With some places it’s just a feeling. The Bahnhof Zoo has always been an icon for Berlin, the former center of the West. Nowadays I hardly ever get as far as Charlottenburg, and I try to avoid crowded places and shopping destinations (I tend to like my life stress-free. Plenty of tourists and the typical pre–Christmas craze are definitely on the bottom of the obligatory to-do list).
And yet, although I’ve been living in Berlin for more than four years, the areas around the Zoo and Ku’Damm remain sacred and unknown to me. Visiting the “other side” tricks the soul into believing we’re now in an entirely different world, although the Zoo is merely a twenty minute bus ride away from my doorstep.
But oh, whatever I remembered from my last visit, the Zoo and surrounding areas are subjected to change. What’s this Bikini Berlin super-mall type construction site? Why have they torn down the magnificent Zoopalast Kino? Where the hell did the Waldorf-Astoria come from? What’s with all the new sites on Ku’Damm, those stores? The beauty of Charlottenburg, combined with the cultural heritage of the typical “Western architecture” of the 70s and the reforms that are taking place now are worth a visit just for the visual input.
Where Berlin feels small in size it’s the City-West that can bring back the feeling of a global metropolis. Although still rather tiny in comparison to other large cities, here is where the commercial heart beats. Shops, people, large streets, horrible traffic, neon-lights and ads everywhere. The stark contrast between this Berlin and the East is interesting as it is, but I’m quite sad to see so many landmarks vanish with the times.
Hence I promised myself I’ll take my camera out on a little City-West exploration adventure over the next couple of weeks. Every week I’ll try to capture certain areas and find new things that I’ve completely missed out so far. I’ll start out with the Bahnhof itself, with the majority of the pictures coming from Andreas. He happened to be strolling around the Zoo on Saturday, too. His motives really capture the essence of the train station itself, and justly so: what a history this train station had to endure.
Everyone probably remembers the now classic novel and movie “Christiane F. — Die Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo”. I would guess that there’s a gloomy attitude to the place that still derives from the popcultural influences this story of a young heroin addict had. What was once an exciting myth, sticking to Berlin with an immensely strong glue, is now just another railway station. What is the Bahnhof Zoo today? Just a landmark for nostalgia?
The Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten was once the only long-distance railway line between Berlin-West and the rest of Germany. Needless to say, this is how it became so culturally relevant. It was the arteria of the Berlins body, pumping people — and with those people came influences and substantial changes — through the rest of the city. The wall fell and the city center was to be logically re-instated in the actual center of the city, which led to the establishment of todays Hauptbahnhof in 2006. I remember the first time arriving in Berlin being picked up at Zoo. I remember by the time I moved to Berlin in 2008, there was absolutely no reason to ever go back again.
I wonder if all the restauration projects around the Zoo will manage to change the fading reputation of the station. For now, the Bahnhof Zoo is probably nothing more than a functional space, surrounded by retail, restaurants and large streets, with an old and soon forgotten story.