Berlin always changes. It’s what I love about the city; it’s what’s most heartbreaking about the city.
Tacheles is gone.
An abandoned, bombed-out building taken over by a collective of artists in 1990. Just after the Wall fell. It represented so much of what the Mitte was like back then. The central district had been part of East Berlin. Magnificent buildings had been left to rot by the East German government. They’d even demolished the old castle to build the Palace of the Republic in the 70s.
Tacheles, 1997. Image credit below.
I remember visiting an exhibition in 2000 in the Neues Museum. Bombed in World War II, reconstruction hadn’t even begun. Floors were missing. Charred paintings of Egyptian scenes high up on the walls in abandoned rooms. It was beautiful. I still dream of that exhibition; I still carry my ticket stub with me everywhere.
But it had to change. The Neues Museum has been restored. The Palace of the Republic demolished (an asbestos risk).
Tacheles clung on. A symbol of the hope and excitement of 1990s Berlin.
I stumbled across it by accident in 2000. I was looking for a phone box (remember them?). Went inside, closed the door, called up my friend. She answered and I turned around.
“Heilige Scheisse!” I saw Tacheles for the first time.
I’d read about it in Der Spiegel, but here it was in all its decaying glory. A cacophany of competing art. Painted up broken down cars. Graffiti. Meaningful things dangling from ceilings. I was drawn in and I loved it.
Tacheles sign. Image credit below.
But I knew it had to pass. All things pass. Berlin is a city layered on a city layered on a city. The scars of National Socialism and the GDR quietly heal, but will always be visible. The beauty of Berlin is undeniable: its puppet theatres, the cute figures on the pedestrian crossings, the underground clubs that would be gone tomorrow. Excitement and constant change.
I knew Tacheles had to go. I’d read about threats to close it even before I saw it first. But why couldn’t it stay? Just a little longer.
I love you Berlin, but you’ve broken my heart again.
Thanks to Slanky for the heads up. Images: Tacheles 1997, Howard Percy; Tacheles Sign, Victorgrigas.