Rainy East Berlin’s boulevard, Stalinallee, captured by Rudi Ulmer in July 1957 (photo via Bundesarchiv)

“One morning you can smell autumn. It is not yet chilly; it is not windy; in fact, nothing has changed – and yet everything has. It spreads in the air like a crackle – something has happened: until now the dice held its balance, it swayed…, and… and…, and now it has rolled onto the other side. All is as it was the day before: the leaves, the trees, the bushes… and still, now everything’s different. The light is bright, gossamer threads of spider silk are floating in the air, everything has been given a new start, magic is gone, the spell has been broken – it is straight autumn from now on. How many of those have you seen? This one is one of them. The wonder lasted some four, perhaps five days, and you wished it would never ever stop. This is the time when old gentlemen get sentimental – it’s not “the last of the summer wine”, it is something else. It is an optimistic premonition of Death, a cheerful acceptance of the End. Late summer, early autumn and what lies between them. A fleeting moment in each year.”

First published by Kurt Tucholsky (as Kaspar Hauser) in “Die Weltbühne” magazine in October 1929.

A stroll on a quiet autumn day at the Neue See, a small artificial lake in the Tiergarten Park, painted by one of Berlin’s leading artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, wonderfully named Lesser Ury.

Ury is mostly known for his incredibly atmospheric paintings of rainy Berlin streets and plazas but he could clearly also master less inclement conditions. The painting, dated at some time between 1910 and 1920, is filled with cool mellow light of an autumn afternoon – light which seems to be almost radiating from the picture and as much as the calmness it presents. Happy the soul whose walls it decorates today!

Köllnische Straße (view north) around 1900 – photo by Heinrich Zille (image in public domain, here via Wikipedia)

Try searching for Köllnische Straße in Berlin today and you will be directed to Niederschöneweide in Treptow-Köpenick. But Berlin – or, to be more precise, what used to be its sister-town of Cölln – had its own Köllnische Straße, one that bore its name for almost exactly a century. Until it vanished along with the whole district it belonged to.

The Second World War and the 1960s refurbishment of Berlin’s old centre deprived the Fischerinsel – later famous for its towering 60-metre tall DDR high-rises and many prominent residents of the said buildings – of both its original architecture as well as its old street-grid. In fact, the old Marktviertel (the name “Fischerinsel” dates back to the 1950s – alternative earlier name “Fischerkietz” had not been in use before the first half of the twentieth century), a historic district at the Spree, would have most probably vanished anyway: demolition plans existed since the 1920s and would have almost certainly been executed had the Nazis come out triumphant in 1945 (keyword: Germania).

As it was, despite initial will to restore the remaining buildings after nearly 50% of the – in some cases listed – architecture had been lost, Fischerinsel was literally swept clean of the quaint but mostly dilapidated old houses and filled in with at the time so badly needed multi-storey mass-accommodation.

One of the nine streets which vanished as a result of this “update” was Köllnische Straße. Called a “street” but more of a lane, really, it connected Fischerstraße with the street An der Fischerbrücke.

1910 Straube-Plan with Köllnische Straße and the historic building frequented and painted by Heinrich Zille (on the corner of Köllnischer and Fischerstraße).

It was often photographed by Berlin’s image-chroniclers but the most famous time-witness of all must be the author of our today’s photo, artist and Berliner per excellence (one of many great locals who were not born in Berlin), Heinrich Zille.

Whether he took this photo before or after a visit at one of his favourite Berlin Kneipen is not clear – although we can probably assume that for Zille it was “work first, pleasure later” that counted as a rule – but what we know is that the said Kneipe was almost right behind his back as he was taking the picture. The famous “Zum Nussbaum” – you know it today as a popular tourist restaurant in Berlin’s Nikolaiviertel – used to stand on the corner of Köllnische Straße in Fischerstraße No. 21. The restaurant in Nikolaiviertel is its 1987 replica.

“Zum Nussbaum” captured by Waldemar Titzenthaler in 1903 (image in PD).
“Zum Nussbaum” painted by its regular, Heinrich Zille, in 1922.