is no surprise as he notes that “Memories are built as a city is built” (Eco, 1986, p.89) suggesting that the architecture of a city indicates what memories have been decided as important to society.

Hebbert (2005) notes that the city is used as tool for “shaping collective memory” (Hebbert, 2005, p.582), whist suggesting that using space to shape collective memory is not a new phenomenon as “patterns of enclosed, interconnected space are the oldest mnemonic device” (Hebbert, 2005, p.582). Meanwhile, Johnson (1995) suggests that since the 19th century public monuments have “acted as important centres around which local and national political and cultural positions have been articulated” (Johnson, 1995, p.51).

New ways of engaging with the memory of the past is presented throughout Berlin, these monuments not only including statues and built structures open to interpretation, it also includes structures laced with written text, historical photographs, videos and audio, creating inclusive public spaces in the streets of the city that almost anyone can engage with.

Understanding the tone of these sites is what was most difficult, constantly engaging with these sites whilst manoeuvring the city created a constant flash of emotions which I found particularly hard to isolate and understand. Trying to understand the city in relation to the one I grew up in became how I decided to contextualize my understanding –  although aware of the vastly different experience of visiting a city and living in one.  As I picture Berlin, my mind fills with a flash of sites of remembrance before anything else, I think to myself, if I was to replace these with similar sites of remembrance in London for some of the UK’s most highlighted brutal history, not much comes to mind. I think of the Buxton Memorial Fountain commemorating the emancipation slaves in the British Empire, but nothing that constantly confronts Londoners with what I believe to be the harshest of Britain’s history.

I began to realise that this lack of remembrance in my home city isn’t due to guilt as I may have once concluded it as, more likely shame. Brown et al (2008), suggests that there is an important difference between shame and guilt and how they manifest. Guilt, they argue tends to lead to some form of restitution or apology, whilst shame focuses on leading to the avoidance of what caused the situation to occur.

To conclude, it is truly unclear to me whether Berlin is a city of remembrance or a city of regret, or even a city branded on both purely for economic reasons, after all, I – a tourist, travelled just to see these sights.  Through reflection I began to realise, it did not matter. What mattered is that regardless of its intention, it is a city that attempts to take responsibility for some of its past. Meanwhile it is important to highlight that Berlin is also selective in what aspects of its past it selected to accept and highlight, focusing mostly on history that took place within its imagined borders.

Further reading:

Capturing Society’s Selective Memory: Rainer Elstermann & Paul Kranzler

Collective Memory and Cultural Identity by Jan Assmann



Brown, R., González, R., Zagefka, H., Manzi, J. and Čehajić, S. (2008). Nuestra culpa: Collective guilt and shame as predictors of reparation for historical wrongdoing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(1), pp.75-90.

Eco U. (1986). “Architecture and memory” trans. William Weaver, in VIA. Journal of the Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania. Vol 8, p.94

Hebbert, M. (2005). The Street as Locus of Collective Memory. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 23(4), pp.581-596.

Johnson, N. (1995). Cast in Stone: Monuments, Geography, and Nationalism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 13(1), pp.51-65.

Olick, J. (1999). Collective Memory: The Two Cultures. Sociological Theory, 17(3), pp.333-348.

1UP- Street Art Crew


The ‘One United Power’ (1UP) movement started in Kreuzberg, a district of Berlin, in 2003, with the purpose of becoming a well-known group of artists and then spreading their name around the city. the crew consists of men and women, who are generally aged between twenty and thirty. The crew links the idea of street art with sport and athleticism, as can be seen in some of the images above, where their tag is located on or near to many rooftops. Another key location for tagging is on the metro station. The crew are notorious for their organisational skills and a small group can tag a train within two minutes of entering a station. Videos appearing on social media have been a contributing factor to their growing popularity. One of these videos is in the link below.

According to Irvine (2012:6), Berlin acts as a hub for street artists due to its political past, when it had miles of art on show through the city, using the Berlin Wall as a blank canvas. Images online of drawings and phrases on the Berlin Wall have since gone global, therefore making Berlin a popular destination for street artists. The district of Kreuzberg was also the ideal starting place for this movement, as according to Fuller and Michel (2014:1304), the area is known historically for its cheap rent and liberal nature, therefore allowing an artistic flow into the district. However, due to its past, it is a target for redevelopment and gentrification, causing disruption to the street art and creative scene.

Links between street art and politics are well documented, as ‘graffiti writing is an inherently political art’ (Ferrell, 1996:184) and the idea of ‘clean buildings (…) are as much part of authority and control as police patrols’ (Ferrell, 1996:177). Evidence of this is easy to come by in Berlin, especially in Kreuzberg, where there are a number of large works of art on the sides of buildings and on public transport.

The politics of criminality in Berlin is unique in regards to its stance on graffiti and street art. As explained by Ferrell (1996:159), the majority of cities approach the presence of graffiti in two ways; there are the artists, who get to express their views and show off their creativity or there are the judges, local politicians and media workers who pursue it as a criminal act. Berlin differs greatly from this as according to Rojo and Harrington (2016) the city itself embraces the graffiti culture, drafting in experts to draw murals across the city’s landscape.

The 1UP movement has now become international, with the tag being visible across Europe in Spain, France and Turkey. More recently, 1UP tags have also been appearing as far away as Thailand. Also, in Berlin there has been a growth in similar street art crews, such as the ‘Berlin Kids’, who also tag walls and street signs. Their tag colours are red or blue, and those involved in the graffiti work are always acknowledged at the side of every piece of work.


Further Reading and References:

Metro tagging video- http://ilovegraffiti.de/blog/2016/03/17/video-berlin-wholetrain-1up-crew/

Ferrell, J (1996). Crimes of Style: Urban Graffiti and the Politics of Criminality. New York: Northeastern University Press. p.159-184.

Irvine, M. (2008). The Work on the Street: Street Art and Visual Culture. The Handbook of Visual Culture. 1 (1), p.6.

Fuller, H. Michel, B. (2014). ‘Stop Being a Tourist!’ New Dynamics of Urban Tourism in Berlin-Kreuzberg. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 38 (4), p.1304-1306.



Art – Berlin’s Political Freedom

One of the first things I noticed as I stepped off the train from the airport was the street art that consumed so many of Berlin’s buildings. Over the course of the week it became clear, this art was quite often a political statement to local or world events – with many buildings, stations and even pavements being sites for peoples thoughts (Visitberlin.de., 2017).


(McGowan, 2017).

The street art and graffiti in Berlin began to emerge with the resurrection of the Berlin wall – when the Western citizens began to express their frustration at the way in which their society had been divided. “Overcoming the wall by painting on the wall” (Lorer and Ganster, 2005). One of the main scenes for the increase in street art was Kreuzberg with the wall bordering all of its own outer boundaries.

After East and West Berlin were reunited after the ending of the Cold War, artists were asked to paint and decorate sections of the wall (White and Gutting, 1998). Towards the end of the 1990’s As the spray can began to climb in popularity – the wall became an ever changing place of expression for the every day struggles across Europe (Lorey and Ganster, 2005).


(McGowan, 2017).

The wall, and the district of Kreuzberg have since become sites of political expression and freedom – with different forms of art becoming central to the decoration of the city. Where ever you go in Kreuzberg and even Berlin, there is always a form of art to marvel at, whether that be a giant mural on a wall, a sticker, a sculpture, a tag, or even a car!


(McGowan, 2017).

Art has taken over this city!

When walking around Kruezberg, there was a great sense of political freedom. With current geopolitical events in both Europe and America, the artists of Berlin have shown solidarity with those who have been persecuted and the more vulnerable members of todays global society.

For a city that has such a painful past, with Eastern Berliners during the Cold War wanting to seek refuge within Western Berlin, the outpouring of love and solidarity to the refugees that made their way to Germany and Berlin was genuinely refreshing to see.

Art of love is displayed all around the city linking to geopolitical events. Opposition to Donald Trump and his policies is seen throughout the city, not only to his own opposition to any refugees within America but also to his policies.


(McGowan, 2017)

The photo above translates to:

“No Democracy already back in explanation? – Fuck Donald Trump”.

The artist who created this piece is Sozi 36 – renowned Berlin artist for his political statements on walls as well as mattresses and sofas on both large scale international politics and small scale, local political matter. Researching this artist – I found; though he works in all of Berlin, his main work is displayed throughout Kreuzberg. The artist himself has opposition to capitalism and western values. Quite often Sozi 36 creates opposition art against well loved politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Obama. The artist finds that peoples interactions with his art can be negative.


(McGowan, 2017).

“Sometimes you have to fuck with people’s comfort zones to make them think outside of the box” (Sozi 36, 2017 in Finding Berlin). Yet when he writes about Trump or global warming, people become cheerful and supportive towards his work.

“(S)pray for Paris. Wow, so brave!” – Yet another one of Sozi 36’s pieces of art throughout Kreutzberg.


(McGowan, 2017).

The photos displayed so far throughout this blog all show the political freedom that Berlin residents have towards global and local scale political events. From the ‘Peace now’ sign on the Berlin wall – to the politically fuelled ‘Fuck Donald Trump’ mattress – there seems to be no grey areas for Berlin’s art to cover. Perhaps one of the more significant pieces of art that resonated with me whilst walking around Berlin was the elephant on the wall.


(McGowan, 2017).

The more you look at this peace of art, the more you see. Below are the words, peace, unity and love. Whilst in the elephant itself you can see the words: playfulness, wisdom, empathy and justice. An image, which I think, encapsulates Berlin in one. A city, which is now at peace with its past, unified again – through the love of their city Berlin’s residents have become wise to their past and grown empathy to others such as the refugees who needed to travel to their city for safety. Whilst trying to gain justice through anti-fascist artists such as Sozi 36 – whom opposes Donald Trump and corporate greed. Finally, playfulness – in a city filled with art, artists playfully show Berlin’s past and well as the worlds present attracting visitors from across the world.


FINDING BERLIN. (2017). What does graffiti writer & street artist Sozi36 want from Kreuzberg?. [online] Available at: http://www.findingberlin.com/what-does-graffiti-and-street-artist-sozi36-want-from-kreuzberg/ [Accessed 3 May 2017].

Lorey, D. and Ganster, P. (2005). Borders and border politics in a globalizing world. 1st ed. Lanham [etc.]: Scholary Resources Books.

Visitberlin.de. (2017). Berlin – Urban Art – visitBerlin.de EN. [online] Available at: http://www.visitberlin.de/en/see/museums-art/street-art [Accessed 4 May 2017].

WHITE, P., & GUTTING, D. (1998). Berlin: Social Convergences and Contrasts in the Reunited City. Geography, 83(3), 214-226. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40573208

Suggested Further Reading

Colomb, C. (2012). Staging the New Berlin: Place Marketing and the Politics of Urban Reinvention Post-1989. 1st ed. London: Routledge.

Murzyn-Kupisz, M. and Działek, J. (2017). The impact of artists on contemporary urban development in Europe. 1st ed.

Young, A. (2013). Street art, public city: Law, Crime and the Urban Imagination. 1st ed. London: Routledge.