Tram ride to evil

tram2The M13 tram snakes its way from Warschauerstrasse station through the uninspiring suburb of Lichtenberg. There are no signs for the Stasi Museum when you get off at the town hall. We had to ask directions in a bakery, and had almost given up when I spotted the modest sign.

The headquarters of the Stasi secret police – now a museum – is in a dull office block at the back of a medical centre where old folks have their knees and hips fixed.

The interior of the museum seems fixed in time, expect that the spookiness is tempered by the almost apologetic air of the staff – are they volunteers, perhaps? There’s no fancy till or flash tickets. In the café, a kindly lady serves filter coffee and marble cake as if at a church craft market.

In the entrance is a Stasi prison van, a people mover containing tiny cells, each with a hook for the prisoner to hang their jacket. Banal detail seems to have been the hallmark of the Stasi.

The middle floor comprises the offices of Stasi boss Erich Mielke and his senior staff, all fitted out in blonde timber and woolly seated chairs. The office technology looks dated even for 1989, when the Stasi was disbanded; it reminded me of the huge vanished wood radiograms I was proudly shown in Moscow in 1974.

The last exhibit we saw before walking back to the tram was a file card with a sketch showing how the monstrous Erich Mielke’s breakfast egg and coffee were to be set out each morning at his desk.


Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

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Shoes under a bridge, Kreuzberg

shoes under bridge 3We took a river trip through the centre of Berlin today, and somewhere near Monbijou Park I watched a troupe of young people – puppetry students? – in black hats and white faces, following a floppy orange skeleton plodding along the river bank, controlled by long sticks manipulated by the students. There was an earnestness about the performance that I suspect might lie behind a lot of the seemingly spontaneousness art you see in Berlin.

The sponge skeleton and its disciples reminded me of our early morning walk across the quaint Oberbaumbrücke bridge, with its fairy tale towers and vaulted ceilings. The shoes hanging from the ceiling are bright and apparently new. In Australia, shoes hanging from a power line are supposed to mark a drug deal location, but are more likely the spot where a drunk had his shoes pulled off by his mates.

So what happened here? An art school assignment? A short film for a competition? Site of a spectacular drug transaction? Or did fifteen drunk people have their coloured shoes pulled off by their mates?


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Micro drama at Warschauer Strasse

warschauer strasse 2A day with Australian friends in gentle Charlottenburg: Saturday morning market, asparagus in season, cake, coffee, a walk to the Schloss, wine and chat in their flat.

When we leave for home, police are massed at the S-Bahn watching the soccer supporters disembark. We take the train east, and at Warschauer Strasse station the evening hordes are streaming over the bridge to the clubs and bars in gritty Friedrichshain.

London voices behind us, a girl and boy:

“Laura said she’d love her dog as much as her child.”

“She really said that?”

“Yeah.  And Ben said he’d love his dog as much as his child.”


“Yeah, Ben said that.”

“That’s so f*cked up.”


Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

The Play’s the Thing


Late afternoon drinks in Friedrichshain, Berlin

friedrichshainThe last of the sun glints through the lime tree canopy and lights up the straw-coloured Riesling in our glasses. There’s a parade past our bench on the cobblestones of Simon-Dach Strasse – a procession of defiantly liberal weirdness, no two people alike, as if each person belongs to their own tribe: A nut brown man in an Alpine hat and peculiar shorts, girls in meticulously studied scruffiness, an elaborately tattooed man in a short sleeved linen shirt with suit lapels, an angular faced woman, pale and wearing clownish tights. Tipsy on our Riesling, we wonder if the defiance of authority here – the graffiti, the public urinating, the ostentatious beer drinking on the trains – is a reaction to the city’s past oppressions. But what do we know?

Yesterday on a train I eavesdropped on two American boys, hotel management students, cranking up their campness. “I hate America,” one of them said, overdoing things a bit, perhaps wanting too hard to be a piece of Berlin.

On the way back to our flat, the same ginger bearded rapper is pounding out poetry at the Warschauer Strasse U-Bahn. It’s seven in the evening and the hordes, the tribe of tribes, flow out of the U-Bahn, pressing against us in the rush to join the parade in Simon-Dach Strasse.


Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

The Play’s the Thing



Ascension Day holiday, Berlin

From the bridge where Warschauer Strasse crosses the railway you can look back across sheet metal warehouses and flat industrial badlands to the TV Tower, the needle with the fat bobble that shoots into the air from Alexanderplatz. To thelidl 2015 east and south there are excavations, rubble sites, graffiti, bicycle graveyards: After that, the square laid streets of austere five storey apartment blocks, many framed with the scaffolding of gentrification.

It is the Ascension Day holiday, cloudy and cool. Ragged crowds pass through the knot of snack bars at the top of the steps leading down to the railway platform. A gang of youths in padded jackets block the way, drinking beer and singing along to a music player. At the U-Bahn station down the hill, a rapper with a ginger beard has attracted a small crowd of onlookers taking pictures with their phones; four or five men with pink ears and red hoodies are swigging from beer bottles as they perform a clunky dance in front of the rapper.

At the back steps of the U-Bahn lies this gaunt street, with the businesses closed for the holiday. Just past the LIDL supermarket is a Billiard Hall where they do breakfast from 6.30. It was open yesterday, very lively, with men drinking coffee and smoking on chairs outside.

Buy Stuart Campbell’s books in paperback and ebook on Amazon by clicking on these title links:

An Englishman’s Guide to Infidelity

The Play’s the Thing