Life at Central Berlin – The Best of Daphne Damiaans

The historic architectural ensemble at Strausberger Platz has been the home for our blog author Daphne after winning the Central Berlin Apartment Lottery in 2015.

The conditions of participation:
“It’s taken for granted that you’re a fan of Berlin, and that you’d love to live here. So, tell us why Strausberger Platz is where you belong. What qualifies you? What talents do you bring? What do you normally do in life? We want to be sure that, like Berlin, you are dynamic, creative, unconventional, communicative, networked and cosmopolitan.”

The prize:
Living rent-free for one year in the heart of Berlin.

27-year-old Daphne Damiaans from Haarlem won our lottery and in the end it has been two years, that she was living rent-free at Strausberger Platz – blogging about her life in Berlin. In her posts, she shares her impressions and experiences as well as the fruits of her research into East German history, architecture and culture.

Read on for a ‘Best of’ compilation of Daphne’s 10 most popular posts, which you have shared, clicked, liked and commented the most!

1. When Dreams Come True…

No ‘Best of’ compilation would be complete without the very first blog post Daphne wrote for Central Berlin, in which she talks about how her fascination with all things GDR started – and how she couldn’t believe her luck when she learnt she’d won the competition. Of course, she also shares some first impressions, first thoughts and first experiences.

When dreams come true…

2. Lenin is Back – But Not at Leninplatz

Platz der Vereinten Nationen, as it is known today, is a fairly unimpressive location on the edge of Volkspark Friedrichshain not far from Strausberger Platz. Not too long ago, though, there was a famous granite statue of Lenin in this very spot.
In her post from 18 September 2015, Daphne retraces the square’s history and discovers what happened to Lenin post-reunification.

Lenin is back – but not at Leninplatz

3. How Karl-Marx-Allee Lost Its Only Hotel 

There are plenty of hotels in Berlin – on large squares and small side streets, in high-rise blocks and pre-war buildings. Karl-Marx-Allee might well be the capital’s only street without a hotel. How come? Well, once upon a time there used to be a very famous hotel here…
Read Daphne’s blog post to find out what happened, why the only hotel on Karl-Marx-Allee disappeared – and where to stay instead.

How Karl-Marx-Allee lost its only hotel (but you can’t tell)

4. A Paradise for Children in East Berlin

Christmas is the most beautiful time of the year for children – including children in socialist East Germany. The East German regime took the well-being of children seriously and created a number of special institutions such as the ‘Haus des Kindes’ department store on Strausberger Platz, which offered all manners of gifts and treats for the country’s youngest citizens: a great place for parents to go Christmas shopping!
In her blog post, Daphne tells the story of how the ‘Haus des Kindes’ was created and what made it so special – not least the fact that adults were only allowed on the building’s top floors when accompanied by a child…

A paradise for children in East Berlin

5. Frohe Weihnachten! (and from the GDR, too)

Christmas in Germany is quite different from Christmas in the Netherlands, as Daphne discovered during her first advent in Berlin. She is also interested to find out more about how Christmas was celebrated in the GDR. Did East Germans have Christmas markets, Christmas trees and advent calendars? Did they bake special teatime treats during the advent season?
Read Daphne’s blog to find out more about Christmas in socialist East Germany and about her own first Christmas in Berlin.

Frohe Weihnachten! (and from the GDR, too)

6. Exploring the GDR’s Ruins

Berlin is a unique city with a unique history. The socialist era and the Wall that divided the city are a part of its history that, though long past, has left visible traces in its buildings and architecture. Many of these have fallen into neglect in the wake of reunification.
Join Daphne as she takes an exciting tour of the ruins of former East Germany.

Exploring the GDR’s Ruins

7. Happy Birthday, Germany!

Since 1990, the Day of German Unity on 3 October marks the anniversary of German reunification. But before the two separate states were officially reunited as one country, the GDR and the FRG each used to celebrate its own national holiday.
Read Daphne’s blog post to find out more about national holiday celebrations in socialist East Germany.

Happy birthday, Germany!

8. Time Travel in Berlin: Back to the 20s, 50s and 70s

Berlin has always been a global city and a hub of new trends in culture, architecture, music and fashion. In her blog post, Daphne offers a guided tour through different decades of the 20th century – and you won’t even need a time machine to take it!

Time Travel in Berlin: Back to the 20s, 50s and 70s

9. The Perfect Berlin Day for GDR Lovers

Berlin can be quite overwhelming for tourists and new residents. There’s just so much to see and do! Daphne comes to the rescue with her one-day programme of GDR highlights – for history buffs and anybody with an interest in life under the socialist regime.

The Perfect Berlin Day for GDR Lovers

10. Goodbye Berlin – You’ve Been Wunderbar!

Of course, this ‘Best of’ compilation would not be complete without Daphne’s final good-bye to Berlin. After the rent-free year she’d won in the Central Berlin Apartment Lottery was over, Daphne extended her stay at Strausberger Platz by another 12 months before returning to the Netherlands in June of this year to embark on new projects. Her final blog post takes stock of the past two years in a heart-felt declaration of love to the city that welcomed her with open arms and soon came to feel like home.

Goodbye Berlin – You’ve Been Wunderbar!