From the outside some of the activities that fans engage in may look mad: We follow the career of our chosen celeb intensely, invest money in films or TV subscriptions, occasionally even in trips to premieres or public appearances of the man; we discuss and blog, engage in fan art, buy memorabilia, or visit film locations long after RA has wrapped filming there. The latter often is greeted with disbelief. “What the f*** do you hope to achieve by that?”, the disbelief says. “Do you kiss the ground just because RA has once walked across it?” It’s hard to counter the condescension that speaks from such reactions – which is why most of us fangirl quietly, or in the company of fellow fans where such questions do not have to be justified.
Full disclosure: I very rarely feel a holy shiver down my spine just because I am visiting a spot where Mr A may once have frolicked around. Yes, it is fun to think that I am seeing what he has once seen. But I have come to understand that following in his footsteps is actually a great way to see new places – and often places that I would otherwise not have discovered. He is not the mastermind of my life, but rather an involuntary tour guide. It felt like that when I was travelling New Zealand last year, and it does so now when I visit Berlin. With the main sights long ticked off, my visits to Berlin now mean I can leave the well-trodden paths and discover other things. Why not explore a city, guided by the locations where a show has been filmed? More often than not they are actually interesting spots in their own right – except I might never have known about them, had I not come across them on the fan trail…
Thanks to trailers and tweets from cast and crew, a few new location hints had popped up since my last visit to Berlin in February, and with MatildRAs a knowledgable guide, last week I explored central Berlin with the purpose of giving you a few more glimpses into the German capital.
Every time I visit Berlin, my first port of call is always the Brandenburg Gate. What used to be the symbol of German division, is now the symbol of our reunification. The first glimpse of the Gate as I emerge from Brandenburger Tor underground station *never* fails to move me. This time, the added interest was the US Embassy which serves as Daniel Miller’s workplace in Berlin Station. The Embassy is located in prime position right next to the Brandenburg Gate on Pariser Platz – a visible reminder of the US’s presence in German politics. The German parliament – called the Reichstag – is just a few minutes away, as is the office of the German chancellor (equivalent to “prime minister”). In the introductory scenes of Berlin Station you see Daniel Miller in a taxi driving past the embassy along Ebertstraße.
The US Embassy is a sight that you literally can’t miss when you are in Berlin… Other locations, however, need the eagle eyes and knowledge of a local. And thus MatildRAs took me on a walk to see one of Berlin’s typical Höfe (literally: “courtyards”). These yards are pretty typical for Berlin and reflect the population explosion of the city in the 19th century: The streets were lined with bourgeois residential complexes; new living spaces had to be built to provide space for people moving into the city. The solution was to build onto the backs of the bourgeois apartment blocks, often resulting in a number of successive courtyards with surrounding rear buildings. The further back you lived, the poorer you were. The buildings not only housed people but were also their place of work, with factories or workshops located in the rear buildings. The Heckmann Höfe look pretty idyllic now, including a fountain in a rose-planted inner courtyard. According to MatildRAs, a scene from Berlin Station was filmed here, although we haven’t yet seen any glimpse of it in the existing trailers.
For lunch, MatildRAs took me to ChenChe, a Vietnamese tea house on Rosenthaler Straße that had been frequented by the cast in February and seems to be a bit of a celebrity hot spot. I can’t blame the celebs – the place is not only beautiful, it also serves fantastic food. Try the hot banana bread with coconut milk and roasted peanuts! (I wonder what RA ate??? Was this in his “vegan phase” *teasetease*) And what did he drink at the cast/crew wrap party in the rather unassuming bar on the corner of some street whose name I cannot remember??
Yes, those are the *really* important questions that we need answered…
MatildRAs had a few other locations up her sleeve, but that was all we had time for. However, I managed to visit another location that writer Olen Steinhauer himself had tweeted about – Teufelsberg. The “devil’s mountain” is located in the Grunewald, Berlin’s extensive woodland area in the west of the city. The mountain is actually an artificial hill, created after WWII from the rubble and debris of the destroyed city. After the separation of the city, the allies built an espionage site on top of the hill which was in use from 1963 until the reunification of Germany. The site not only served as a listening station but was also a visible reminder of the allied presence to the surrounding East Germany. With the equipment removed, the site is now in ruins – and the perfect backdrop for some clichéd spy scenarios. The site is maintained by a colony of artists who also offer tours of the remaining buildings.
We climbed all the way to the top of the high tower and had a fantastic view across Berlin. The site itself looked chaotic but jolly in warm summer weather. The walls are adorned with fantastic graffiti which are a sight in their own right. I bet it will look rather eerie and dangerous for the purpose of the film, though. If you decide to go, you can walk to Teufelsberg through the Grunewald from the Heerstraße bus stop. It takes about 25 minutes to get there. Guided tours available, entrance fee 15 Euro.
I leave you with a sight that I came across totally by chance. Walking down Oranienburger Straße in the centre of Berlin, this mural looked oddly familiar:
Bingo – Richard’s farewell tweet. The things we see and learn…
Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed the little tour of Berlin
Station. I really can’t wait to see the show and its lead character – Berlin 😉
Come back tomorrow for Day 3 of my little Armitage Week celebration 😘.
Day 1 of Armitage Week HERE