A Summer in Berlin on Film

Posted on 5 April, 2023 by Dan Vonk


In August 2022, I spent a couple of weeks visiting the office in Berlin and decided to take my Zorki-4K camera with me. I found a couple of rolls of Kodak ColorPlus in DM, so decided to use that to capture my explorations of the city in my free-time. Although ColorPlus is known as a cheap film, I was pleased with the results and although it doesn’t have the fine detail of Kodak Portra, I think the colour reproduction is very near as good. The following blog entry describes a bit of the back-story behind these photos.

For the duration of my time in Berlin, I was staying in Pankow-Süd, just moments away from the U-Bahn station of Vinetastraße. For Berliners, this is considered to be in Narnia as it’s outside of the Ringbahn, the S-Bahn that encircles the core of the city. However, it was easy enough to walk to one of the stations on the ring and being so close to a metro station, with which I could reach the city centre in under 20 mins, was a contrast to where I live currently, in the real boonies on the very fringes of the greater London area.

The AirBnb that I was staying in was an Altbau. These are apartment buildings constructed during the Gruenderzeit, which began in 1873, with the unification of Germany and lasted till WW1. This was a time when industrialisation came into full swing in Germany, where it overtook Britain as the foremost power in Europe in this regard, as well as in science and culture. Predictably then, the buildings of this time are ornate, with almost 4M high ceilings, beautiful facades and large rooms. They are a joy to be in, especially during Summer, when natural light streams in through their large windows and one can sit on their spacious balconies and observe the goings-on in the city from above.

But back to the pictures… Due to it being a major hub for the U-Bahn, the first place I visited was Alexanderplatz, this is a large open plaza in the former eastern zone of Berlin. It was completely reconstructed after the second world war by the communist authorities and as such it’s surrounded by large, blocky brutalist buildings, which have now become department stores like Galeria Kaufhof and other mass-market shops. Although the famous TV tower is not actually on the Alex, it is one of the major attractions here. I usually think TV towers are a bit ugly, but I have to admit, I do quite like this one!

A view of the Fernsehturm near Alexanderplatz with a nice DDR mural on one of the buildings situated on Karl-Marx Allee in the foreground.
The famous Fernsehturm by Alexanderplatz

I continued my walk here on the Karl-Marx Allee. This was one of the preeminent streets of the eastern zone. It is a wide boulevard lined with large apartment buildings in the Stalinist Architecture style. This isn’t to be confused with the typical communist, brutalist style that came later but instead is intricate and almost classical in appearance. Other than that, there were also some nice Bauhaus buildings, but I’m not usually such a fan.

After a while of walking down this street, you will eventually reach Friedrichshain. Friedrichshain (and neighbouring Kreuzberg) is one of the original ‘cool’ parts of Berlin, famed for its night-life as well as being one of the old artsy centres of the city. However, nowadays it’s getting expensive and developed with many new office blocks under construction. On the day I was there, the famous flea market was on at the RAW Gelaende, which sells second-hand clothes, so you can get that trash-chic vibe that Berlin is known for. The assortment was a lot better for women’s clothes, the prices were high and I reckon you could do a lot better at a charity shop anywhere in London.

Retiree walking on Karl-Marx Allee
Reflections on a shop window on the Karl-Marx Allee

In this area, on the banks of the Spree is the Mauer Gallerie, which shows a preserved section of the Berlin wall (there are several other less touristy places to see it) with various iconic artworks. There’s also the Oberbaumbrücke around here, which is a beautiful draw-bridge connecting Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg (they were previously on opposing sides of the Berlin wall).

Tourists at the Mauer-Gallerie
Tourists at the famous kissing mural on the berlin wall.

The day after, I headed over to Potsdam, which is just outside of Berlin (sort of a Windsor/Versailles/Pushkin situation). The landscape is very beautiful here (at least in the summer) as the Havel and Spree create many large lakes, all surrounded by forest, which one passes over on the elevated railway tracks on the way to Potsdam. Needless to say, it surpasses anything the so-called “areas of outstanding natural beauty” that exist around London. Frederick the Great had his palace here and the grounds provide a nice escape on the weekends, with manicured gardens and multiple palaces!

Family walking under the tree-lined paths on the Sanssouci grounds.
Tree-lined path in Sanssouci