April 2012


Slowly touring Berlin: looking at the architecture of East and West

Today is slow travel day, or something like that, and to celebrate I took an architectural tour of Berlin, one that compared the architecture of East and West Berlin.

Before I go a bit further, slow travel is an echo of the slow food response to fast food – in that, “encourages people to resist ‘Fast’ Travel – the frustratingly frequent habit of speeding through all the best known landmarks of a city in 24 or 48 hours – then leaving again.”

The tour was a special promotion, priced at 1€ per person, instead of the regular 65€ per person. At 1€ per person, it was a bargain – at 65€ per person, I’d buy a book.

For me the first half of the tour was repetitious of previous Berlin tours that I’ve taken: Karl-Marx-Allee and its Socialist architecture. Karl-Marx-Allee is extremely wide and, I have to confess, depressing. I wouldn’t want to live there – I wouldn’t want to live in any of the buildings built by the East German authorties.

Karl Marx Allee Details

Socialist Building

Karl Marx Allee

But funny enough, after we went to the West, to the Hansaviertel, a housing estate built after the war to showcase what Western architects could do. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, while it is visually more appealing than what one finds along Karl-Marx-Allee, I still wouldn’t want to live there.

Gropius's Building

Altonaer Strasse 4-14

4 comments to Slowly touring Berlin: looking at the architecture of East and West

  • PseudoWife

    This is the first I’ve heard of the concept “slow travel” but I love the idea. I don’t think I could do what I used to do as an undergrad touring Europe: city after city, cathedral after cathedral, hostel after hostel–it began to look oddly similar and oddly generic. I totally agree with this slow travel approach! For example, I’ll never forget our slow day in Bremen, GA–going to a seemingly unknown, under-marketed Smithsonian exhibit in the local courthouse and just strolling around the courthouse square. I think the biggest landmark we spotted was a Piggly Wiggly and that was a fabulous day!

  • koko

    Should I remember the bottom places?? I’m certain I’ve seen them but I could be making that up…as I have a very vivid imagination.

  • MT

    I know I’m getting old and cheap … I’d never pay for this at the regular cost.

  • PseduoWife – Ah… Rural Georgia — that was a great trip. I’m a fan of getting off of the beaten path (which we did) — and I think that is the essence of slow travel… Lying on the beach is also pretty slow. Amusingly, everybody on the tour (including the guide) was an expat. I was the person with the least experience with living in Berlin, at two years. I guess that I’m taking my time in touring Berlin…

    koko – Actually you’re more likely to remember the top photos, we were in that hood when we camped out at the Mexican restaurant for an hour or two. You may have been in the bottom neighborhood, but not with me. I didn’t even know the neighborhood really existed until Sunday!

    MT – You’re not old and cheap, you’re just cheap. And it wasn’t worth 65€ — but now that I’ve done it, I think I could guide a tour through the eastern part of the tour, and, if I bought a book, I could do the western part as well.