Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chamisso Platz, won't you come out to play?

When I was in high school, I had a pen pal from Berlin. I remember writing her and saying it must be great to live in a place with so many old buildings. In the town where I grew up in California there were two old farmhouses just over a hundred years old which everyone considered ancient. I liked the idea that in Europe, everything was hundreds, sometimes even thousands of years old.

But my pen pal's answer disappointed me. She to
ld me Berlin didn't have that many old buildings. A lot of them were new. And it's true. So much of Berlin was destroyed during the war. They built up a lot of new buildings in the 50s, some of which were ok, and more in the 70s, all of which are atrocious. Something really went wrong style wise in the 70s. Berlin had a lot of money, so they paid people to do things like knock down the "old fashioned" plaster ceiling ornaments or plank the walls with dark wood so that you truly have the feeling you're living in a boot. In the coal oven apartment where I lived a previous tenant had resurfaced the old doors. In Altbau (mid 19th century)apartments the doors look like this:

But, again in the 70s, it was popular to put plywood over them and an steel door knob so that they would look fresh and modern (i.e. ugly). Most of the buildings in my neighborhood are the old Altbau, but they often have a gray stucco surface, either because they didn't invest in restoring them after the war or some idiot in the 70s thought it looked better that way and got a government grant to get the job done....

Chamisso Platz is different. So many gorgeous buildings with art nouveau fronts and wrought iron balconies. More Paris than Berlin really. My husband has lived in this neighborhood for over ten years and he said that it used to be really easy to get an apartment there but now it's nearly impossible. There is a really great playground right on the square. Before our eldest daughter was born my husband and I landed there one day on accident. We wandered around the swing sets and rose bushes, surrounded by boisterous children and both were freaked out with the realisation that this would soon be our world. But I have long accepted my fate and embraced it. Besides, it really is a lovely place with all of those gorgeous buildings surrounding it. On Saturday, while Jasper played with Mia in the sandbox, I took some shots of Baby Li. Chamisso Platz thank you for being so beautiful and inspiring!


Mark Kerstetter said...

Sad the way people ruin old buildings. Here in St. Petersburg, before the economic bust, there was a demolition frenzy, but even before that people did awful things, like enclose their beautiful front porches, etc.

Schaufenster said...

I agree. Sometimes people can be so blind to beauty....Usually someone realizes it later, but by then it's too late.


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