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The Berlin Book of Lists



FIVE BEST BERLINER NICKNAMES FOR ARCHITECTURAL ICONS
BERLINER FERNSEHTURM (Panoramastraße 1, S/U Alexanderplatz)
    Let’s face it, in a city where the most famous indigenous foods are the Currywurst (hot curried sausage) and the Boulette (not dissimilar to an oversized meatball you can either hold in yours hands or put on a roll) and the dialect is referred to as the Berliner Schnauze (Berlin snout) for its harsh, dark, irreverent humor, nothing that attracts attention is going to make it away unscathed.  The second something stands out in Berlin, you can be absolutely certain that a Berliner will have a sarcastic comment about it.  Take, for example, some of Berlin’s most significant architecture.  If you heard someone talking about the pregnant oyster, hollow tooth or Pope’s revenge, you probably wouldn’t imagine they were talking about the House of World Cultures, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and the Berlin Fernsehturm, yet this is exactly how these structures are fondly (or not so fondly) referred to by denizens of the German capital. 

    Berliners were quick to notice upon completion of the Fernsehturm (television tower) in 1969 that when the sun struck its tiled stainless steel globe it created shadows that appeared to be in exactly the shape of a Christian cross.  Not missing out on the delicious irony of a cross-shaped shadow created by a structure built as a show of Communist strength, this phenomenon was nearly instantly referred to as the Raches des Papstes (the Pope’s revenge).  The tower itself is sometimes referred to as St.  Walter after Walter Ulbricht, head of the East German government at the time of the construction of the Fernsehturm. 

KAISER-WILHELM GEDÄCHTNISTKIRCHE (Breitscheidtplatz, S/U Zoologischer Garten)
    This neo-romantic church erected at the end of the 19th century served for nearly fifty years as one of the most famous landmarks of the western part of Berlin and marked the beginning of the aforementioned Kürfurstendamm, one of Berlin’s best-known shopping boulevards (and places to avoid).  In November 1943, under repeated waves of bombing by British Lancasters and other bombers, the church was nearly completely destroyed.  During the reconstruction of the city, the decision was made to leave the destroyed tower, formerly the tallest in the city at 113 meters, as a memorial.  With typical Berliner élan, this memorial against the horrors of war was promptly rechristened the Hohler Zahn (hollow tooth).

HOUSE OF WORLD CULTURES (John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10, S Bellevue, U55 Bundestag) – www.hkw.de
    Built upon the initiative of Eleanor Dulles, otherwise known as “Mutter Berlin” (Mother of Berlin) for the role she played in the reconstruction of the capital from the Germany Desk of the United States Department of State, the flamboyantly futuristic design of the Kongresshalle quickly earned it the nickname of Schwangere Auster (pregnant oyster) upon its completion in 1957.  Used as a convention center for the thirty years of its existence, the building became the permanent home of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures), a venue for contemporary visual and performing arts supported by the German Federal Government and the state of Berlin.  You very well might have noticed it in the 2005 sci-fi film Æon Flux, where it featured prominently.  It’s OK, the fact that you happened to see that movie can stay between you and the pregnant oyster.

KASTANIENALLEE (U2 Eberswalderstraße)
    Drawing its name from the chestnut trees planted alongside it, Kastanienallee has skyrocketed to fame throughout Germany as a sign of reunified Berlin, burgeoning classical Hollywood dreams of discovery in the minds of many a Fraulein and young Herr.  Following the transitional period of the early 1990s, Kastanienallee emerged as the center of a newly trendy Prenzlauer Berg, home to a huge number of galleries, bars and boutiques.  So marked was the transformation that Berliners began referring to the street as Casting-allee, in recognition of its dubious honor as the place to see and be seen.

CAFÉ ACHTECK (U2 Senefelderplatz and numerous other locations throughout the city)
    On your way to or returning from the Mauerpark, Kastanienallee and all the trends of Prenzlauerberg, take a moment to check out a relic of Berlin’s most personal history at the subway stop Senefelderplatz.  You’ll notice a relatively small, green octagonal structure.  This is what the Berliners enjoy referring to as Café Achteck (Café Octagon), the public urinals designed by Carl Theodor Rospatt in 1878.  There are still at least thirty of these located throughout the city, some repurposed (like the Burgermeister at Schlesisches Tor) and some still serving their original function, offering a brief respite of relief amongst the hustle and bustle of Germany’s largest metropolis.

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