day 117: Karl Marx Buchhandlung
If you know me a little bit you might have heard already that I’m from East Germany. To be more precise I was born in Karl-Marx-Stadt, which is now again called Chemnitz, like before the GDR existed. I grew up in the bleak grey concrete blocks built on the outskirts of this working class town in the 70’s and 80’s and I lived there until I moved away from my hometown when I was 17. Even after that I still lived in a concrete building for another 2 years, but this time in West Germany. Somehow my dad and me had located the only 2 proper blocks in the little town where he still lives. We lived in two different ones in different parts of town and I took it with irony. I had a poster on my wall saying “Zurück zum Beton” which is an old German punk song. The title means “Back to concrete”. When I finished school I finally moved into an old building in Düsseldorf. No concrete, but instead walls out of pressed red dirt into which you cannot drill small holes. They always expand and whatever you intended on fixing to the wall falls off after a while unless you’re really lucky. These places are also harder to heat since there is less insulation on them and the ceilings are higher. Often the floors are creaky and the bathrooms are usually small since they were added later. However at least these old buildings have character and in Germany they are in much better shape than most houses I’ve seen in England.
Yesterday when we were at a house viewing we suddenly ended up in an area full of concrete blocks in Friedrichshain. The area is supposed to be good, the prices are comparatively high and I was really surprised to see that the flat we were looking at was in one of those blocks. I would have expected them to have cheaper flats in them. The flat was in general not bad, but it had a view onto a grey wall and a school, and of course there is the depressing part of going home to a concrete block. The flat was basically out of question as soon as we saw the building, but we still decided to go inside and have a look. The kitchen was quite nice, the bathroom too small and it was really dark, since the next block was basically darkening the sky. We weren’t impressed. However, only two streets from there was Karl-Marx-Allee which is one of these broad avenues full of soviet architecture. The whole thing felt as if we just stumbled into the 80’s. Ezequiel really wanted to see the Karl Marx Buchhandlung, which you can see on the picture, and I can totally understand why. So, although the flat was rather depressing, taking this little trip into the past probably made the trip to the old East of Berlin worthwhile. It reminded me a bit too much of my hometown, but the surreal feeling to it was quite enjoyable. To be honest I’d love to live in one of these grande buildings right at Karl-Marx-Allee, but I suspect that they are all offices.