Discovering Schöneberg with Carsten Colmorgen
The shop pictured below may not look like much, but don’t let Deko Behrendt‘s humble exterior fool you. ”In the run up to Halloween and Karnival, the queue to get in stretches around the block and security guards man the entrance,” explains Hotel Concorde Berlin’s General Manager Carsten Colmorgen. Carsten had kindly offered to take me on a guided tour of the Schöneberg neighbourhood where he lives, and this fancy dress paradise at Haupstraße 18 – whose collection of extravagant wigs, fake noses and werewolf gloves snakes back endlessly into one room after the next – was the first of many insider’s tips.
We start the tour nearby at Carsten’s home, a beautifully renovated apartment with typical Berlin charm and a colourful history. “Marlene Dietrich was embalmed in our building,” he tells me, “When we first moved in we found piles of old coffin catalogues lying around the place!” Born in Schöneberg, Marlene Dietrich is one of Berlin’s most famous residents, and her grave can be found not far from here in III. Städtischen Friedhof Stubenrauchstraße.
After Carsten has given me the grand tour, we say goodbye to his two daughters and go off in search of breakfast. As general manager of a five-star French hotel, Carsten knows a thing or two about French cuisine, so when he said he knew a great little French patisserie around the corner, my mouth started to water.
Aux Plaisirs at Belziger Straße 70, with its fruit tarts, fluffy eclairs and freshly-baked croissants, would not be out of place on a chic Parisian boulevard. “Aux Plaisirs is run by a Frenchman, and I’m a big fan of his,” Carsten enthuses, “I have even sent members of the hotel’s patisserie to go and learn from him.”
After breakfast, we follow Belziger Straße towards Schöneberg Town Hall (‘Rathaus Schöneberg‘), an imposing building and setting for one of the most iconic speeches ever made. “This is one of the places John F. Kennedy visited on his tour of Berlin in 1963, and it was from that balcony up there that he made his famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech,” Carsten explains. The citizens of West Berlin, who for years were surrounded by the hostile communist state of East Germany and were under constant threat of attack, were delighted with Kennedy’s show of solidarity. Tens of thousands of West Berliners (not to mention many East Berliners, watching from behind the wall under the watchful eyes of East German armed guards) turned out to listen to the speech and after Kennedy was assassinated just a few months later back in the US, the square in front of the town hall was renamed John-F.-Kennedy-Platz in his honour.
You can learn more about Kennedy’s visit to Berlin and the man himself at the Museum The Kennedys in the former Jewish girls’ school in Mitte. In June it will be precisely 50 years since Kennedy’s Cold War visit, and the city is gearing up to commemorate with a series of events and exhibitions. Stay tuned to the blog for more information, plus part two of Carsten Colmorgen’s Schöneberg tour…