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).

Skate-Bahn West at Tempelhofer Feld, Berlin, built using the entrance stairs of East Berlin’s Palast der Republik (image © notmsparker)

Did you know that a popular skate park at the south-eastern end of Tempelhofer Feld was built using the original granite steps that led to the entrance to the Palastder Republik? The steps, made of extra hard and beautifully polished Silesian granite, were already popular with skaters in the early 1990s; they were later given as a gift from Berlin’s Senator for Urban Development to a group of skating aficionados who wanted to build a professional skate-park in Mitte.

Although the original location fell through, it was eventually constructed – partly financed by the Berlin Senate – as Skate-Bahn West on Tempelhofer Feld. In order to give it an authentic city feeling, the skate park was designed to look like the forefront of a museum.

The granite steps were not the only part of Palast der Republik to be put to new use after the original structure was demolished in 2006-2008: Burj-Khalifa in Dubai, currently the tallest structure in the world, contains most of the 25,000 tonnes of recycled Swedish steel from the East Berlin Palast. The girders were melted at a smelting plant in Saxony-Anhalt and sold both to Volkswagen – who still use it to produce their car engines – and a construction firm from Istanbul who provided the steel for the Dubai project.

The 829-metre luxury skyscraper was built around a steel frame with plenty of resistance power and with deeply socialist roots.

Find out more about the fate of East Berlin’s second favourite building (after Fernsehturm) from the first volume of “Notmsparker’s Berlin Companion” available also as an e-book via berlinarium.bigcartel.com

Early 1870s view towards Am Weidendamm and the old water canal which later became Planckstraße. (Photo: F.A. Schwartz)

Today’s photo was taken around 1870 by one of Berlin’s best visual chroniclers, F.A.Schwartz, at the time when he himself lived nearby in Friedrichstraße.

The location on the 1891 Sineck-Plan of Berlin: the canal is clearly visible between Admiralsgarten-Bad and the Artillerie-Kaserne with the depots.

The view is practically impossible to match to today’s situation: the photographer stood on the northern bank of the Spree looking towards what is today Planckstraße, a street – built as Prinz-Louis-Ferdinand-Straße, in the filled-in bed of the water canal whose mouth you see in the picture. The then popular inn, the “Hammelkopf”, is visible on the left corner of the canal’s end.

The “Hammelkopf” (Ram’s Head) inn photographed by the same artist, F.A. Schwartz, in 1888.

Both the small canal and the inn would disappear soon as the city continued its steady northbound expansion.

The same spot on the 1910 Straubeplan of Berlin, with Prinz-Louis-Ferdinand-Straße running behind the Admirals-Garten and what is today Admiralspalast.