Tag

Berlin

The NSA listening post on Devil’s Mountain

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Teufelsberg — ‘Devil’s Mountain’ — is a man made hill that rises 120m above sea level and provides a 360 degree view of flat Berlin and the surrounding Grunewald. The hill was built from an estimated 12 million cubic metres of war rubble, the remains of all those shattered buildings that were left of the city after WWII bombing. They dumped the broken brick and stone over an unfinished Nazi...

Palace walk with lockdown blues

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I took a long walk through the neighbourhood again, partly out of a desire for new sights in a year of lockdown drudgery, and partly as an antidote to irritability caused by too little sleep and too much noise. The long curving low rises of my neighbourhood gave way to a small collection of German and Croatian restaurants, a few pharmacies, an optometrist, and small shops, and then the brick...

The end of hobo chic

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The barber shops reopened in Berlin this week. I’d booked an appointment as soon as I saw it coming, to beat the mad rush of involuntary hippies. And so I set out this morning to put an end to my out-of-control hobo chic. For the wielders of the clipper and comb, it must be a lot like shearing sheep. At a time like this, I’m thankful to have a Welsh barber. Although the guy who mans the front...

An afternoon with Dicke Marie

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It’s beginning to feel like someone broke the weather. We had snow here two weeks ago — the most snow I’ve seen in four years in Berlin. It didn’t snow at all last year. Before that, a few centimetres once or twice which melted within a day. This year we had 10cm to 15cm. While such an amount would hardly be noticed in Canada, it caused a surprising amount of chaos here, with cancelled trains and...

The misery of apartment hunting in Berlin

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It’s easier to get into North Korea than it is to rent a flat in Berlin. I can say that with great confidence, having done both. In Canada, renting a flat was simply a matter of replying to a few ads, viewing a few places, and filing out an application. The landlord might ask your permission to do a credit check — at their expense — but that was it. It doesn’t work that way in Berlin. When it...

The ‘Forbidden City’ just outside Berlin

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The largest Red Army base outside the Soviet Union was a 40 minute drive south of Berlin. It was just beyond where the new airport — and the old Schönefeld SXF — is today. Wünsdorf-Waldstadt was completely off limits to East Germans during those long, dark Iron Curtain years. They called it Die Verbotene Stadt (the Forbidden City). Others called the massive base ‘Little Moscow’, and I guess it...

The abandoned airport down the street

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I’m moving flats next month and saying goodbye to Tempelhofer Feld, my favourite space in the neighbourhood. But before I pack up my books and lug them across town, I’d like to tell you a bit about the history of what was once the world’s largest building. The 1.2 km long complex was built by the Nazis to be the most advanced airport the world had ever seen, but war cut short their plans and they...

The Heavy Load-Bearing Body Down the Street

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I’m moving flats soon, after four years, leaving this neighbourhood behind for another pre-war altbau in a different part of the city. Imminent departure has prompted me to poke around some of those minor historic sites I’ve passed so often but never gotten around to exploring. One of the largest is just down the block. I biked past that strange concrete mass so many times over the past four...

The hamsters are loose in Berlin

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It’s not surprising that the culture which gave us specific words for a brilliant idea you get while drinking but end up regretting later (Schnapsidee — I get a lot of these), and for the perverse sense of satisfaction at taking joy in someone else’s pain (Schadenfreude) should also have a term for hoarding. The Germans call panic buying Der Hamsterkäufe (‘hamster buying’). When I think about it...

Berlin life in the time of COVID-19

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I’m not a disease expert by any stretch — though I have been sick in several third world shitholes. But it feels like anyone with any sort of public platform is expected to take a position on the COVID-19 pandemic. It certainly had a paralyzing impact on travel. In short: take it seriously. Expect it to last anywhere from several months to most of this year. And start preparing yourself for...

Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Columnist at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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