Multicultural Berlin – Vietnamese Market

Multicultural Berlin – Vietnamese Market

Dong Xuan Centre is off the beaten track as far as the average tourist goes and in a part of Berlin I probably would not have found if I was not conducting research. Far from anything that resembles Vietnam in the sub-zero temperatures, from the outside, Dong Xuan centre is a collection of large warehouses in an industrial area of the city. This area of the city seems to house a large Vietnamese population and not much else at first glance.


However, on entering one of the warehouses it is soon clear that it is not a place that is exclusively out of bounds for other ethnicities. With traders to the left and right selling a huge variety of things from clothes and mobile phone cases to samurai swords and baby grows. Walking from room to room down the long corridor I notice Vietnamese doing their everyday food shop, buying traditional Vietnamese delicacies from other Vietnamese sellers.


They are talking in Vietnamese until they have to speak with German speakers in the restaurants, which they then effortlessly switch tongues to incorporate serving hungry Germans in authentic looking eateries with Vietnamese themed décor. I am then surprised to see other sellers who don’t appear to be Vietnamese dotted around the hall and talking amongst each other in Punjabi. As I watch, the Punjabi conversation pauses for a few seconds and they exchange a few words in German with the Vietnamese trader beside them. No more than a few words, but I am impressed with the fluidity of the exchange. This puts me in mind of Neal, et al., (2013). The article deals with everyday multiculturalism and how this may play out and look in real life. This exchange is how I imagine the ‘everyday multiculturalism’ to happen. There is no romanticised scenario playing out in front of me, where an Indian is purchasing German goods from a Vietnamese seller and talking as if they are the dearest of neighbours. Instead it is much less forced and extremely fluid and natural.


The ‘conviviality’ is there to be witnessed, to live and work and exist amongst each other seems to be enough for a place to be multicultural without going over the top and expecting a movie scene scenario of friendliness.

This term ‘conviviality’ is perhaps accurate in this case when talking of multiculturalism. This is because conviviality is often termed as ‘unruly’ or ‘messy’ because of the fact that different ehnicities can share the same space without ever having ‘meaningful interactions’ and can indeed show ‘resentment yet ‘resilience’ toward each other. I think about how the North Vietnamese contract workers were marginalised after the cold war within Germany and wonder how they manage to live beside people from ethnicities which have been complicit in this economic and social marginalisation (Su, 2017).  Nevetheless they deal with these tensions which makes place nonetheless. Instead the ‘everydayness’ of minor interactions are appreciated and the idea of dealing with difference within the same micro space is given more importance than the romanticised ideals often attached to the word mutliculturalism (Neal, et al., 2017).

Schmiz & Kitzmann (2017) have written about the Dong Xuan Centre and write about the importance of this centres function in the migrant community in Berlin. It acts as a social and symbolic centre for interaction, conversation and welcomes new migrants to the area whilst acting as a tourist attraction and developing the area of Litchenberg after years of neglect during the days when Germany was split in two. Many North Vietnamese migrants were contract workers with precarious conditions surrounding their legality to work and live in Germany after reunification. Schmiz & Kitzmann, (2017) see the centre as a means for encouraging entrepreneurship amongst ethnic minorities. Despite still suffering from social exclusion, living in the same areas that they had to when their work permits had run out, showing that the term multiculturalism has its problems and limits, , the North Vietnamese in the east of the city have proven to be industrious and ambitious and set up businesses that serve their own communities as well as German and tourists (Kil & Silver, 2006).




Kil, W. & Silver, H., 2006. From Kreuzberg to Marzahn: New Migrant Communities in Berlin. German Politics and Society , 24(4), pp. 95-121.

Neal, S., Bennett , K. & Cochrane, A., 2013. Living Multiculture: Understanding the New Spatial and Social Relations of Ethnicity and Multiculture in England. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 31(2), pp. 308-323.

Neal, S., Bennett, K., Cochrane, A. & Mohan, G., 2017. The increasingly ordinary and increasingly complex nature of ethnic diversity. Conviviality, community, and why the micro matters. In: Lived Experiences of Multiculture : The New Social and Spatial Relations of Diversity. Oxford: Routledge, pp. 22-38.

Schmiz, A. & Kitzmann, R., 2017. Negotiating an Asiatown in Berlin: Ethnic diversity in urban planning. Cities, 70(1), pp. 1-10.

Su, P. H., 2017. “There’s No Solidarity” Nationalism and Belonging among Vietnamese Refugees and Immigrants in Berlin. Journal of Vietnamese Studies, 12(1), pp. 73-100.







Karl Marx Allee: A Mini Moscow?

On turning into Karl Marx Allee from Alexanderplatz I was immediately struck by the homogeneity of the buildings. Apartment block after apartment block, all in a monotonous weak tea colour, stretched for as far as I could see. Coupled with the grey sky and generally miserable March weather it was definitely not the most visually appealing part of Berlin I visited. Even the grass section down the middle of the road seemed to be more grey than green.


(Jordan, 2018)

I felt like I had walked much further than the short few minutes from the hustle and bustle of the nearby Alexanderplatz square where the buildings looked a lot more modern and varied. In fact, I felt like I had somehow walked the 1,132 miles from Berlin to Moscow in a world breaking record time. If I had fallen out of the sky and landed (hopefully on my feet) on the grass in the middle of the road I would have been convinced that was where I was. Although I have never been to Russia I have studied it in the past and seen many documentaries partly/fully filmed there which have given me an idea of how it looks. It was quite disconcerting to know in my head that I was in Berlin but to feel like I was in a completely different country. I believe the similarities can be seen in comparing the photos below (Karl Marx Allee on the left and a Moscow boulevard on the right). In particular, the design style of the buildings which are almost eerily similar in colour and height.





(Jordan, 2018)                                                          (, 2017)

On reflection, as the flagship avenue of the GDR (Visit Berlin, 2018), the amount of socialist era influence on its architecture is expected but I was not aware of this before going there. It also follows that it has become a place for people to go to view socialist era architecture in Berlin (, 2018) and despite the poor weather I did see a biking tour of the city making their way down the road towards Alexanderplatz.

Continuing down the road the buildings got slightly more ornate and decorated and there was even some slight colour variations on some of the buildings. Well, that’s if you can call using bricks the colour of weak tea and slightly stronger tea a colour variation!


(Jordan, 2018)


It was interesting to subsequently find out that the intention of the GDR when designing the buildings was to impress the outside world and intimidate its own people (Visit Berlin, 2018)

because this was how they made me feel. The angle that I took the photo above reminds me of the intimidating nature of the size and number of the buildings along the road. Their sharp edges were replicated in the straightness of the road and its clean-cut grass segment down the middle. Walking along in my raincoat, jeans and trainers and eating some Easter chocolate I’d bought in a department store in Alexanderplatz not an hour earlier, I felt out of place. Using buildings as a way of influencing people and demonstrating power relations is a common strategy used by architects Kraftl and Adey (2008).

I expect that the weather played a part in my experience of Karl Marx Allee, especially as a quick Google image search reveals that it can look much brighter and appealing in the sun, as shown below. Perhaps the cold and greyness also influenced my viewing of it as looking like it was straight out of Moscow as this is the kind of weather that I would personally associate with Russia.

Karl Marx Allee mit Sonnenuntergang_iStock_querbeet_DL_PPT_0.jpg

(Visit Berlin, 2018)

Perhaps I would have experienced Karl Marx Allee completely differently if it had been a bright and sunny day. I imagine it to be one of those places where a bit of sun really lifts it because of the wideness of the road. There would also be a lot more contrast between the building and sky colours which would likely help it seem less monotonous and boring looking. I suppose I’ll have to head back to Berlin one summer, just to check.



References and Suggested Further Reading (2018). Karl Marx Allee. Available: Last accessed 1 May 2018.


Kraftl, P. Adey, P. (2008). Architecture/Affect/Inhabitation: Geographies of Being-In Buildings. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 98 (1), pp213-231. (2017). Rental rates in Moscow in 2017. Available: Last accessed 1 May 2018.


The Paris Review (2014). Berlins Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Available: Last accessed 1 May 2018.


Urban, F (2009). Neo-historical East Berlin: architecture and urban design in the German Democratic Republic 1970-1990. Ashgate: Farnham.


Van Der Hoorn, M. (2004). Consuming the “Platte” in East Berlin: The New Popularity of Former GDR Architecture. Home Cultures. 1 (2), pp89-126.


Visit Berlin. (2018). Karl Marx Allee. Available: Last accessed 1 May 2018.


Symbols of Power and Memory: Exploring Berlin’s Memorials

Berlin. It’s a fascinating city. Walking around the streets of Alexanderplatz, through the green space at Tiergarten and standing in front if the Reichstag, it never fails to amaze me. It is my second trip to Germany’s capital and even though I was battling the flu, it didn’t stop me experiencing this phenomenal city once again. Every time I left the hotel in the morning, I was always caught in moments of intrigue within each place I visited within the city and in each new site I discovered. It is crazy to think that just over 70 years ago, where I was standing within in this was more than likely a a site of rubble, ash and complete destruction.

IMG_2079Figure 1: The Brandenburg Gate (Fowkes 2018)

What intrigues me about this city is the numerous memorials that are scattered around the city. When wondering around, ‘one of the main features of Berlin’s public space is the extent to which it is dedicated to remembrance’ (Niezen 2018, p552). Within a 10 minute walk from the Brandenburg Gate (Figure 1), you will be able to discover numerous memorials varying in shape, layout and size. They include the National Holocaust Memorial (Figure 2 and Figure 3). What really stands out about the National Holocaust Memorial is the sheer size of it and how quiet it is once you are in the centre.


Figure 2. On the edge of the National Holocaust Memorial (Fowkes 2018)


Figure 3. Within the Centre of the National Holocaust Memorial (Fowkes 2018)

Once inside the centre of the Memorial, it is silent. The busyness of Berlin, the sounds of the traffic and the endless stream of tourists disappears and you are able to take in and surround yourself with this setting. No words need to be said, the silence says it for you about the significance of this memorial, as you begin to think about the events that transpired.
By contrast, one memorial that truly took my breath away was the Soviet War Memorial, located at Treptow Park (Figure 4). We had been pre-warned about the sheer size of this memorial by our lecturers so when exiting the S-Bahn station at Treptow Park, I was expecting a colossal monument; especially after all of the ‘hype’; and on arrival to the War Memorial, the ‘hype’ arguably fell short of the sheer size of the place.

IMG_2162Figure 4. Soviet War Memorial at Treptow Park (Fowkes 2018)

Unfortunately, my photography does not do this place any justice! This memorial at Treptow Park was “created by a totalitarian state, […] and is an extreme example of the power of ideology to shape place” (Stangl 2003, p213). This is significant because the memorial demonstrates a number of things. The first is “how the past is re-presented to express hegemonic relations of power and authority” (Foote and Azaryatu 2007, p129). This is significant due to the fact that this memorial is located within East Berlin, which during the Post War period between 1945 and 1989, was under Soviet Union control. This memorial epitomises that control from the Soviets due to the architecture of the memorial: The sheer scale of the memorial, the size of the statue at the bottom (Figure 5) and the Soviet symbols positioned all around the memorial. The second is the outlining triumph of Communism over National Socialism as pictured below.


Figure 5. Statue of a Soviet Soldier smashing the Swastika whilst carrying a child in his arms (Fowkes 2018)

As depicted in the photograph, the Soviet Soldier can quite clearly be depicted as the hero of the day. This is shown through the smashing of the Swastika whilst carrying a child in his arms to safety. This is a powerful symbol of the strength of Communism at the time under the U.S.S.R.

Memorials never cease to fascinate me as they tell so may different stories about the same event and depict different symbols and representation of particular events. In this case, it is the representation of power and authority from the Soviet Memorial, in contrast to the silent and eerie nature of probably the most horrific event in human history. Berlin has so many different stories to tell through it’s memorials, so it is definitely worth trying to find them and gain an extended knowledge of this truly fascinating city.


Foote, K.E. and Azaryahu, M., 2007. Toward a geography of memory: Geographical dimensions of public memory and commemoration. Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 35(1), p.129
Niezen, R., 2018. Speaking for the dead: the memorial politics of genocide in Namibia and Germany. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 24(5), p.552
Stangl, P., 2003. The soviet war memorial in Treptow, Berlin. Geographical Review, 93(2), p.213

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“I always feel like somebody’s watching me…” Exploring CCTV cameras in Berlin as part of the Urban Landscape

Before I had really decided what this blog post would be on, I caught myself looking around the large open space near the Reichstag building and noticing the sheer volume of CCTV cameras. From my reading of the City A-Z book, I knew that CCTV cameras were an interesting way to read the urban landscape. Clearly in Berlin, a major capital city, CCTV played a significant role in the safety, security and surveillance of its citizens. The majority of CCTV cameras were around important public buildings like the Reichstag and other government buildings. Some were much more obvious that others, perhaps acting more like a deterrent, while others were extremely difficult to spot despite using my camera zoom.


Geopolitically this made me reflect on the Cold War and the era of espionage. In many of the museums and information boards around the city, the dominant framing of the Soviet Union was defining it as a ‘state of surveillance.’ I found myself questioning this notion, particularly after visiting Teufelsberg, a listening station used by the US to spy on the Soviet Union. Ironically this site of major surveillance, has now become a subversive space, filled with rebellious political activist graffiti. The space has been transformed, it was once a Foulcault idea of mass surveillance whereas now the site critiques newer methods of data collection, through graffiti commentary and satirical art.


Thus through-out my trip I made sure I took photographs of any CCTV cameras I was able to spot. I was most shocked by the CCTV camera at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. To an extent I understand the need to deter and prevent potential defacing of the site. However they had security monitoring the site and grounds keepers so I personally felt the CCTV camera watching visitors at this Memorial site was a step too far. People visiting this space may become overwhelmed with emotion and sombre reflection. But it is disturbing to think there’s someone sitting in an office disconnected from the physicality of the space acting as a voyeur to someone else’s pain and distress.


I was also inspired by the large glass dome on top of the Reichstag building. The glass dome symbolises the state and government looking out and watching over their people, but also the ability of society to look back inside their government with relative ease and transparency. Thus the glass dome represents democracy, although it also seems to imply a lack of trust. The controversial transparent dome is a representation of democracy where governments can be held accountable, there may be less trust but there’s also less secrecy; people are responsible for their actions. Interestingly inside the dome you can look down upon the government, indicating people are always above the government. The glass structure and old stone, connects old and new, tradition and modernity.


Therefore I formulated my cartoon, I connected cold war geopolitics of surveillance with modern CCTV. The graffiti in Teufelsberg also influenced me, to reflect and think more critically about the idea of a dichotomous relationship between the USSR and the USA, freedom against mass surveillance and the difference between the past and now. Is CCTV another form of spying on the citizens of a country? The dominating narrative in many of the Berlin museums was that the Soviet Union equated to Evil, but the reality is that many people did not try to escape because they had free healthcare and education, cheap housing and everyone was employed. Thus my cartoon is a commentary on this problematic, totalising view that life in East Germany was always bad. And that perhaps the line the West seem to like to draw between themselves and the Soviet Union was actually much more blurred.


The flags illustrated on the CCTV cameras show that surveillance has become widespread in many countries around the world and that it wasn’t only the Soviet Union ‘spying’ on its citizens. The eye in the glass dome further represents the idea of transparent democracy and surveillance. Borden (2000) calls this “the eye of power” which perfectly describes the glass dome on top of the Reichstag building, a symbolic government building dating back to the German Empire.  The issue of CCTV cameras will continue to be contested, especially as technology advances and more data can be logged and stored leading to the increased possibility of facial recognition. Additionally as Berlin has suffered recent terrorist attacks, most of German society probably feel safer knowing there are CCTV cameras always watching.

Further Reading

Borden, (2000) ‘CCTV’ In, City A-Z Pile, S. and Thrift, N.J. (eds.) Psychology Press.

Coleman, R. and Sim, J. (2000). ‘You’ll never walk alone’: CCTV surveillance, order and neo‐liberal rule in Liverpool city centre1. The British journal of sociology51(4), pp.623-639.

Cummings, D. (1997) Surveillance and the City, Glasgow: Urban Research Group.

Foucault, M. (1979) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Fyfe, N.R. and Bannister, J. (1996). City watching: closed circuit television surveillance in public spaces. Area, pp.37-46.

Lyon, D. (1994) The Electronic Eye: The Rise of Surveillance Society, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Norris, C. and Armstrong, G. (1999). The maximum surveillance society: The rise of CCTV (Vol. 2). Oxford: Berg.

From domination to integration: urban-nature in Berlin

Although Berlin is now considered ‘Europe’s green leader’ (Buehler et al., 2011), a walk around the city demonstrates the extent to which ‘nature’ remains controlled and dominated by humans and the urban landscape. From thousands of trees and designated green spaces, to the river that runs through the centre, there is evidence of humans tampering with nature in every direction that you look. Through short poems, sketches and pictures, this post demonstrates our changing domination of the natural environment.

This first crossed my mind when walking along the banks of the River Spree, noticing the many ways in which the water was being used, controlled or restrained by human activities and/or structures. The once natural river banks have been completely transformed in to concrete, dictating the course of the water and removing it’s natural feel. Just along from this, a series of pipes leak sewage and discharge, a passing boat leaks oil and a young boy throws his sweet wrapper over the walls and in to the water.

I pictured what this river would have looked like before human’s settled in the city, with wildlife, trees and peace coming to mind. Now all that I thought about was the pollution, dirtiness and the masses of concrete that surrounded me as I looked in to the water.



Beneath my feet I felt the ground shaking slightly from the underground transport system, reminding me that humans have not only completely transformed the land on the surface, but have also interfered with the layers below it too. Shortly after, the smell of fumes from a tourist bus and what seemed like a never ending site of brick, tarmac and concrete reinforced my thoughts of the city as a completely ‘unnatural place’ (Braun, 2005).

However, after spending a few days in Berlin, my attitude changed. I started to realise that despite it being an urban environment and home to over 3 million people, the city is going to great efforts to try to integrate elements of nature in to its new buildings and landscapes as it continues to regenerate from its ‘haunted’ past (Till, 2005). I learnt that the attempts to ‘green’ the city began after the fall of the wall, with campaigns seeking to re-install trees and wildlife and produce more aesthetically pleasing spaces in the process of healing the scarred environment (Lachmund, 2013). Hundreds of thousands of trees have been planted, meaning whilst being close to the main tourist attractions, you can head over for a peaceful walk in places like the Tiergarten, where I felt detached from urbanism.

I also noticed that Berliners appear passionate about nature, with many heading to parks to relax in the places that they have fought hard to get. This completely changed my outlook from my first day in the city when I was looking down in to the River Spree, as it seems that people here do care about nature and they are actively trying to make it work alongside the urban environment. For example, when I first saw that many of the trees were numbered, I immediately thought of our domination of nature, assuming the ordering the trees to dictate where they are and are not allowed to grow.


However, I then read that this had been done to protect and preserve the trees as during World War 2 conflicts, up to half a million of them were ‘bombed to splinters’ (Fesperman, 1996). The trees are monitored and managed, showing that we still control and restrict nature, but we do sometimes try to preserve it and encourage its integration in to our cities.

It also became clear that many of the newer, more modern buildings are trying to include aspects of nature in their architecture, with rooftop gardens and ‘ecological approaches’ emerging throughout the city (Beatley, 2011). The reinsertion is promising for the future, potentially eradicating the assumption that the natural environment cannot work alongside the urban (Cook & Swyngedouw, 2012).


This has become a widespread phenomenon in European cities, and Berlin has played a pivotal role in demonstrating its potential success (Kiel & Graham, 2005). Nobody really knows what our cities will look like in the future, but we tend to imagine spaceships, robots and technology…

This may be the case, but if Berlin continues to take an ecological approach that tries to protect and integrate natural elements in to the city environment, it could pave the way for a new era that benefits both humans and wildlife. As long as residents and tourists continue to support and embrace this future, it has no reason to fail.


Suggested Further Reading and References…

Beatley, T. (2011) ‘Biophilic Cities: integrating nature in to urban design and planning’, New York: Island Press

Braun, B. (2005) ‘Environmental issues: writing a more-than-human urban geography’, Progress in Human Geography, 29, 5, pp.635-650

Buehler, R., Keeley, M. & Mehling, M. (2011) ‘How Germany Became Europe’s Green Leader: A Look at Four Decades of Sustainable Policymaking’, The Solutions Journal, [online] Available at: [Accessed: 06/05/2018]

Cook, I. & Swyngedouw, E. (2012) ‘Cities, nature and sustainability’, in Paddison, R. & McCann, E. (eds.) ‘Cities and Social change’, London: Sage Publications

Fesperman, D. (1996) ‘In Berlin even the trees have numbers’, BaltimoreSun, [online] Available at: [Accessed: 07/05/2018]

Kiel, R. & Graham, J. (2005) ‘Reasserting Nature’, Chapter 5 in Castree, N. & Braun, B. (eds.), ‘Remaking reality: nature at the millennium’, London: Routledge

Lachmund. J. (2013) ‘Greening Berlin: The Co-Production of Science, Politics, and Urban Nature’, London: MIT Press

Till, K. (2005) ‘The New Berlin: Memory, politics, place’, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Afro-Germans & Berlin Memorials overshadowing Germany’s colonial past

Visiting Berlin was a unique experience, as the city paves a memorable route through 20th-century history told from many controversial geopolitical narratives, detailing the pain of wars through the beauty of the memorials. Berlin is truly a modern city full of breath-taking artist’s expressions which encapsulate the city. However, during my visit of Berlin, it seemed that there’s a hierarchy to who is memorialised as the pains and hardship caused on Afro-Germans through colonial periods have been mainly lost from the narrative of the city. As the history of Germany’s dark colonial past is scattered scarcely across Berlin, whereas war memorials take the forefront and draw in all the tourists.

Germany’s colonial past is hidden in the representation of its capital city, despite Germany being one of the first initial countries to pursue colonial ventures for the process of under-developing Africa for their nations gain. Famously, it was in the 1884 Berlin conference where the space of Africa was divided by arbitrary lines as different European countries tried to state their claim on land and resources in the ‘scramble of Africa’. As by 1885, Germany had secured their colonial empire, by claiming four African territories: Southwest Africa, Togo, Cameroon and German East Africa. (Lennox 2012; 620). This lasting legacy has seen African – migrants move to Germany. Nevertheless, the mistreatment of Africans by Germany imperialism is rarely remembered or memorialised.  Instead, Afro-Germans are marginalised within Berlin and often insulted by the city, through street names marked by colonisers in Afrikanstrasse, which evoke flashes of their colonial past.

From observing the cityscape of Berlin, I found that in the centre of city, there were multiple memorials that focused on the former east and west divisions but foregoes Afro-Germans memorialisation or Germany’s colonial period. When exploring the city looking for post-colonial memorials they were hard to find as the U- station at Schillingstrasse was closed. This station interested me as it displays connections between Germany’s colonial leimage1 (2)gacies with countries in the global south such as Namibia and South Africa. From exploring Berlin it’s was clear that there’s a drastic difference in the magnitude in which races, cultures and nations are remembered, as Berlin’s public spaces memorialises Soviet and other European legacies giving them an open wide space full of statues to be adorned and coveted. These bold displays vastly contrast the miniscule Afro-German memorials in Berlin train stations.

Afro-Germans make up an integral part of the city and deserve to be represented more in Berlin’s history, but when looking for Afro-German signs and information points detailing their history it was often vandalised i.e. the May Ayim- Ufer.image3 (1)

Moreover, looking at Bernauer strasse, checkpoint Charlie and other monuments they push a specific narrative often overshadowing other legacies and German histories. Therefore, the scale to which people are educated and informed on Afro-German histories are low relative to their knowledge of the wars and the division of the city. This is perplexing even though Africans were early settlers in the German capital, but were disabled from social spaces in Berlin, and under the Nazi regime were meant to undergo compulsory sterilisation during the Holocaust period. Jews are remembered in various points of the city, for tourists to view whereas African genocides under Nazi regime are hidden and memorials left out of site in stations away from the main public or tourists view.

Afro- Germans were also victims of the Nazi regime but history focuses more on Jews & Gypsies which is showing through the memorialisation of concentration camps. Due to this lack of power in society the Afro-German struggle is often overlooked. Furthermore, it’s hard to legitimise their struggle as many who were in concentration camps and isolated from German communities rarely shared their experiences. When some tried to gain compensation for their mistreatment they were denied due to lack of moral outrage for Afro-Germans (Quayson & Lusane 2002:7).

Furthermore, Afro-Germans are being portrayed as infantilised through the depictions of animals and the jungle depicted on the station walls at Afrikanstrasse. Putting up these pictures dehumanises the sector of wedding. In addition, the labeling of Afrikanstrasse, marginalises the area and visual images reinforce primitive stereotypes promoted by the West on African people.


Afro- Germanys creativity

Going to visit the Joliba centre was very beneficial, as they help Afro-Germans better integrate into society and experience of Berlin. In the front of the centre they showcase beautiful artistic expression through the African art they have along the walls which was created by an Ethiopian painter.  Sadly, these centres aren’t promoted in the Berlin tour guides which are another barrier to the Afro-German voice can be heard.



References & further readings:

Quayson, A. and Lennox, S. (2012). The Cambridge history of postcolonial literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p.620.

Lusane, C. (2002). Hitler’s black victims. New York: Routledge.

Germany, B. (2018). Black life in today’s Germany – THE AFRICAN COURIER. [online] THE AFRICAN COURIER. Available at:

Oduah, C. (2017). The Afro-German Experience Under Hitler. [online] HuffPost. Available at:

Black Berlin – THE AFRICAN COURIER. [online] THE AFRICAN COURIER. Available at:

In My Grandad’s Shoes: Geopolitics of heritage tourism

When I told my Grandad that I was going to Berlin, I saw his face light up. He doesn’t speak much of his old army days, but he began to tell me about Berlin when he went to guard Spandau Prison whilst Rudolf Hess was there, from 1968-69. As part of his role, he often had to go to Checkpoint Charlie and was very keen for me to discover how much it had changed.

My experience

When I got to Checkpoint Charlie, it did partially look like I imagined. Obviously, the city has developed around it but the checkpoint building and the signs that I had heard about were still there and looked how I had pictured in my head. So I was surprised to find out that it was not the original building but a replica for tourists to have focal point to visit. I fell for Hochmuth’s (2017) idea that ‘history is considered authentic if it meets their expectations’ (478). There was an exhibit that outlined some of the terrible things that happened around the area when people tried to cross the border between east and west Berlin; people getting captured, dying even.  Inside was very respectful and almost isolated but when I left the exhibit there was a completely different atmosphere. Outside there was excitement, buzz and commercialism. People were being charged to take photos outside of the checkpoint building with actors who were dressed as guards. This has previously caused conflict (Frank, 2016), as so has commercialisation at the site. There were gift shops everywhere; you could by guard’s hats, shot glasses, novelty mugs, even handcuffs as a souvenir. There was something about the commercialisation of this area that didn’t quite sit right with me. Capitalising on a somewhat dark geopolitical past- Berlins heritage. I couldn’t help but wonder, what would my Grandad think if he could see Checkpoint Charlie now, as someone who was there during the cold war? So, asked him.





Me: (Showing photos I took of Checkpoint Charlie) How different does it look now?

Grandad: It looks nothing like it did before. The large older building just before McDonald’s was there and there sued to be a cafe inside called Cafe Eagle. Then there was ‘no mans land’ for roughly 500 yards past the checkpoint, just a buffer zone of rough scrub. That’s where anyone who wanted to cross had to run but I never saw anyone do it.

Me: Is it obvious that the checkpoint building is a replica?

Grandad: Oh yes, definitely! The original building was longer because it had to house the whole of the guard on shift and provide all the support services the might need. But it was still white, and the front looks similar.

Me: How did it feel to be there? Was it very hostile?

Grandad: Yes. It was a hostile place to be in if you were a member of the military.

Me: How do you feel about the actors who are dressing up as guards?

Grandad: It’s a historical site and people are going to be curious but if you are trying to portray something from history, it has to be accurate and it isn’t. It needs to be respectful. If it isn’t accurate then you’re not giving it the respect it deserves, you’re just giving the tourists what they expect and what they want.



Me: There are a lot of souvenir shops around the area, selling things based on soldiers and guards and the wall, you can even buy souvenir handcuffs. Considering the context of the site and people risking there lives to cross the wall here, do you think that this is giving the history the respect it deserves? Do you mind?

Grandad: You’ll find the same souvenirs at these types of places all over the world and you could say the same for them too, I don’t think you’d be able to stop it. Baring that in mind, it doesn’t bother me too much as long as there is a memorial or something, like that exhibit you went to, reminding people why it’s significant and important. Otherwise you’re just trivialising an important part of history.

Me: Would you ever visit checkpoint Charlie again?

Grandad: There wouldn’t be any point. I knew that it would change, it’s a unified country now and that’s a good thing but it would be a disappointment, as it often is, when you return somewhere that is completely beyond your recognition.

It seems that Berlin is caught between capitalising on this idea of ‘heritage tourism’ and giving the site the respect it deserves (Light, 2017). Clearly the Checkpoint Charlie we are presented with today satisfies many tourists but for those who were there, like my Grandad, it isn’t quite up to scratch.


References and further reading

Frank, S. (2016). War Memorials and Heritage: The Heritage Industry of Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie. London. Routledge.

Hochmuth, H. (2017). The return of Berlin- Kreuzberg. Brought back from the margins by memory. In Journal of Contemporary European Studies. 25:4. Pages 470-480.

Light, D. (2017). Progress in dark tourism and thanatourism research: An uneasy relationship with heritage tourism. In Tourism Management. Vol 61. Pages 275-301.

Nicholson, P. (2012). The Battle over Checkpoint Charlie. In The National Interest. Accessed on: 1/5/18.

Paterson, T. (2008). Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie becomes tourist trap. In The Telegraph. Accessed on: 1/5/18.


Expect the Unexpected: Three Experiences within the Urban Landscape of Berlin

When visiting Berlin, I expected to experience a few things. I expected to try the famous currywurst, to listen to the same old popular music and drink a stein full of frothy, ice cold beer. In due time, these expectations did turn into realities and all these experiences were enjoyed. However, these experiences did not stand out to me whilst I was in the urban landscape of Berlin. The aim of this blog is to document the ones that did. This will be done through three different unexpected experiences.

After a long and tiring day in the field, finding a place to eat for dinner was high on the agenda. My friends and I stumbled across a little restaurant in Kreuzberg called Miss Saigon, we decided to eat here, and I was looking forward to experiencing some Vietnamese food. The food was delicious, and it was great that it was cooked by Vietnamese chefs, it made it feel, truly authentic. Below a visual representation demonstrates my Vietnamese experience. Below we have some crispy traditional Vietnamese rolls and a traditional Vietnamese chicken dumpling soup…   I loved the fact I could hear Vietnamese voices shouting and conversing in the fast-paced environment of the kitchen. I loved the fact I could see a Vietnamese family (the waiter explained he was part of this family) working together to continue their thriving business. And finally, I loved the fact I could taste such great food, at such a great price. I had truly experienced Vietnamese culture in the middle of Berlin. It showed me how Berlin is truly a ‘world city’ in an ever-globalising world (Lo and Yeung, 1998). To learn more about the largest diaspora and community of migrants within Berlin, please look at some of the suggested readings below!


Figure 2Figure 1.

I get a little frustrated in the UK, every pub, club, bar, restaurant and café seem to play the same 10 or so currently popular songs on repeat.  So, it was interesting to visit all these places listed above in Berlin, as the sounds and music I experienced seemed rather different. Dance music was everywhere. I was surprised when I visited a little place for a sandwich, I didn’t know if I was at a rave or a café! Again, and again, I heard this music and it was so refreshing. Through these sounds, I didn’t realise I was experiencing Berlins vibrant and large dance scene. It was a new experience for me and taught about the urban landscape of Berlin. Many interesting pieces have been written about this scene within wider literature. It is fascinating to learn about how techno music and its associated drug use “reduced inhibitions and created an atmosphere of goodwill … an opening up of a new space for the exploration of new forms of identity and pleasure [in a newly unified Berlin]” (Schofield and Rellensman, 2015, p.117) This techno scene allowed people from East and West Berlin to come together, after the divisions created by Cold War Geopolitics.

Figure 3.

Like many people, when visiting a new place, I always want to consume traditional and local items, like most tourists (Sims, 2009). When in Berlin I was looking forward to trying the local beers and in the end I did. However, I felt I didn’t just experience their drinks but also experienced their drinking culture. It felt like Berliners put less emphasis on drinking to get drunk. I got the feeling in the shops, it was more about consuming quality, not quantity. Advertising around the city emphasised bottle instead of crates. People walked freely around the city with beers in their hands but never looks like they were drinking irresponsibly. I felt I have experienced a more relaxed, civil European drinking culture, in contrast to the binge drinking culture that is apparent in the UK (Jayne et al, 2008).

Figure 4. 


Well looking back, I feel when you are in a city you may go to experience one thing, but in the end, you go on to experience an assemblage of many different things all at once. When visiting Miss Saigon, the cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants, shops and supermarkets, I went to consume and experience certain food and beverages…. In reality, I experienced so much more, I experienced new cultures, new sounds and new ways of ‘being’ within the Urban landscape of Berlin.



References and Suggested Further Readings

Hillmann, F., 2007. Riders on the storm: Vietnamese in Germany’s two migration systems. In Asian Migrants and European Labour Markets (pp. 100-120). Routledge.

Hüwelmeier, G., 2011. Spirits in the Marketplace: Transnational Networks of Vietnamese Migrants in Berlin. Transnational Ties: Cities, Identities, and Migrations (Edison, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2008), pp.131-44.

Jayne, M., Valentine, G. and Holloway, S.L., 2008. Fluid boundaries—British binge drinking and European civility: alcohol and the production and consumption of public space. Space and Polity12(1), pp.81-100.

Lo, F.C. and Yeung, Y.M., 1998. Globalization and the world of large cities.

Schofield, J. and Rellensmann, L., 2015. Underground heritage: Berlin techno and the changing city. Heritage & Society8(2), pp.111-138.

Sims, R., 2009. Food, place and authenticity: local food and the sustainable tourism experience. Journal of sustainable tourism17(3), pp.321-336.

Global miniaturisation in Berlin

Throughout Berlin, as you re-emerged into the cityscape after travelling for a couple or many stops on the U-Bahn, it often felt like you could visit every corner of the world. A diverse range of restaurants and bars offered you the chance to experience every continent through each of your senses. A global miniaturisation appears to exist within the ‘trendy’ corners of Berlin where a cultural experience is sold (Cook & Crang, 1996; Hönle et al., 2017; North 2017) as well as food and drink commodities. This is a consequence of globalisation, and by extension, David Harvey’s famous time-space compressions (Harvey, 1999). Following is my descriptive account of how my senses experienced this global miniaturisation (Friedman, 1994), supported by pictures.


Emerging from the Gorlitzer-Banhoff U-Bahn stop deep within Kreuzberg, assorted colours of lights filled my vision. First to grab my attention was the dim but warm lighting of Mexican restaurant Que Pasa. This restaurant’s decoration immediately transported me to Central America, with my sight focussed on displays adorned with stereotypical Latino entities: maracas, sombreros and ponchos. Upon turning my head one hundred and eighty degrees, I travelled around the world to South-east Asia. The Vietnamese restaurant Miss Saigon was typically Vietnamese, with my sight seized by Vietnamese calligraphy and communist-red Asian lanterns lining the way into this small, but densely packed and buzzing eatery. Inside you could peek at the obviously Asian-inspired layout and decoration; people sat on low chairs and shared tables, as though they were eating in a restaurant within Vietnam itself. As my eyes wander again and focus upon the neat and woven outdoor tables and checked tablecloths lined up outside Italian restaurant Trentasei, I felt as though I was actually walking through a piazza in a historic Italian city. Candlelit tables and huge displays of wine at the restaurant’s window create a little piece of Italy within this tiny corner of a multicultural city.





Aromas of cooking spices crept into my scent, and as I concentrated on this sense alone I was immediately within Eastern Europe. The unmistakable scent of middle eastern cuisine and their unique fusion of flavours. The distinct and not so desirable smell of kebab can also be traced to the same eatery, Falafel land. These complex and assorted food smells allow me to experience a different corner of Europe to the one that I am geographically located in. The other side of the U-bahn stop is an Indian restaurant, and my scent transports me to back to a different region of Asia. My senses allow me to experience a slice of India within a global European city. The diverse range of rich aromas that are experienced at Gorlitzer Banhoff  U-bahn stop is perfectly equated to the multiculturalism of the city. As I continue my wander off the U-bahn, I can hear he distinct sound of a samba beat playing from a restaurant-bar on my right. The sounds I experience take me not only to a golden beach in South America, but to a warmer climate to the frosty one that I can physically feel on my skin. With the Samba beat echoing from the Brazilian bar Café Mori, I can almost imagine the glowing sun illuminating and warming my skin on a dry summery day in a different continent.


No matter which restaurant I chose to eat in, or which cuisines I sample and taste, while in this small corner of Berlin I have managed to experience little snippets of many cultures from every corner of the world (Henderson, 2004). The cultural consumptive experience does not need to be physically purchased in Berlin. The complex migratory histories and the subsequent ethnic diversity of the city enable a diverse consumptive experience that allows you to feel like you are multiple places at once (Cook, 1994). And, of course, the phenomenon of globalisation results in the materialisation of a metaphorically shrinking world (Harvey, 1999).



References and Further Readings:

Cook, I., (1994). New fruits and vanity: symbolic production in the global food economy. From Columbus to ConAgra: The globalization of agriculture and food, pp.232-48.

Cook, I. & P. Crang (1996) The World on a Plate. Journal of Material Culture, 1, 22.

Friedman, Jonathan (1994) Cultural Identity and Global Process. London: Sage.

Harvey, D., (1999). Time-space compression and the postmodern condition. Modernity: Critical Concepts4, pp.98-118.

Henderson, H., 2004. Beyond currywurst and döner: the role of food in German multicultural literature and society. Glossen.

Hönle, S.E., Meier, T. and Christen, O., 2017. Land use and regional supply capacities of urban food patterns: Berlin as an example. Ernahrungs Umschau64(1), pp.11-19.

Jakob, D., 2013. The eventification of place: Urban development and experience consumption in Berlin and New York City. European urban and regional studies20(4), pp.447-459.

Massey, D., 2010. A global sense of place (pp. pp-232). Aughty. org.

North, M., 2017. ‘Material Delight and the Joy of Living’: Cultural Consumption in the Age of Enlightenment in Germany. Routledge.

Pécoud, A., 2002. ‘Weltoffenheit schafft Jobs’: Turkish entrepreneurship and multiculturalism in Berlin. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research26(3), pp.494-507.



The Berlin Wall: The Legitimacy of Souvenirs and Engaging with a Contested Landscape

Prior to this trip, I had expected to encounter the extensive commodification of Berlin’s geopolitical past. This proved to be the case, yet, I was still somewhat surprised that it’s possible to buy a physical and authentic piece of Berlin’s history; not just a replica. It soon became clear that the fall of the Berlin Wall as a “central monument of the Cold War” (Baker, 1993:709) had sparked a capitalist response to eagerly distribute and sell off fragments of the Wall; ranging from very large concrete slabs to penny-sized pieces. As a result, the Wall that had once divided the city quickly become a new retail commodity; “boxed and sold to tourists” seeking to own just a small yet authentic part of past “division and danger” (Lennon and Foley, 2010:33). Sceptically, I proceeded to question if these really were legitimate pieces of the Berlin Wall. Even if they aren’t, does this commodity fully engage a tourist with the geopolitical monument?

Given the ‘Disneyfied’ nature of Checkpoint Charlie (Ekici, 2007), I was not as surprised to see that the commodification of the Berlin Wall was most prevalent here. During a brief visit to its accompanying shop, I was given the opportunity to purchase fragments of the Wall, as seen below, at every corner I turned; no doubt intentional.



Upon closer inspection, the so called ‘graffiti’ on these fragments proved unconvincing. Passing by a souvenir shop at the Reichstag, I noticed that pieces of the Berlin Wall were also being marketed as part of a fridge magnet, pictured below.


It struck me that these fragments looked unspoiled and as though they had simply been coloured in with a pen or perhaps just a single touch of paint; adding to an inauthentic appearance. As suspected, further research proved that pieces of the Berlin Wall that are graffitied sell a lot better in comparison to those that aren’t as tourists demand a politically ‘rich’ element of history (Baker, 1993). As a result, genuine yet distastefully re-sprayed pieces of the Berlin Wall are now mass produced; typically fixed to a cheap acrylic mount and labelled as a ‘piece of German history’ to entice tourists passing by. So, it would appear these fragments aren’t quite as authentic as one may think. However, if you can look past their false decoration, I suppose the remainder of its materiality is very much authentic (Shen, 2011). Either way, I then asked myself; if you’re allured by the prospect of physically possessing a part of Berlin’s political history, are you fully engaging with the contested nature of this landscape? This question reflects Baker’s (1993:731) idea that fragments as large as a cast segment or “as small as a painted crumb” presents tourists with a fundamentally altered interpretation of what the Wall was. Holding this souvenir in my hand, as pictured below, I must agree. I felt as though this monetised touristic experience constructed a personal emotional distance from the geopolitical significance of the monument itself.


During a trip to the Reichstag, I also witnessed this commodity in the form of a postcard; in this case, a greeting from a past yet relatively recent “world” that was the Cold War (Selwyn, 1996:197).



The act of sending of a postcard provides an insight into past and present geographies (Markwick, 2001). In doing so, it also contributes to a preconceived notion of the place it depicts. I wonder, who may have received this postcard? Who do they share it with? Do these individuals perceive the Wall as just a ‘fun’ commodity? I reflected upon a dichotomy this might construct; will the recipient of this postcard feel the same uneasiness that I felt in the presence of the Wall? Does it provoke a thought for those who died trying to cross it? The same Wall that they now own a piece of. I wonder, do they find their new possession of the Berlin Wall as disturbing as I do? I’m not so sure.

During my research, I also came across a blog post titled ‘your piece of the Berlin Wall is not special’. It suggested that there is enough of the Berlin Wall in existence to “give one golf-ball-sized piece of the Berlin Wall to every 15 people on the planet” (Veronese, 2012:1). The more I thought about this, the more I was intrigued to know just how physically widespread is the Berlin Wall today; a product of a globalised world (Milman, 2011). Here, a quick google search was enough to provide me with an extensive list of numerous segments of the Berlin Wall that have been given to institutions globally. Baker (1993:725) sadly argues the global distribution of these fragments as reconstructing the Berlin Wall as “forgettable” to passers-by. Looking back, my interaction with the Wall as a commodity really opened my eyes to the products of dark tourism (Lennon and Foley, 2010). Personally, I’m not convinced the Berlin Wall can ever be described as forgettable. But, I will agree that its extensive commodification constructs a touristic experience that disengages with the geopolitical significance of the monument itself.


Baker, F. (1993) The Berlin Wall: production, preservation and consumption of a 20th-century monument. Antiquity, 67(257), pp.709-733.

Ekici, D. (2007) The surfaces of memory in Berlin. Journal of Architectural Education, 61(2), pp.25-34.

Lennon, J. and Foley, M. (2010) Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster. 1st ed. Hampshire: Cengage Learning.

Markwick, M. (2001) Postcards from Malta: Image, consumption, context. Annals of tourism research, 28(2), pp.417-438.

Milman, A. (2012) Postcards as representation of a destination image: The case of Berlin. Journal of vacation marketing, 18(2), pp.157-170.

Selwyn, T. (1996) ‘Introduction’, in Selwyn, T. (eds.) The Tourist Image: Myths and Myth Making in Tourism. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, pp.1-32.

Shen, M.J. (2011) The effects of globalized authenticity on souvenir. International Journal of Innovative Management, Information & Production2(1), pp.68-76.

Veronese, K. (2012). Your piece of the Berlin Wall is not special. [Blog] Gizmodo. Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2018].