Last night #RBB (Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg) – for obvious reasons our favourite German TV station – treated its viewers to another episode of its highly appreciated documentary series Geheimnisvolle Orte (Secret, or Mysterious, Places).

This time it is all about the KaDeWe: since its opening in 1907 Berlin´s Kaufhaus des Westens (the Department Store of the West) remains an elegant temple of shopping, the Mecca of jet-setting keen buyers.

Adolf Jandorf and family in their villa in Tiergartenstraße, 1908 Berlin (image by R. Siebert).

Its story is a rich tapestry of anecdotes and historically significant moments. Its fate reflects that of Berlin itself almost one-to-one: the Wilhelminian show-off opulence, braggadocio and drama, the Weimar Republic “wild & wasteful” craze and sudden financial slump, the Nazi-era tragedy of the Jewish management and staff, followed by the Second World War wreckage and the resurrection; division of Berlin and the 1960s anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, anti-government student movement for whom the KaDeWe became a symbolic enemy (also because the man behind the store´s post-war resurrection, its post-war manager, held his post thanks to the 1933 Nazi process of “aryanisation” of Jewish enterprises). In 1989 the Kaufhaus des Westens was also among the most important destinations for many awe-struck East Berliners.

The RBB documentary captures all of those moments and the experts as well as the store´s management do their best to elucidate the special, almost royal, status of Schöneberg´s old shopping temple. In our humble opinion, they succeed.

The documentary is in German only, however, the precious historical film material it contains makes it worth watching even if you do not understand a word. Please click the image to enter.

KaDeWe in its opening year, 1907 (photographer unknown).

One of the best things about leaving Berlin and going on holidays is knowing that when those end, it is to Berlin that you will come back again – a sentiment just as strong today as it was 14 years ago when I first unpacked my suitcase here.

One of the best things about being back in Berlin again is being able to sit down at your desk, look at your Berlin-book collection (strategically placed next to it) and realise how many incredible, fascinating stories are still waiting to be told. And that, come what may, you will never run out of topics to write about.

But before we resume our regular service on Monday next week – we might be back but school holidays aren´t over yet and we are still engaged otherwise– let us make a proud announcement (drums and tuba in the background): our book, Notmsparker’s Berlin Companion, is now available as an e-book, too! Digital edition of one of the most surprising, most educating and fact-filled books about Berlin´s past and present – in short, everything you never even knew you wanted to know about Berlin – has been optimised for e-readers.

So before you take a guided walk of the city – armed with tonnes of enthusiasm, comfy footwear and a map of main historical sights – dive into Notmsparker´s Berlin Companion for a magnifying-glass look at the lesser-known or even forgotten facts and anecdotes from Berlin´s history and its present.

Alternatively, enjoy them after your walk: with tonnes of exciting impressions, sat in a comfy chair and with images of the places you have visited still before your eyes. Whichever you choose, your Berlin savvy will boom.