Did you know that Berlin is home to as many as 11,000 different bee colonies comprising some 500 million honeybees (mostly two sorts: Carnica and Buckfast)?

Over 1,200 Imker or bee-keepers registered in the Berliner Imkerverbund (Berlin Bee-keeping Federation) belong to one of the 16 Berlin bee-keepers’ associations working to protect and raise the number of those invaluable insects in the city.

As of 2011 the official campaign “Berlin Summt!” (Berlin Humms) puts bee-hives on top of prominent buildings in the capital. You will find them, among others, on top of the Berliner Dom and on the Berliner Abgeordnetenhaus, as well as on the roof of the Auferstehungskirche in Friedrichshain (famous as the meeting point for the DDR opposition in the 1980s) as well as on top of the German Museum of Technology in Berlin-Kreuzberg and in Tempelhofer Feld. As of 2015 a swarm of 250,000 occupies a very central and not exactly quiet location, Alexanderplatz.

Their produce is sold through the Berliner Senat as “Berlin Summt!” honey, offered in jars filled with liquid gold and with labels indicating the exact location of the beehive whose residents kindly provided the delicacy.

If you visit the Berlin Summt! web page, especially today on World Bee Day, you can learn things about bees that might come as a surprise. For instance, that you would need to have a long breath to keep up with a honeybee. In flight, they reach they a highly impressive speed of 30 km/h. Not to mention that fact that they can flap their tiny wings between 200 and 230-250 times per second…

The biggest Berlin Imkerei (bee-keeping facility) in the 1930s stood, by the way, on the roof of the historic Berliner Landtag – the state parliament – in what used to be known as Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, and was home to over one million bees inhabiting twelve large bee-hives. The Berlin Parliament returned to the building in 1993 – by then in Niederkirchnerstraße as the name Prinz-Albrecht-Straße was dropped in 1951 – and is known as Berliner Abgeordnetenhaus today (Abgeordneter stands for an MP). Some 50,000 bees followed the MPs in early 2011 and have been humming over their heads ever since.

honeybee in berlin
Bee-keeper on the roof of the Berliner Landtag in the 1930s (Columbiahaus at Potsdamer Platz in the background).

One and a half years after the publication of my “Berlin Companion” I am very happy and proud to introduce Part II of the collection of fascinating tales, facts and anecdotes from Berlin’s past and present – “Notmsparker’s Second Berlin Companion”.

Both books, including the e-book version of the first “Berlin Companion”, are available through berlinarium.bigcartel.com (shipping costs for Germany are 1.00 Euro, for the rest of the world 3.70 Euro). If you like to learn new unexpected things about Germany’s capital, things you didn’t even know you wanted to know, then this one is definitely for you:-)

 

 

 

Berlin of the 1980s was a magnet attracting new people, new bands, new artists. The city’s imperfection, its messiness, its open ends juxtaposed against the ultimate barrier, the Wall, running through it, created a perfect breeding ground for all those who thought precious little of elegant white fences and “norms and regulations”.

One of the then new arrivals was a British band, Depeche Mode.  They found here both perfect music-making and recording conditions (at the legendary Hansa Studios in Köthener Straße in Kreuzberg) as well as an enthusiastic, devoted audience.

Not only in West Berlin or West Germany – Depeche Mode won the hearts of many, many East Berlin and East German fans. The same happened in Poland – something to which the author was herself a witness and active participant: I discovered Depeche Mode as a 14-year-old in the People’s Republic of Poland and remain one until today, as a citizen of the German Federal Republic.

Depeche Mode are frequent guests in Berlin and their concerts are sold out every single time. But what was it like back in the 1980s, in the DDR? It wasn’t, in fact, any different: the band were worshipped on both sides of the divide. But for those on its eastern side March 7th 1988 was what many still describe as “the most beautiful day of their life”. This short video – an extract from a longer documentary which is absolutely worth watching if found online – explains why. So does the book by Sascha Lange and Dennis Burmeister, two long-time Depeche Mode devotees.

You will also enjoy the author’s favourite early Depeche Mode video recorded in Berlin in the early 1980s and featuring among others, the U1 viaduct along Gitschiner Straße and Wassertorplatz in Kreuzberg, the Wannsee lido and Hansaviertel in Tiergarten: “Everything Counts”.

Spittelmarkt seen from Leipziger Straße in 1904.

Spittelmarkt, once a central Berlin plaza in the borough of Mitte and today one of the most non-descript places in the city centre.

A 1900 traffic census carried out there rendered following results: between 6 AM and 10 PM the plaza was crossed by 144,223 pedestrians and 21,237 vehicles. At the time, Berlin had 1,888,848 registered residents.

By the end of nineteenth century Spittelmarkt, named after a small hospital (Sankt Gertrauden Hospital) and a chapel built there in early fifteenth century, became one of Berlin’s busiest traffic knots. This was only possible after the 17th-century Gertraudenkirche – built after the old chapel and the “Spittal” burnt down in 1641- was demolished in 1881 and the area underwent a significant re-design.

Gertraudenkirche in 1880, a year before its demolition (photo by Hermann Rückwardt).

In the 1920s another refurbishment followed and approximately a quarter of the century later, after May 1945, Spittelmarkt lay in ruins. Built anew by the East Berlin authorities in the 1970s, it reflected the then “modern” approach to architecture and urban planning. It virtually vanished again, overridden by the expanded traffic lanes as well as overwhelmed by the monstrous concrete high-rises erected around and partly on it.

Spittelmarkt in the 1920s (photographer unknown, PD).

The two map images – sections of a 1910 and a current Google-Map – featured below strongly reflect that change. The western entrance to the 1908 U-Bhf “Spittelmarkt” marked on both of them will help you locate the former within the latter.