A mug of Glühwein



Glühwein (mulled wine - though literally 'glow wine') is one of the German Christmas market staples, made by heating red wine with spices (usually cloves, cinnamon and allspice, though there are many variations...I like to use cardamon myself), citrus fruits and sugar.

Along with paying for the Glühwein, you'll be asked to pay a Pfand (deposit) for the mug it's served in - you can either return the mug and get the money back, or keep the mug. This one's coming home with me!

A variation on Glühwein is Feuerzangenbowle (fire tongs punch). To make it, a cone of sugar has rum poured on it, before being set alight and allowed to drip into the punch below. The Feuerzange is what's used for holding the sugar - it would originally have been a pair of tongs like those used for grabbing coals from the fire, but now tends to be a specially designed holder.


The Feuerzangenbowle at night


This is the Feuerzangenbowle stand at the Nostalgischer Weihnachtsmarkt (nostalgic Christmas market) behind the Opernpalais (opera palace) on Unter den Linden. You can see the cones of sugar lined up above the steaming punch bowl, ready to add their rum-drenched sweetness to the mix.

Mauerpark was created from an area of what had been the death strip following the course of Schwedter Straße.


A couple walk their dogs in Mauerpark


There's a gentle slope at the eastern edge, just beyond the Max-Schmeling-Halle. I've seen children (and adults too, actually) sledge down it when the snow's thick enough, but it isn't today; the children are all still in school right now anyway.

At the top, bordering on the Friedrich-Jahn-Stadion, is a section of Hinterlandmauer, which has been designated as an area for graffiti:


A graffiti artist at work


At the southern end of Mauerpark is Bernauer Straße. Here, the wall turned west and formed what is perhaps one of its most famous stretches. Of course if you head east instead, down Eberswalder Straße, you reach Konnopke's Imbiß. It's lunch time.

I head south from Bornholmer Straße station towards Mauerpark (wall park). The smell of coal smoke hangs thick in the air and everything seems to be rendered in shades of grey.

That's the cue for another black and white moment, I think...

I still have strong memories of coming here in the snow in early 2005, so after the morning's snowfall, I couldn't resist coming back to take a look again.

There are some remains of the Hinterlandmauer (the 'eastern' side of the border defences) here, where Norwegerstraße meets Behmstraße. It ran all the way along the side of the road here, the S-Bahn tracks on the other side forming the 'no man's land' between it and the western side:


The remains of Hinterlandmauer at Norwegerstraße


On the other side of the road is the Schwedter Steg, a raised walkway which crosses the small triangle of land between the S-Bahn tracks, as well as bridging the railway tracks themselves. It always feels lonely here, like the wall drove the place's life spirit away and it's never quite returned. It's not that there are no signs of life here - there are plenty - it just always feels oddly quiet.


The Berlin skyline from the Schwedter Steg


The Schwedter Steg was built in 1998, replacing an earlier bridge which was destroyed in World War II and never rebuilt during the years of Berlin's division.

The wall ran along Schwedter Straße, passing right in front of the housing blocks there. The television tower is a constant presence on the horizon, both comforting and unsettling in equal measures; it provides a familiar point of reference and yet there's also the feeling of it being something you can't escape.


The corner of Kopenhagener Straße


The buildings on this stretch are particularly run down, having suffered a long period of neglect during the days of the GDR.

The sides of the buildings on the corner of Kopenhagener Straße still hold evidence of the area's past...but you have to know what you're looking for...


Anchor points for an electric fence on a building in Kopenhagener Straße


The balcony of this flat has been removed. In its place are anchor points for an electric fence. The buildings here formed part of the border; a section of Hinterlandmauer blocked off the end of Kopenhagener Straße and the windows and doors of the buildings facing the west were bricked off. Residents could only access their flats through the back entrance, through the courtyard.

The building on the opposite corner has some anchor points too.


Anchor points for an electric fence on a building in Kopenhagener Straße


Schwedter Straße used to have a different name. Up until the 1860s, it was called Verlorener Weg. Lost Lane or Lost Path might be the most accurate translation, but perhaps Lost Way is a more interesting thing to call it, considering its history in more recent years. The way through here was indeed lost, swallowed up by the death strip and in the intervening years, humanity lost its way too.

The Marienkirche is the oldest consecrated church in Berlin. It was built in the 13th century, first mentioned in 1292 though thought to date from slightly before that. The tower was added in the 15th century, built of Muschelkalk (shell-bearing limestone) from Rüdersdorf (to the east of Berlin). The original spire was quite different; the current copper spire was added in 1789-90 by Carl Gotthard Langhans, who was also the architect of the Brandenburg Gate.


The Marienkirche


It was then restored and added to in 1893-95 by Hermann Blankenstein - the four-gabled façade on the side is his work. It needed restoration again after World War II, though unlike some of Berlin's churches (the nearby Nikolaikirche, for example), it remained usable even before the restoration began. The area around it was cleared extensively in the late 60s, leaving it standing alone in an area which once was tightly packed with buildings.

I didn't go inside this time, so the interior will have to wait until another post, but it's definitely worth a look. It has a beautiful vaulted ceiling and its walls are home to a late 15th century Totentanz (danse macabre - dance of death). It also has a fine organ, originally built by Joachim Wagner in the early 1720s (though like virtually all organs, it's been rebuilt/restored many times since then, including most recently in 2002).

The snow is still falling as I step out of Hackescher Markt station. It only settles lightly on the ground, but enough to turn the city an icy white.


The Berliner Dom, with the Friedrichsbrücke in foreground


A gypsy woman sits huddled round an accordion on the Friedrichsbrücke, playing a slow, plaintive tune that carries far beyond the bridge, the swirling snowflakes mixing with the music's delicate melancholy.


A gypsy woman playing the accordion on the Friedrichsbrücke


Marx-Engels-Forum seems unusually quiet. It's usually got at least a few people gathered round it, taking turns to have their pictures taken sitting on Karl Marx's knee, or in other crazy poses. One couple does come up to take pictures, but they keep their distance, as if the snow has brought a kind of reverential calm to the place.


Marx-Engels-Forum, empty


I wake to another grey day creeping around the edges of the curtains. Something about this one feels different, though. The snow forecasts have been pushed steadily backwards since I got here and now are saying the snow won't be here until Friday. The weather men are going to have to explain why everything outside is white this morning, then.

While I admit that Berlin could have been attacked by a flock of angry pigeons, I have to say it looks like snow to me. It's still falling as I peer out through the curtains. There's only one thing for it...it's time to get out there!

The Berliner Mauerweg is a route which follows the course of the wall, with signs to direct walkers and cyclists following it. It would be easy to get confused here, though - there are three signs:


Signs for the Berliner Mauerweg pointing in three directions


How could the wall have possibly gone in all the directions the signs indicate? Enter the strange story of Steinstücken.

The origins of Steinstücken go back to 1787, when farmers from the nearby town of Stolpe acquired land here, outside of the town boundaries. A settlement was later founded there, which later became part of Wannsee which later, in turn, became part of Berlin.

This was all fine until Germany became divided and Steinstücken, part of West Berlin, found itself in the middle of East German territory. In 1951, East German Volkspolizei (people's police) occupied Steinstücken in an attempt to annex it. Neither the residents nor the Americans, whose occupation zone it belonged to, were very happy about this turn of events and the police were forced to leave a few days later.

Following the GDR's closing of its borders with West Germany in 1952, the residents of Steinstücken could only access West Berlin by passing through East German border controls; anyone from the west wanting to access Steinstücken needed special police permission.


Sign: Am Landeplatz


Though West Berlin was walled off in August 1961, the border around Steinstücken wasn't initially so heavily fortified. After several escapes into Steinstücken, including a number of GDR border troops, the exclave was more fully walled off.

The US military maintained an outpost here from September that year, manned by three soldiers, who came in and out by helicopter. This is commemorated by a street name and by a small memorial, made from two helicopter blades, where the landing pad was:


The helicopter memorial


Finally in 1972, in exchange for some uninhabited exclaves, the small strip of land along Bernhard-Beyer-Straße was given to West Berlin. after this, the wall went on a detour from its former course around West Berlin, along Bernhard-Beyer-Straße, around Steinstücken, then back again, before continuing along around the rest of West Berlin...which is why the Mauerweg signs point three ways!

From Griebnitzsee station, I head towards the Teltowkanal, the waterway which flows south of Berlin, connecting Potsdam with the south east of Berlin, ending between Köpenick and Grunau. The wall followed a particularly crazy, winding route here, with some parts of the canal between Griebnitzsee and Dreilinden forming the border between West Berlin and Brandenburg, while others were firmly within West Berlin.

It should actually be possible to walk to here from Wannsee, through the woods to the north, but not being sure just how much of a walk I was feeling like, I decided to play it safe and do it this way (there's something else nearby which I could have gone to see instead if I'd felt like a shorter walk...but more on that later). It doesn't feel like I've been walking for long before my destination is in sight, though:


A bridge over the Teltowkanal


It would be hard to tell the difference between this picture and ones of parts of the Grand Union Canal in London, even down to the rather boring motorway bridge. The rather boring motorway bridge is the interesting bit, though...

At the top of the path that leads up the bank towards the bridge is this old rest stop:


Another rest stop called Dreilinden





The sign: Raststätte Dreilinden


If its name doesn't give the game away, perhaps what's up on the bridge will:


The tarmac on the bridge


There's some tarmac up here, with some markings on it. One side says PKW (Personenkraftwagen - another word for a car):


Markings on the ground: PKW


The other side says BUS and underneath, LKW (Lastkraftwagen - truck), both partially obscured by ice:


Markings on the ground: Bus, LKW


This is the remains of the original Checkpoint Bravo. Because of the strange course of the border around here, the Autobahn crossed East German territory for another 2km from here before reaching West Berlin again. At the end of the 1960s, the GDR changed the route of the Autobahn, so that it led into West Berlin after the Drewitz border control point, creating a need for the new Checkpoint Bravo which you saw in the previous post.

Three flagpoles - one for each ally - mark the point where the checkpoint hut stood:


Three flagpoles amongst the trees


The cold air brings a heavy stillness with it. The whisper of the nearby Autobahn seems like a ghostly echo of the thunder of cars which would once have filled the air here.

Heading back, the sound of the Autobahn is replaced by a mysterious low rumble. I look into the distance to see a huge barge emerging through the mist from around the corner.


The barge Oberon on the Teltowkanal


As the barge makes its way towards Köpenick, I turn off back towards Griebnitzsee station...though there's one other place I'd like to look at first.

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