Explore Berlin in 101 Objects

Explore Berlin In 101 Objects: Part III

In the final part of our Explore Berlin In 101 Objects series, we are dealing with objects 67 to 101. A further collection of oddities and important micro-landmarks across the city to guide you through Berlin and serve as the dots to connect your journey.

This collection could have continued ad inifinitum – as there are certainly plenty of objects in Berlin that carry at lot more weight than can be measured with a metric or imperial system. 

Far from a definitive object-based guide to the entire city or the story of Berlin’s chequered history through its relics, this is an opportunity to connect the dots – and find stories, secrets, and intrigue embodied in physical form.

Note: Clicking ‘Find This Object On The Map’ under each entry will bring you back to the map above – by clicking the sidebar navigation you’ll get a list of all 101 objects and can explore by location.

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The Berlin Rubbish Bins

67 | The Orange Bins

Although in many German cities – and train stations – it is common to find segregated rubbish bins for recycling paper, packaging, and compostable waste, the Berlin litter bins are easy to spot due to their bright orange colour and comical slogans. Even though Berlin is a city of smokers, it seems few people realise these bins also have ashtrays. 

Due to the country’s bottle recycling policy, you might see people reaching into the bins looking for empty containers. Feel free to leave your bottles underneath these orange bins to save them the dirty task- or you can return your own empties to a supermarket and expect to be rewarded with up to 25 cents per bottle.

Address: Various Locations
Website: None

The Trabi

68 | The Trabant

In East Germany, the Trabant (or Trabbi for short) would be touted as the car of the common man – or woman – even though each common person could expect to wait more than a decade, on average, to receive one – as car production was a low priority in comparison to western capitalist countries. 

These sputtering fibreglass-shell junkers can still be seen cruising around the city – easily noticed due to their roaring engine sound and tell-tale smell. The butt of many a joke; the Trabant has stood the test of time and although hardly desirable now, their simple mechanics mean far more are still on the road that might be expected – as they are easy to repair.

Address: Zimmerstraße 100, 10117 Berlin
Website: The Trabi Safari Site

The Bridge of Scars

69 | The Bridge of Scars

While estimates vary as to the exact percentage of Berlin that lay ruined by the end of the Second World War, certainly by modern standards much  of the former Nazi capital was in a truly unlivable state – courtesy of the hundreds of Anglo-American air raids and the Soviet ground invasion. 

This bridge near the government quarter still bears the obvious pockmarked damage of bullets and shrapnel. Especially in the former Cold War East of Berlin, there remains lots of this damage to be found – courtesy of the lack of expenditure on repairs by the government of the GDR, and the contemporary desire to preserve these traces of history in place.

Address: Reinhardtstraße 52, 10117 Berlin
Website: None

The Litfass Column

70 | The Litfass Column

A relic of the advertising monopoly that 19th century entrepreneur, Ernst Litfass, oversaw from 1855 – when the first 100 of these cylindrical advertising columns were introduced in Berlin. Presented as a solution to the cluttered mess of pamphlets and signs that previously littered the city streets, these ‘Litfass Columns’ were also an effective way of ensuring government censorship and regulating revolutionary political expression. 

By banning flyposting elsewhere, and effectively making everything displayed on these columns subject to police review – the Prussian state established a system of controlling dissent with Litfass providing and profiting from the infrastructure. 

Address: Various Locations
Website: None

The Rosenstrasse Memorial

71 | The Rosenstrasse Memorial

When in February 1942, Berlin’s Gestapo arrested thousands of Jewish men – many married to non-Jewish women – some 1,800 were gathered inside a welfare office for the Jewish community, located on Rosenstrasse. In response, a demonstration was organised by the wives of these men, calling for their release – which eventually came after more than a week of protesting.

The memorial on Rosenstrasse commemorating this event is a focal point of the historical debate on the effectiveness of collective action against the Nazi state – whether these wives achieved their goal through protest or in-fact their husbands’ release was more a result of internal Nazi Party politics.

Address: Rosenstraße 2, 10178 Berlin
Website: The Visit Berlin site

The Neptune Fountain

72 | The Neptune Fountain

The Roman god Neptune can now be found bathing in front of the Berlin City Hall (Rotes Rathaus) after being moved from his original spot in front of Portal II of the Berlin City Palace (Berliner Stadtschloss) – previously ground zero for Imperial Prussia; the point all Prussian milestones would lead back to.

Reference to the Fontana del Moro in Rome and the Latona Fountain at Versaille can clearly be seen in this bronze and granite ensemble designed by famous sculptor Reinhold Begas. With the four maidens representing the rivers that served to define the boundaries of Imperial Prussia – the Rhein, the Oder, the Elbe, and the Vistula (now in Poland).

Address: Rathausstraße 1, 10178 Berlin
Website: None

The Martin Luther Statue

73 | Martin Luther

Few people have had such a huge effect on Berlin as Martin Luther – whose form of Christianity would be hugely popular here. Responsible for translating both the Old and New Testament into German and effectively standardising the German language at the time, the Evangelical reformer can be found holding ‘the good book’ in full view of Berlin’s second oldest church – the Marienkirche, near Alexanderplatz.

Although the church dates back to the 14th century, Luther is not known to have managed to visit – however, in 1964, his namesake Martin Luther King Jr. did offer a sermon to a standing-room only audience of around 1,500 East German Christians.

Address: Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 8, 10178 Berlin
Website: Marienkirche 

The Mural for 17 June

74 | The June 17th Mural

This mural was added to the exterior of the former Nazi Aviation Ministry in 1952 by artist Max Lingner at the request of the East German government – as by that time the building was being used as the House of Ministries for the German Democratic Republic. At 18 metres long, and painted on Meissen porcelain tile, this colourful panorama depicts the idealised Socialist utopia – complete with smiling teachers, workers, and politicians.

Tragically, it would serve as the backdrop to the uprising that would take convene on this square on June 17th 1953 – as East Germans called for democratic reforms and were instead met with Soviet tanks.

Address: Wilhelmstraße 97, 10117 Berlin
Website: The Federal Finance Ministry

Friedrichstrasse Memorial for Fallen Soldiers

75 | The Executed Soldiers

As the Nazi regime convulsed in its dying throes, Berliners experienced the kind of horror that the city had largely been spared for the duration of the Second World War – and as part of a last ditch attempt to defend the city against the Soviet forces descending on Hitler’s capital thousands of civilians – old and young – were press ganged into military service.

Suspected deserters were subject to swift courts martial and execution, such as these two young German soldiers hanged by an SS unit and commorated on this rare plaque under the Friedrichstrasse station – fighting in a war that had already been lost, to defend a regime that prefered slaughter to surrender. 

Address: Georgenstraße 14/17, 10117 Berlin
Website: Friedrichstrasse Station

Döner Kebab in Berlin

76 | The Doner Kebab

Whether it was truly invented in Berlin is still debated to this day, also certainly it is hard to deny that the Döner Kebab is an essential part of the city’s foodscape. This mixture of shaved meat, vegetables, and sauce, usually served wrapped in a triangle-shaped pita bread is a staple snack – widely available across the city and consumed with or without alcohol.

The first Döner Kebab in Berlin is said to have been served at the Zoologischer Garten train station by Turkish-German immigrant Kadir Nurman – although if you’re looking for an authentic Berlin Döner now, you would be best venturing into the neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukölln.

Address: Various Locations
Website: None

The Currywurst

77 | The Currywurst

Back during Berlin’s heady Cold War days, the hot Currywurst became an icon of ingenuity in the face of shortages – as a resourceful sausage seller named Hertha Heuewer combined chopped sausage with an improvised tomato ketchup sauce to make this tasty snack.

While Heuwer’s Imbiss (snack stop) is long gone – the company that supplied her sausages and helped design her trademark sauce still exists and serves up this Berlin staple near Charlottenburg S-bahn station – look out for the little yellow hut and you’ll find Maximilian. Over the road, there is still a sign to indicate where Hertha Heuwer’s Currywurst shop used to be (now an Asian supermarket).

Address: Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße 52, 10627 Berlin 
Website: None

The Ketwurst

78 | The Ketwurst

While the Currywurst rose in popularity in the West of Berlin during the Cold War period, the East German authories on the other side of the Berlin Wall responded by introducing their own equivalent (almost) – the Ketwurst. Inspired by the Currywurst, this German sausage is presented inside a carved out bread, stuffed with sausage and tomato sauce – that is then smeared on top to complete the look – although lacking in the spice of its Western sister snack.

A rarity still to be found if you know where to look. One of the city’s original Ketwurst stands still exists next to the Schönhauser Allee train station in the district of Prenzlauer Berg – the Alain Snack stop.

Address: Schönhauser Allee 116a, 10437 Berlin
Website: None

Wolf Biermann's Microphone

79 | Wolf Biermann's Mic

One of the most controversial voices to come out of East Germany – singer and songwriter Wolf Biermann recorded an entire album in 1968 using this Sennheiser microphone, which needed to be smuggled into East Berlin after Biermann had been placed on a government blacklist as a ‘Class Traitor’.

The subsequent release would solidify his stance as a critic of the East German state’s Stalinist policies and lead to him being kicked out of the country in 1977. The microphone is now on display at the Tränenpalast museum, a short distance from Biermann’s old Chausseestrasse 131 apartment where the album (also called Chausseestrasse 131) was recorded.

Address: Reichstagufer 17, 10117 Berlin
Website: The Tränenpalast

The White Crosses in Berlin

80 | The White Crosses

This memorial for some of the known victims of the Berlin Wall, is one of two in this area and can be found a short walk from the German parliament and the Brandenburg Gate – close to the line where the Wall once ran through the city. The other is on the bank of the river Spree.

Although it does not document the names of all of the 140 people who fell victim to the East German government policy of securing its border with concrete and bullets – some of the more well-known victims, such as Chris Gueffroy, Ida Siekmann, and Günter Litfin feature. There is also a cross dedicated to the victims of the 1953 Uprising and the violent response from the Soviet and East German authorities.

Address: Ebertstrasse, 10117 Berlin
Website: None

The Deserted Room on Koppenplatz

81 | The Deserted Room

The home has no walls. The chair has fallen. The residents have disappeared. This bronze memorial on Koppenplatz, entitled ‘The Deserted Room’ is dedicated to the victims of the Nazi Reichskristallnacht attacks (known in German as the November Pogrom). Commissioned by the East German government in 1988, it was only later added to this former Jewish neighbourhood in 1996 – evocative of the tragic scenes that occured in the homes in the area during National Socialist rule.

Fused around the base of the memorial is a poem from German-Jewish writer, Nelly Sachs, which begins: “…O die Wohnungen des Todes, (Oh the houses of death)… 

Address: Koppenplatz, 10115 Berlin
Website: None

The Numbered Trees in Berlin

82 | The Numbered Trees

The Berlin government’s act of counting and numbering the city’s tree population certainly does little to counter the pervasive German stereotype of pedantic behaviour and tendency to indulge in unnecessary bureaucracy. Around one third of Berlin is made up of parkland and greenery – with more than 430,000 counted trees.

Make sure to check the tree trunks as you pass by – and you’ll notice little blue or white signs featuring a number. Although these do little to explain anything about the trees, there area over fifty different species lining Berlin’s streets, with the five most common being linden, maple, oak, plane and chestnut.

Address: Various Locations
Website: The Berlin government site

Willi Lamperts Memorial to the Deported Jews

83 | Willi Lammert's Memorial

Persecuted by the Nazis as a ‘degenerate artist’ and deported to Siberia by the Soviet authorities – only to be released as a ‘special exile in perpetuity’ – Willi Lammert eventually settled in East Germany to work as a sculptor and dedicate himself to memorialising the victims of the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, near Berlin.

His most celebrated work being the ‘Pietà of Ravensbrück’ overlooking the Schwedtsee next to the  camp. This piece, commemorating the Jewish victims of National Socialism, was originally intended for exhibition at the camp memorial but now sits outside the former Jewish cemetery in Berlin’s central Mitte district.

Address: Große Hamburger Strasse 25, 10115 Berlin
Website: The Jewish Cemetery

The Table Tennis Table in Berlin

84 | The Table Tennis Table

Believe it or not, Berlin is widely considered the capital of hobby table tennis. If in doubt, try visiting any of the recreational areas dotted across the city. You’ll find the city is full of these sturdy concrete tables – more than 1000 of them – often covered in graffiti and bird poop, where it is not uncommon to see Berliners swatting at a ball and swigging cheap beer in the summer sun.

This kind of recreation was particularly popular in what was East Berlin – perhaps due to the low cost investment needed to attain maximum fun – whereby once you have acquired the necessary tools (bats and ball), all you need is to find an empty table.

Address: Various Locations
Website: The Ping Pong Map

The Potsdam Conference Table

85 | Potsdam Conference Table

When Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill, the leaders of the Big Three nations to have collectively defeated Nazi Germany, met for the final time in 1945 – the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam would serve as the venue for their first, and last, post-war plenary sessions. Completed in 1917, it was the last of the palaces built for the German royal family, in a distinctive Tudor style. 

It was chosen for the Potsdam Conference not only for the security it offered, surrounded as it is by plenty of open land, but also the configuration of the interior – with its main meeting room with three entrances for the Big Three leaders – to sit around a purpose-built round table as equals. 

Address: Im Neuen Garten, 14469 Potsdam
Website: Schloss Cecilienhof

The Potsdamer Platz Sony Centre

86 | Mount Fuji

A less than subtle nod to the homeland of the company responsible for the construction of this corner of Potsdamer Platz in the 1990s, the top of the Sony Center is capped with this huge glass and steel roof designed to resemble the summit of Mount Fuji. The area below is a plaza centred around a water feature; best experienced at night when the fan-shaped tented roof acts as the illuminated cherry on top of the whole Potsdamer Platz ensemble. 

Although Mount Fuji is considered holy in Japanese culture, as the residence of the Kami (divinities) – the structure proved no lucky charm for Sony, who incurred a substantial loss when the area was sold in 2008.

Address: Potsdamer Straße 4, 10785 Berlin
Website: Sony Center

The Panzerdenkmal

87 | The Panzerdenkmal

Driving into what was West Berlin from former East Germany, through the old Checkpoint Bravo border crossing, you will now encounter this strange art installation featuring a pale pink snow loader pointing into the sky, high on top of a pedestal. 

For much of the Cold War period there was a Soviet T-34 tank mounted on this concrete spike, facing into the US sector of Berlin, and said to serve as a war memorial for the Soviet soldiers who had fallen in the Battle of Berlin. This was replaced in 1992 by the pink snow loader – perhaps as a comical reference to the recently ended Cold War – and that it was finally time to shovel away the chilly antagonism?

Address: Neubauernsiedlung 5, 14532 Kleinmachnow
Website: Checkpoint Bravo

The Sachsenhausen Arbeit Macht Frei Gate

88 | The Sachsenhausen Gate

Prisoners force marched into the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, between 1936 and 1945, would be confronted daily with this infamous lettering – Arbeit Macht Frei (Work makes one free) at the camp’s main Tower A entrance. While the exact meaning of the phrase is still debated by historians and survivors to this day; it served as an added humiliation to the unforgiving and brutal reality of the camp. 

The sign now stands preserved to offer visitors the chance to not only enter the camp memorial through this gate, and pass this insulting slogan, but experience what thousands of prisoners were denied – the opportunity to leave the camp and return to life and normality without the burden of brutality and degradation. 

Address: Strasse der Nationen 22, 16515 Oranienburg
Website: Sachsenhausen Memorial

The Molecule Man

89 | The Molecule Man

These three 30-metre high aluminium figures  on the river Spree have no doubt confused plenty of visitors to the city. Created by American artist, Jonathan Borofsky, this 45 tonne art work is actually positioned to illustrate the intersection of three Berlin neighbourhoods – Kreuzberg to the south, Friedrichshain to the north, and Treptow to the east – the holes represent “the molecules of all human beings coming together to create our existence.” 

Borofsky has other Molecule Men elsewhere, although this is the largest – with the figures actually modelled from a Sports Illustrated photo depicting two college basketball players congratulating each other, having won the NIT basketball tournament.

Address: An den Treptowers 1, 12435 Berlin
Website: The Berlin Government site

The Martin Gropius Bau and Statues in front

90 | The Mutilated Statues

Keeping with the theme of the Martin Gropius Bau as a venue for arts, designed by Martin Gropius (great uncle of Walter Gropius, the ‘founding father’ of the Bauhaus movement), these two statues on the northern side of the building depict two famous German artists –  Peter Vischer the Elder (left) and Hans Holbein the Younger (right). 

Extensively damaged during the Second World War, likely either by the Anglo-American air raids or trophy hunting Soviet soldiers, they are preserved in-situ in their mutilated form. Damaged statues remain a common sight throughout the city, although these two are particularly prominent and often encountered due to their location.

Address: Niederkirchnerstraße 7, 10963 Berlin
Website: Martin Gropius Bau

The Berliner Weisse at Brauhaus Lemke

91 | The Berliner Weisse

A distinctly Berlin phenomenon, the Berliner Weissbier is said to have been referred to by Napoleon’s occupying troops in the 1800s as the ‘Champage of the North’. A top-fermented beer that is brewed with a large proportion of wheat malt, it is typically served with a syrupy shot of woodruff  or raspberry. 

Although some Berlin breweries, such as Brauhaus Lemke, have awardwinning naturally flavoured versions that omit the sugary shot in preference for more ‘authentic’ ingredients. Regardless of the ingredients, the short stubby glass is always the same – and if you want to indulge in true Berlin style, you’ll drink it through a small straw.

Address: Dircksenstraße 143, 10178 Berlin
Website: Brauhaus Lemke

The Eiffel Tower in Berlin

92 | The Eiffel Tower

Little remains in Berlin as evidence of the French occupation of roughly one quarter of the city (the districts of Wedding and Reinickendorf) during the Cold War period – with the major exception of Tegel Airport! 

This easily identifiable faux-landmark sits outside the Centre Français de Berlin, which was inaugurated, in 1961, as a cultural centre run by the French allied forces in the city. Surprisingly the Berlin Eiffel Tower is a poor reproduction of the original – with the intersection of the four pillars on the second floor being inaccurate – truly a poor representation of one of France’s great cultural icons on the site of the French cultural exchange. 

Address: Müllerstraße 74, 13349 Berlin
Website: Centre Français de Berlin

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

93 | Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

As an official advisor to George Washington, Prussian Officer Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben helped to reorganise and  revolutionise the fighting tactics of the Continental Army during the War of Independence – many historians also consider von Steuben to have been one of early America’s most open LGBT figures. 

Von Steuben had served as Prussian King Frederick the Great’s personal aide before joining the American revolutionary forces on the recommendation of Benjamin Franklin – rising to the rank of Inspector General. For his support he is now suitably honoured with this statue a short distance from the current US embassy – similar to the one to be found in Washington DC.

Address: Clayallee, 14195 Berlin
Website: None

The Coca Cola Building in Berlin

94 | The Coca Cola Plattenbau

These towering prefabricated Plattenbau apartment blocks – peak Socialist housing – can still be found dotted across the eastern part of Berlin. Concrete monuments to central planning – with their distinctly drab East German flair. Although previously highly desirable in East Germany, these residential blocks have fallen out of favour with many Berliners. 

Above the Spittelmarkt train station, along the busy Leipzigerstrasse thoroughfare, you can find a prime example of this type of architecture, now fittingly topped with a huge Coca Cola sign – fusing the cliches of capitalism and communism in one location. Pure ideology.

Address: Seydelstraße 37, 10117 Berlin
Website: None

The Alone in Berlin house

95 | Alone In Berlin

The real life inspiration for Hans Fallada’s 1947 novel Jeder stirbt für sich allein (Alone in Berlin), the working-class Hampel couple lived at this address in Berlin Wedding – now commemorated by a porcelain plaque. After the death of their son in France, the couple began engaging in acts of civil disobedience, distrubuting postcards urging resistance before being discovered by the Nazi regime and executed. 

Italian writer and Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi, famously described Fallada’s work as the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis. When an English translation was finally released in 2009, it became a runaway bestseller.

Address: Amsterdamer Straße 10, 13347 Berlin
Website: None

The Kunstautomat

96 | The Art Automat

There is no shortage of art in Berlin, whether it be in galleries or on the streets – thanks to the kind of people the city attracts, and the notoriously cheap rents over the last 30 years (even if that has now changed). 

This funky Art Automat (Wunst Kunst) can be found in a courtyard near the Hackescher Markt, dispensing original works in exchange for a small handful of coins. Although seemingly unique, this concept has proven so popular that there are now a number of different versions of the art automat dotted across the city. This box is tucked away in a small passageway leading to the Otto Weidt Workshop museum, and the Haus Schwarzberg.

Address: Rosenthaler Strasse 39, 10178 Berlin
Website: Wunstkunst

The Potsdamer Platz Traffic Light

97 | The Potsdamer Platz Lights

Potsdamer Platz’s reputation as the Times Square or Picadilly Circus of Berlin is largely due to the immense amount of traffic that this junction attracted at its peak in the 1920s and 30s. It came to be regarded by many as the busiest intersection in Europe: ripe for the addition of this famous five sided traffic light tower – produced by Siemens & Halske. 

Installed in 1924, they were initially operated by a solitary policeman who would sit inside the cabin, until in 1926 the tower was upgraded to become the first automatically operated traffic light system in Europe. The version that currently stands at Potsdamer Platz, however, is a replica added in 1997.

Address: Potsdamer Platz 11, 10785 Berlin
Website: Potsdamer Platz Website

The Ticket Stamping Maching in the Berlin Metro

98 | The Train Ticket Machine

Berlin’s extensive transportation network is the second largest is Europe (behind London) – and not only is it relatively fun to ride but also relatively straightforward. Purchasing a ticket is a simple as navigating through the touchscreen displays to be found at each station (also available in English) and acquiring your paper ticket from the dispenser at the bottom. 

However, don’t forget to feed the ticket into one of these validation machines before you board the train – as an unvalidated ticket can earn you a 60€ fine. This only applies to train tickets, as if you buy a bus or tram ticket on board your ride it comes automatically stamped with the departure time.

Address: Various Locations
Website: The Berlin Transporation Site

The Kindertransport Memorial at Friedrichstrasse

99 | Kindertransport Memorial

Over a period of nine months following the 1938 Reichskristallnacht attacks (the November Pogrom), thousands of predominantly Jewish children were permitted by the Nazi state to emigrate to western European countries like Great Britain – as part of a large-scale evacuation programme known now as the Kindertransport (Refugee Children’s Transport). By the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, some 10,000 children had made it to Great Britain. 

This bronze sculpture, entitled ‘Trains to life; Trains to death’ at Friedrichstrasse station is the second of five memorials designed by artist Frank Meisler – himself a Kindertransport refugee, who left Friedrichstrasse in August 1939.

Address: Georgenstraße 14, 10117 Berlin
Website: None

The Stolpersteine

100 | The Stolpersteine

Personalising a genocide whereby millions of people lost their lives is an important, and effective, way of remembering those who were murdered. Thousands of these bronze Stolpersteine (Stumbling Stones) can be found across Europe, listing the names and dates of birth, and often dates of death, of people who fell victim to the National Socialist regime. 

These three commorate a mother, father, and young daughter – the daughter who was deported to Auschwitz and the two parents who faced with the extent of this tragedy preferred instead to take their own lives. They can be found on the pavement in front of the site of the magic shop the family once owned.

Address: Friedrichstrasse 55, 10117 Berlin
Website: The Stolpersteine Site

The Ampelmann

101 | The Ampelmann

In the feverish days of the early 1990s many remnants of the East German era were erased, demolished, or intentionally neglected. The Ampelmann is a rare survival story. East Germany’s unique traffic light man – who remains a popular and celebrated object in the Berlin cityscape. 

This cult icon is still a relatively good indicator of which side of divided Cold War Berlin you would have once found yourself – as the Western part of the city had the more generic figures that largely still grace that side today. Copyrighted and trademark in the 90s, the Ampelmann is now available in souvenir shops – on coffee mugs,  t-shirts, and in gummi bear form.

Address: Various Locations
Website: The Ampelmann Store

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