Exploring Charlottenburg: a mix of old and new in central Berlin

(Part One of Two)

The traditional neighbourhood of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, named after historic aristocrat Sophie Charlotte of Hanover, Queen consort of Prussia, has long been an area associated with affluence and culture. Ever improving, this district is known for its brilliant mix of old and new, with many residents choosing to live in the area because of the unique combination of rich history and comfortable modernity.

A Long History of Affluence, Culture and Commercial Value

An independent city until 1920, Charlottenburg was then incorporated into Greater Berlin and became known as the ‘New West’ during an era known as ‘The Golden 20s’. At this time, the many theatres, cinemas, bars and restaurants which populated the district gave Charlottenburg the title of Berlin’s leisure and nightlife capital.

This reputation ended with the rise of the Nazi party and the area was heavily damaged in World War II, by both air raids and the Battle of Berlin. However, after 1945, the area quickly regained its influence by becoming the commercial city centre of newly-divided West Berlin.

Charlottenburg Today: A Luxury Retail Destination and Upmarket Residential District

Post-reunification, Charlottenburg is still known as one of the most upmarket areas of the city, with high-end bars and restaurants attracting a bourgeoisie crowd of wealthy residents and visitors.

A shopper’s paradise, Charlottenburg’s famous Kurfürstendamm (often abbreviated to Ku’damm) has been likened to London’s Bond Street and Paris’ Champs-Élysées; the Ku’damm shopping boulevard is packed with designer flagship stores and boutiques, while KaDeWe is the largest department store in Europe.

Aside from being Berlin’s biggest retail destination, Charlottenburg has preserved its historic status as a diverse cultural hub. The area is home to a range of museums, hotels and theatres; an Olympic Stadium from the controversial 1936 Olympic Games; an opera house; Germany’s oldest mosque still in use; and West Berlin’s Chinatown on Kantstrasse, dubbed ‘Kantonstrasses’ after the Canton area of South China.

Of course, Charlottenburg’s most iconic landmark is the picturesque Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace, pictured above), which is the largest surviving royal palace in Berlin.

A Popular, Established Neighbourhood with a Bright Future

The ruins of Charlottenburg’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church date back to the 1890s, but today they stand alongside towering hotels and contemporary office blocks on the Ku’damm. This mix of old and new best defines the character of Charlottenburg and ultimately, Berlin’s ongoing transition from a city divided to a global-minded metropolis that is looking to the future.

Berlin’s not perfect, but Samsung is right: it’s more fun than London

Felix Petersen, managing director of Samsung Next Europe, reportedly says that his company will not set up its headquarters in London. It’s just “not a fun place to live unless you are really rich”, is the rationale. Instead, Petersen and colleagues will set up shop in Berlin, hoping to find a home that is both far more enjoyable and affordable.

Club in Berlin - Photograph: Christian Jungeblodt for the Guardian

As a Berliner, I can give Petersen some idea of what he can expect.

Certainly, there are things to say about London, where I lived for 14 years before moving to Berlin. The last time I was there, very recently, a signal failure saw the cancellation of all trains between Paddington and Slough in the very middle of rush hour. No rail replacement bus services were arranged: people were simply expected to trek home with the aid of suddenly exorbitant taxi fares. For one of the most expensive transport systems in the world, there didn’t seem to be much bang for your buck. It seemed to be a fitting metaphor for a town apparently desperate to become Geneva-on-Thames.

One can see why Petersen’s eye might settle on Berlin, for it has long been seen as a mecca for tech startups, with its lower costs allowing them to recruit and retain young talent. Samsung’s arrival may mark a greater maturity of that market, allowing younger companies to rebase in a capital more easily accessible than London or San Francisco.

Petersen and colleagues will find much to love in Berlin. There are parks, lakes and forests within a short train ride, nightclubs on which the sun never sets. There are theatres, food markets, streets of endless bars.

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Link to the article

The party city grows up: how Berlin’s clubbers built their own urban village

What if a city allowed a huge regeneration project to be led, not by the wealthiest property developer, but by the club owners who put on the best parties in town? With the opening of Holzmarkt, Berlin is about to find out

For the first decade of the 21st century, the industrial wasteland between Berlin’s Ostbahnhof station and the river Spree was earmarked for a huge urban regeneration project – one that would show that the German capital could keep up with London and New York. Where flowing water had once marked the divide between communist and capitalist spheres of influence were to be a phalanx of high-rise blocks made of shiny glass, some of them 80 metres tall, containing luxury apartments, hotels and offices.

But tomorrow, that same 12,000m2 patch of land will open with an altogether different look: an urban village made of recycled windows, secondhand bricks and scrap wood, containing among other things a studio for circus acrobats, a children’s theatre, a cake shop and a nursery where parents can drop off their children while they go clubbing next door. There’s even a landing stage for beavers.

The Holzmarkt development is the result of an unprecedented experiment in a major world capital: what if a city allowed a new quarter to be built not by the highest bidding property developers or the urban planners with the highest accolades, but the nightclub owners who put on the best parties in town?

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Link to the article

Entrepreneurs, Academics & Entrepreneurial Academics succeed in Berlin

With Berlin’s plethora of life science research and academia, opportunities abound for biotech entrepreneurs. Here’s how the city bridges the gap between science and business!

So much research, so many opportunities for academics and entrepreneurs. Berlin boasts 35 large research institutions focused on life sciences, and around 130 hospitals — including Europe’s largest and most renowned university hospital, Charité. The research clout of Berlin described through quantity is impressive on its own, and the city has the quality to match.

Two German institutions dominating the Nature Index as some of the most prolific publishers in the magazine count with institutes in Berlin: the Max Planck Society, number four on the list, claims Institutes of Infection Biology and Molecular Genomics, and the Helmholtz Association, number eight, has the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine. In fact, our editor, Evelyn, was inspired by Berlin’s top-notch research to move here from New York City for a PhD in chemistry and chemical biology at the Freie Universität!

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Link to the article

WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT BERLIN AFTER A DAY OF MEETUPS

Berlin is the fourth largest Meetup city in Europe and one of its fastest growing cities globally. Madhvi Ramani spent an entire day Meetup-hopping to gain a unique view into Berlin and its inhabitants.

It’s 8:30 a.m. and I’m riding the U-Bahn. It’s crowded – at least, as crowded as it gets in Berlin. Everyone is able to hang on to a few inches of personal space as well as their dignity. Still, their rush hour demeanours are familiar: harassed, grim, preoccupied with smart phones and tablets.

I feel smug in my yoga pants, because my day promises to be anything but monotonous. I’ve signed up to an entire day of Meetups – events organised via the social networking website that brings people with similar interests together.

Since the site’s 2002 launch in New York, Meetups can be found all over the globe – but for some reason, Berlin is one of its fastest growing cities. Since its first Meetup was mooted in 2008, it has become the fourth largest city in Europe. What does that say about the city? I’m here to find out.

( . . . )

This, the React Native Meetup is the biggest I’ve been to all day, with almost 300 attendees. Tech Meetups are a popular way for developers and designers to network, and are heavily linked to the city’s burgeoning start-up culture, of which Zalando is one of the major successes. Nearly 30 per cent of all Berlin Meetups are now tech-related.

Officially we’re here to listen some presentations about using React Native, an open-source JavaScript library. Most attendees, however, seem more interested in the boxes of free pizza that are up for grabs. I cram slice after slice into my mouth as my neighbour says that the pizza provided by the Meetups of Berlin-based online bank N26 is better. Some people, it seems, are here with a single agenda – and I might be one of them, as I notice the curiosity and openness I started my day with are gone. As the speaker from Soundcloud begins to talk about using the framework for app prototyping, I lose interest and wander off to the loo.

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Link to the article

Germany Is Building a Wall to Protect the Berlin Wall

An effort to limit damage done to the Cold War landmark by tourists.

Souvenier-seeking tourists have done serious damage to the Berlin Wall, leaving Germany with no choice: A wall in front of the wall will be erected in summer 2018, to protect the landmark structure from further vandalism, reports the Art Newspaper.

This isn’t the first time the idea of a protective barrier in front of the Berlin Wall has been raised. In November 2015, authorities of Berlin’s Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, home to the “East Side Gallery” section of the wall, which is covered in murals created in 1990, announced plans to erect a permanent protective fence.

The wall, a designated heritage site, was erected in 1961, dividing citizens of West Berlin from the rest of the city and the surrounding East Germany until November 9, 1989. The wall began coming down in June 1990, but parts of the structure were left intact as a monument.

(…)

Link to the full article

Look out, London. Berlin’s startup scene is ready for a Brexit bonanza

Startups that previously looked to London are being wooed by Berlin’s fast-developing scene. But can Germany capitalise on Brexit uncertainty?

At a co-working space on Friedrichstraße, Berlin’s startup economy is getting ready for Brexit. Mindspace’s first location in Germany, opened in April 2016, sits in the heart of Berlin’s Mitte district, flanked by high-end fashion shops and perfumeries. Its walls are adorned with hand-stencilled signs directing people, in English, to the “yummy kitchen” and “awesome offices”. It feels exactly like the startup scene in London – and that’s deliberate. What London stands to lose after Brexit, Berlin hopes to gain.

(…)

“Berlin is starting to be considered as a startup ecosystem, particularly targeting the tech startup scene,” says Nijvenko. The company’s “official language”, she explains, is English. All signs, documents and posts on the community’s private Facebook group are auf Englisch. Its co-working spaces bare an uncanny resemblance to a template Silicon Valley, faux-hipster style – superfluous clocks; plush, well-worn armchairs; Communist-era televisions; and work from local artists adorn almost every remaining inch of space. Around 760 members pay between €250 and €450 per month (£215 and £390) to use the space, with the two additional sites in Berlin upping capacity to more than 2,000 people. Business is booming. “The political incentives right now are targeting the startup ecosystem. Berlin is very affordable, so for startups it’s the best place to be,” says Nijvenko.

Link to the article

The Secrets of Soho House Berlin: Lessons in Colorful Real Estate

In the five years since its 2010 opening, Berlin’s iteration of Soho House has become a major Central European roadhouse. The signature loungy-luxe details honed by Soho House founder Nick Jones, 52, since he opened his first Soho House in 1995—in Berlin’s case, the tidy little roof pool, the fireplace with its art-directed logs, the Vegas-style couches and day beds for extra-louche group lounging—all conspire mischievously to imply that the authorities, such as your momma, your significant other, or, in a celebrity’s case, a howling pack of street-dog paparazzi would have a really hard time finding you enjoying the place with whomever you choose.

This is a very profitable and fantastically marketable lodging idea. Although the traditions of it hark back to the 12th century Knights Templar and the London guilds and clubs, its authors in the late 20th century in the U.S. are the disco-magnate-turned-hotelier Ian Schrager (Morgans) and the dater-of-Uma-Thurman Andre Balasz (The Mercer, The Standard). In this market, Mr. Jones, of the UK, is a relative latecomer. (read more here…)

Berlin roars up ‘best city’ rankings

Hamburg, Munich and Berlin all appeared in the 25 most liveable places on the planet in elite magazine Monocle’s 2015 rankings. Berlin shot further up the charts for the second year running.

While Hamburg and Munich slipped back one place each to 21 and 9 respectively, Berlin once again rocketed up the charts to come in as the 3rd most liveable city in the world.

But the strong German showing put it in a class with Japan as the only two countries to have three cities in the top 25 – considerably better than the 0 scored by the United Kingdom and the one entry at the bottom of the rankings for the United States.

Monocle’s annual Quality of Life survey ranks cities around the globe according to factors including climate, architecture, crime rate, environmental issues, food and drink, business and design.

While some of the data is scientific, other measures are more subjective and the magazine’s editor in chief Tyler Brûlé said on Thursday the judges employed a change in the metrics in 2015 which included how much influence the state has over everyday life in different countries.

“We’ve given extra marks to cities that limit their nannying and we’ve tried to give value to places where there’s something else we know is vital: freedom, grit, independence, a joy with life,” he was quoted as saying by the website Skift.

“We’re frustrated with city councils that are too quick to say no, places where parents never let their children run free and capitals that seem opposed to the odd late night out.”

(Read more here – http://www.thelocal.de/20150612/berlin-roars-up-best-city-rankings)

The 5 best coffee shops in Berlin

Every city has a personality, but few European cities are as unique and iconic as Berlin.

The German capital is the perfect mix of regal architecture and rough urban streetscapes, beautiful laneways and grungy concrete, vintage shops and cutting-edge modern spaces.

Berlin is wonderfully rich in history and culture, and its coffee scene reflects this richness.

1. Oliv

Cafe Oliv Facebook/Oliv

On a pretty street corner in the fashionable district of Mitte, Oliv has a warm, welcoming feel and some of the best coffee in town.

Their homemade teas are also wondrous: order a mint tea and you’ll receive a sprig of fresh, leafy peppermint in a tall glass. Plus their food is wholesome and simple; think autumnal vegetable salad and crispy hot croissants.

2. Godshot

Godshot coffeeFacebook/Godshot

Berlin’s modern cafe scene is booming and Godshot is one of the main forerunners. The space is sleek, the baristas are experts and the beans are perfect. An ideal spot to recharge one afternoon.

Plus names don’t get any cooler than this; perhaps we should start calling espresso shots “godshots” from now on…………