Germans love Christmas. Or at least Advent, since I haven’t got first-hand experience of the actual days of Christmas in Berlin yet. Advent. Most Dutch people wouldn’t even know what it is, but here in Berlin it comes with candles, calendars, special opening hours at many stores and many many more traditions. Even the communist regime in the GDR wasn’t able to take away Christmas from the Germans – and that is saying something. Here are my three steps towards becoming an Advent-pro.
Japanese restaurateur and head chef Shinji Kobayashi has some down-to-earth advice for any amateur cook keen on trying something special this Christmas: “My personal tip would be to always use fresh seasonal ingredients. Use your mind as well as your intuition when cooking!”
In November, Kobayashi was one of three chefs who demonstrated their cooking skills at three “Bel Étage Dinners” at the Bel Étage Suite, Central Berlin’s showcase apartment at Strausberger Platz.
‘Es weihnachtet sehr in Berlin’, as the Germans say. Christmas is in the air. A festive Christmas market on every square, shopping malls filled with people looking for the perfect gift or outfit and kids bouncing around hyped up on excitement and the sugar in their Christmas cookies. If you were shopping for Christmas gifts with your kids in GDR times, there was one place you and your little ones certainly wouldn’t have wanted to miss: Strausberger Platz and its famous Haus des Kindes. Truth be told: now I know about this, I feel sorry I didn’t grow up in East Berlin.
Christmas shopping at Haus des Kindes in 1960. Image courtesy of Bundesarchiv.
Twenty-five years after reunification, the impact of the divided city is still acutely noticeable. However, the construction of the Wall in 1963 wasn’t the only factor to influence divergent trends in urban planning, housing and infrastructure in the Eastern and Western parts of Berlin. In the aftermath of World War II, the response to the extensive destruction and damage caused by the war differed starkly between the two parts of Germany in general and Berlin in particular. Many parts of Berlin had to be rebuilt. Where 19th century tenement blocks had once dominated the cityscape, architects and urban planners now saw an opportunity to create a completely new urban environment. At first, their approaches radically differed in the two parts of Berlin, later there was a certain extent of stylistic convergence and consistency.