BETTING ON THE WINDS OF CHANGE
On a bright new day not so long ago, I brought the young fella to check an abandoned place beside the Havel River in West Berlin, the Kladow casino from the 1950s.
It’s just a shell now, a sorry shell left near the shore as if by some ungrateful creature of the sea.
It was surrounded by a fence that had been knocked down like a stack of dominoes, inviting us in. We accepted, walked over it and in. There was rustling and banging from someone out the back.
“Shush!” I told the young fella, pretending to be concerned. “We gotta be quiet so we don’t get caught. We don’t want to end up in jail!”
He tiptoed around appropriately as I took photos. Then we both forgot about it. He was running around, chasing ghosts, while I was chasing instants, snapping away at what I thought was the past, some sort of history.
“History, which is a simple whore, has no decisive moments but is a proliferation of instants, brief interludes that vie with one another in monstrousness,” Roberto Bolaño wrote.
I snapped away without thought for future or present when suddenly a man popped out from behind the wall.
“You know you’re not allowed here?!” he shot, holding the verboten bullet for the next round.
I told him I was just taking photos of a clearly abandoned place, asked what was the problem.
“When there’s a fence around a place it means you cannot go in!”
“You mean the flattened invitation that we walked over?”
“Yes, it’s a fence. You cannot just walk over fences.”
It’s verboten of course.
I asked him what the place was and what was to become of it. He looked wistfully across the Havel and said it used to be a restaurant and that it would be a restaurant again.
“But the wind keeps coming, the wind destroys it,” said he, looking toward the sanguine river as if it were the raging Atlantic. He was clearly nuts.
In the end I even helped him put the futile fence back up, the fence that had as much chance of keeping the wind out as anything else.
Newspapers say it wasn’t a restaurant at all but a casino, built in the 1950s to plans by the architect Norman Braun
It’s not anything to be proud of – Braun was illustrating architects’ lack of imagination long before the current crop of architects had a chance to display their incompetence.
Apparently some €2.9 million is to be invested to turn the ruin into a dining and cultural extravagance, hopefully with a few windows to shelter you from the wild winds of the Havel, or the Havel Hurricane as your man probably calls it.
The only winds Berliners know anything about are the winds of change. They howl like there’s no tomorrow in these parts, but of course there’s always tomorrow, as change knows only too well.
LOCATION AND ACCESS (HOW TO FIND GUIDE)
- What: Kladow casino from the 1950s, abandoned in 1995 for reasons I wouldn’t like to bet upon. Some people are gambling on it opening again, though not in its current sorry state.
- Where: Mascha-Kaleko-Weg, Kladow, 14089 Berlin, Germany.
- How to get there: It’s not quite so easy, being on the other side of the world and all that. If you’re not cycling, you’ll need to get a bus, the 134, 697, N34, or X34, to Neukladower Allee and walk the rest from there. It’s not too far to walk, but best to bring a few beers and sandwiches for sustenance. (Here it is on a map so you don’t get lost.)
- Getting in: Just walk over the fence. It couldn’t be easier. It’d be harder if there wasn’t a fence.
- When to go: Daytime if you want to look around, though there isn’t much to see that isn’t scenery, or nighttime if you want to have a party. Just make sure the crazy caretaker isn’t around if you do.
- Difficulty rating: 2/10. It would only be 1/10 if it wasn’t for the journey.
- Who to bring: Bring a boy or a girl (depending on your preference) for a romantic evening in front of the river, some friends if you want a party, or your kids if you want to introduce them to broken glass and grafitti.
- What to bring: Beer, food, spirits, a good outlook on life, tolerance and understanding. Perhaps a bicycle if you fancy a riverside spin. You can cycle down to Krampnitz from here. Technically there’s nothing to stop you cycling anywhere from here. It’s quite scenic.
- Dangers: The wind, if you were to believe the caretaker. Watch out for him. Apart from that, just the usual: Polizei, nosy neighbors, nosy passers-by, anyone with a nose too big for their own face.
West Berlin highlights
Lew McDaniel of West Virginia worked as a linguist at Teufelsberg, Field Station Berlin, from 1968-71. He tells Abandoned Berlin of life at the spy station.
Kino Hubertus’ ruined villas in Waidmannslust
Two houses and a cinema clung to life in Waidmanslust, fighting loneliness with earthly possessions before they too went their inevitable way.
West Berlin’s lifeline during the Soviet Blockade, Tempelhof Airport has since become the city’s biggest park. Berliners will fight to keep it that way.
Looks great. Thank you for sharing! While reading on your journeys i always wonder what goes through your little companion’s head, will he remember these adventures when he grows up 🙂
I brought him again yesterday and he didn’t remember being there before. In fairness, I’d forgotten too, and it was only when I was updating this post that my memory was jogged.
There is free speech in Germany, you are even free to criticize who you like, but you are not free to insult anyone pubicly although it might be a very very, very unpopular person in the german public eye. It’s fine but important difference an outsider might not get when reading the wrong news provider.
An alternative way to get there would be to take the F10 ferry from Wannsee to Alt-Kladow. The ferry’s part of the BVG network and is covered by an AB ticket.
What a hoot! You never cease to make me laugh. The little-un must have such fun along the way, too. Lucky chap. Even some comments are ‘intiguing’, no this one….
Been today, and it looks like the €2.9 million has been put to use as renovations have started. There were a few vans, quite a bit of scaffolding and workmen doing their thing. Although I wondered around the grounds pretty much undisturbed, all the building were strongly secured and I could not get in anywhere. Beautiful location though, I can see why they want to make something of it again.