The largest city in Germany, Berlin is known for its thriving art scene. There are also no shortage of crafty shops, inspiring open-air markets, and creative cafes. Get on a bike in your mind and join us as we visit 9 stops.
By Tramaine de Senna
I will repeat a common cliché over here: Berlin is the most un-German of German cities. It is beautiful. Really. The mixture of languages and people is stunning, and once judgments are let go, you can really feel like a worlds citizen in this city. The public transportation, although pricey, is wide-ranging and interconnected, although I would suggest getting around on a bike to understand the landscape (and to work off that schnitzel, schpaetzle, and beer.) Bicyclists have the right of way on the road, which is made obvious with the attention and respect motorists give bicyclists. There are happy dogs sans leashes, happy babies in strollers or being carried by house-husbands, happy elderly people on bikes, and happy drunks freely drinking in parks! Because winter is so dark and cold, the spring, summer, and early fall months are greatly appreciated for their light and extended daylight hours. On Sundays, expect to find all of the city parks and green spaces filled with families and groups grilling and picnicking. There is a great feeling of humanity and compassion, and a freeness that allows for inspiration. There arent really any must hang-outs spots every place is one. You will find a great café, bar, delicatessen, bike shop, museum, Turkish Doener Kebab restaurant, or makeshift subterranean dance club at any hour on any block except for Sundays. On Sundays, as in most cities in Europe, establishments are closed.
Its name a reference to Le Corbusiers term of transferring proportions of the human body onto buildings, Modulor offers a unique and comprehensive inventory of materials for those shaping the world, namely all makers and crafters. Founded over 20 years ago, Modulor specializes in model-making materials for architects and students. Modulor goes beyond by carrying 20,407 materials and products, everything from wood, textiles, metals, adhesives, mold-making chemicals, painting/drafting supplies, pigments, lighting systems, specialty furniture (clients include Zaha Hadid, Brad Pitt, Renzo Piano, and Frank Gehry), and, yes, craft supplies too! On my first visit to this supply store, I was delighted to see that they carried MAKE magazine, dedicating an entire horizontal shelf for those interested!
Andreas Krueger, a managing partner at Modulor, was very kind to meet up with me to discuss Modulors role in the DIY movement. Though hes a native German, Krueger received a degree in Architecture from University of Califoria, Berkeley. In conversation, he referenced Richard Sennetts book The Craftsman (or Hendwerk auf Deutsch), expressing the importance of creating with ones hands, an essential need in becoming human. In addition to being a supplier, Andreas expressed Modulors future plans of opening a 7,000-square-meter building in 2011, devoted to helping makers realize their work. Tentatively, it will be called The Center for Creative Professional, where tools, machinery, and spaces will be made available for crafting and making. And, with the latest stats from the I.C.C.A. (International Congress & Convention Association) confirming that Berlin has the highest number of convention participants in the world (from a survey spanning nine years), there is no doubt that the centrality of this proposed Kreuzberg space, like the geographical centrality of Germany in Europe, will be successful as an influence and destination.
U-Bahn: Goerlitzer Bahnhof
Fadeninsel has been owned and operated by Marita Tenberg for the past 24 years. Her store mostly carries wool, in addition to buttons, leggings, stocking, socks, hats, gloves, fair-trade felted pins, and sweaters made by her and her employees.
A kind woman, Bianca recently opened Frieda Hain in April 2009. Her collection of fabrics and childrens products are both far-reaching and regional. Biancas store features homemade pillows, totes, and throws, as well as purchased wooden bird whistles, puzzles, Pjut dishware, and childrens sleeping bags from the Netherlands. Japanese carp flags hang outside her store during business hours, while textiles from Madame Mo, Alexander Henry, and Michael Miller populate her shelves. She carries sweet provincial finds as well, such as Fischerhemd, which are typical and popular childrens naval clothes from the north of Germany. This fall, shell also carry one-size-fits-all clothing patterns for those interested in making their own creations.
(Prenzlauer Berg neighorhood)
Twinkle Twinkle is another sweet store specializing in paper/textile design as well as house and garden products. Situated in an elegant, child-friendly, and hilly Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood (Berg in Prenzlauer Berg translates to mountain and is slightly reminiscent of San Francisco in parts), the store occupies two stories. The ground floor acts as a sewing station for the shop owners, while the top floor, with architectural moldings, double doors to other spaces, and lofty high ceilings lit by a chandelier, acts as the store. They carry in-house-made baby bibs, garden flags, coat hangers, pillowcases, and small blankets. Twinkle Twinkle features an inclusive website which prepares you for the outside manufactured goods they carry, such as wallpaper scooters, cushions, bags, dishes, and the adorable and typical red and white mushroom fabricated trinkets.
Farben Kacza is more of a dreamy and technical home-repair shop. As part of a subterranean store experience, you actually step down into the store. The store features a plethora of pigments and glitter (a very difficult thing to find in Berlin, so pay attention all you Crafty Chicas!) sold by weight, in addition to house paints, wallpaper, brushes, sponges, and moldings. Its my favorite shop in Berlin, across the street from the ethereal café/bar Luzia.
Boxhagener Platz Market
Where: between Gruenberger Strasse and Krossener Strasse (parallel) and Gabriel-Max Strasse and Gaertnerstrasse
When: Saturdays (farmers market) and Sundays (flea market) (Friedrichshain neighborhood)
Twenty-something hipsters and couples with children mostly populate the markets of Boxhagener Platz. On Saturdays a farmers market is set up, serving up Carribean, bio (our equivalent of organic, but better), and local vendor foods, while on Sunday, a mixture of used East and West German goods are available. You can check out crazy selections of old records, new and used clothing, pricey vintage furniture from East Germany, and makeshift jewelry.
Turkish Farmers Market
Where: Maybachufer Strasse, along the Landwehrkanal, between Kottbusser Damm and Hobrechtstrasse
When: Tuesday and Friday afternoons, 12:00 18:00 (or sundown)
U-Bahn: Kottbusser Tor
The open-air Turkish Farmers Market runs along the Landwehrkanal, near Kottbusser Tor, on two sidewalks separated by a cobblestone road. Many times you will find a bird-like gathering of young people at one end of its entrance, listening to live music or chirping away. The Market, of course, features a plethora of Turkish goodies like fresh, affordable produce, nuts, spices, grains, olives, cheeses, pastas, fresh butchered meat, fish, hummus, shoes, clothing, perfumes, sewing-notions, fabrics, baked goods, and freshly prepared pastries. There are vendors quickly hollering greetings or deals for produce, selling cooked corn-on-the-cob for one euro, and displaying delicate arrays of silky headscarves. You can also purchase different types of fresh quark, a common dairy product over here (kind of like a very thick yogurt, but is savory or sweet and can be used to make cheesecake or even mixed with herbs as a spread on toast), with amazing assortment of flavors, such as stracciatella, forest berry, orange, and hazelnut. Mmmm!
Mauer Park Market
Where: Mauer Park, around Falkplatz, between Gleimstrasse and Eberwalder Strasse (running parallel) and Schwedter Strasse and Ystader Strasse Am Falkplatz
When: Sundays afternoons, 11:00 18:00 (or sundown)
U-Bahn: Eberswalder Strasse
Mauer Park Market is similar to the Boxhagener Platz Market but on a grander scale and with karaoke! In addition to used wares, shoes, food vendors, dishes, glasses, beer, and sand, there is also a large green space with an adjacent mini-arena where youll find the brave belching out tunes for everyone in earshot to appreciate.
U-Bahn: Kottbusser Tor
If I could shrink to the mouse-sized proportions of Alice after she ingested some magic mushrooms, to forever wander above the gilded walls of this café/bar, to peek at the inhabitants, this would be the place.
Inside Luzia, there is a certain magic in the atmosphere that goes beyond pretense and the crowd. The décor falls into the typical genre of intentional second-hand finds, yet with exceptional taste. Every facet of the space has been considered, so much so that it appears effortless. Brass details, lace-trims, chandeliers, warm bulbed-lighting, a long-sweeping undergarment-colored awning, exposed brick, rounded glass windows, pipes, golden walls, textured baroque wallpaper, and hand-painted figures on the walls are only parts of Luzias atmosphere. The color pallet of faded rose, browns, greens, and ambers commingle with the varying textures between woods and metals along with fabrics and tiny accents of an amazing peacock blue cushion, or heavy red glasses ash trays goes beyond exquisite. The staff is beautiful and relaxed and the drinks are decently priced. In the day you can absorb a relaxed mood while watching, either inside or out, tall amounts of traffic on Oranienstrasses narrow road, but at night, occasionally coupled with live music, you will find it difficult to find a seat.
It is cliché, but my photos cannot capture the atmosphere of Luzias. It was designed by someone who understood the life of the space. I have always been ambivalent towards cafes and bars until I met Luzia.
About the Author:
Tramaine de Senna is an artist with an additional background in architecture. As a materialist, she is interested in the duality and transformation of subject and media. Through an understanding of the material world, a sensual yet unpretentious body emerges, revealing an aesthetic of a commonplace beauty as seen in ritual, display and decor. Tramaine currently resides in California. You can find out more about her on her web site: sites.google.com/site/tramainedesenna.