Yesterday I went for a walk along Karl-Marx-Allee. I’m pretty shocked that it’s taken me this long to discover it. Perhaps my new favourite street. I’d ventured along to the International Kino before (and spent a few wonderful hours inside the most gorgeous cinema in the world) but never beyond Straussberger Platz to discover the main run of what used to be Stalinallee, that runs down to Frankfurter Tor.
This whole boulevard emerged out of what was the most flattened part of Berlin after WW2. In 1952, the new GDR devoted the stretch of road over to a 13 year construction project aimed at delivering a magnificent monument to East German power and, architecturally, the Socialist Classicism of the Soviet Union. It’s huge, over 2km long and really wide - perfect for parades, and protests.
Incredible ceramic clad high-rises bank you in. Under the thousands of apartments built ‘for the workers’ are little shopping boulevards, cafes, and a museum dedicated to computer gaming. A great cafe, that transports you back to the 60s when you enter, (Cafe Sibyle) also houses a museum to the history of the street, which you can recover from with the help of their amazing Käsekuchen and a cup of strong coffee.
The Cafe Moskau, which used to be a restaurant and unofficial playground for East Germany’s SED party elites, is now a business venue, and currently housing rails of clothing for fashion week. But my favourite detail is the sculpture of a Sputnik thrusting upwards from the corner above the entrance. During the 60s, when this building was designed and erected, the Soviets were putting the first man made satellites into orbit.
And it rewards night-time visiting, when the beautiful street lamps lend the boulevard a warm, fire-like glow.