one day at a time

day 117: Karl Marx Buchhandlung

Karl Marx Buchhandlung © Verena Fischer 2011

Karl Marx Buchhandlung © Verena Fischer 2011

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.


11 responses

  1. Very interesting post. Your experiences paint a clear image for me that is reinforced by your photo. It’s an experience outside my own. Intriguing. Thank you.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    • Thanks Elena 🙂 it’s strange how different lives can be, even within Europe. That’s part of the reason why I’m sharing this 🙂

      December 9, 2011 at 9:23 am

  2. I think you are living in a place which allows you to travel in the time. Past, present and a little future are all in Berlin. Interesting post, I liked to read it, grazie

    December 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    • Thanks Robert! Indeed, Berlin has much to offer. Most of the really old buildings are gone now or reconstructed, so you always have a bit of present in the past experiences here. Same goes for the future, since it can only be futuristic architecture made in the present. If you think about it, most soviet architecture was leaning towards the brave new world, also the tv tower. Then it gets even more confusing: It’s the vision of the future made in the past …

      December 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

  3. This is a very interesting post. I love learning about different regions and towns of the world. Thanks for sharing Verena!

    December 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    • Thanks David, I like that too and that’s also why I’m sharing it here 🙂

      December 9, 2011 at 9:27 am

  4. So you took a literal step back in time… good to remember the past and look at today.

    December 7, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    • Precisely, it’s indeed good to evaluate the present with the past in mind. In that case I’m pretty well off now 🙂

      December 9, 2011 at 9:29 am

  5. Another one of my favorites, Ms. F…
    I really like all the lines…
    and (especially after reading your post), those distant figures seem dwarfed by the mass of the buildings, the gray skies, bare trees and almost eerily empty feel of the space…
    AND the contrasting contemporary feel of the TV tower in the background…
    I LOVE it!

    December 8, 2011 at 9:11 pm

  6. Thanks spilledinkguy, I’m glad you say this, because that was precisely what I was going for! Although, it’s a little crazy that the TV tower stands for something contemporary when it isn’t really a contemporary structure. It was built in the 60’s and it’s such a piece of this futuristic sort of soviet architecture.

    December 9, 2011 at 9:34 am

  7. I really like this photo…says so much…the black and white is perfect…thanks for sharing 😉

    December 11, 2011 at 10:45 pm

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