Monthly Archives: July 2018

The Kollhoff Tower

View from the Panoramapunkt

The Kollhoff Tower

Kollhoff Tower stands at Potsdamer Platz 1, opposite the Sony Center and is named after its architect, Hans Kollhoff.

In contrast to the other glass and steel structures in the square, the building is constructed out of peat-fired bricks with a design more reminiscent of a New York skyscraper. It soars 100 metres up into the Berlin sky and was completed in 1999.

Mainly built with office space in mind, I don’t suppose too many people will be overly enthusiastic about these statistics, but it might interest people more if I say that the fastest elevator in Europe catapults you up to the 24th floor in just 20 seconds where there is an open-air viewing platform with some of the best views in Berlin.

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The Sony Center

The Sony Center

With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the redevelopment of Potsdamer Platz must have been an architect’s dream. The square was divided up into four separate areas which were to be redeveloped by four different developers, one of which was the area now occupied by the Sony Center.

During the ‘Golden Twenties’, the site was occupied by ‘The Esplanade’, one of Berlin’s most prestigious hotels. Frequented by film stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo, the hotel was even used by Kaiser Wilhelm II who entertained guests in one of the hotel’s magnificent halls.

90% of the hotel was destroyed by allied bombing raids in the winter of 1944/45, with the Kaisersaal (as the hall became known) and the breakfast room the only rooms to survive. After restoration of what was left, it once again fell into disrepair following the building of the adjacent Berlin Wall.

After the Wall came down, what remained was listed as a historical monument, which created a problem for the architects of the new Sony Center. The outcome was that the Kaisersaal was moved 75 metres and incorporated into the new design behind a glass wall, and the breakfast room was dismantled piece by piece and re-created for the new Café Josty, the original being a popular Potsdamer Platz meeting place for artists in the early 20th century.

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Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz

At a point where five roads converged at the old Potsdam Gate, Potsdamer Platz became the busiest and most recognized intersection in Germany – if not Europe. It became so busy that Europe’s first recognised traffic lights were installed in 1924 to help keep things moving.

Its heyday was during the Roaring Twenties, when film stars such as Marlene Dietrich helped catapult Berlin onto the world stage of show business. It was the place to be and be seen. Grand hotels were built to accommodate the rich and famous, as did luxury stores, bars, and restaurants. The inter-war years had been good to Berlin, but it wasn’t to last.

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Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Berlin is a city that has seen many contentious projects over the years but The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe has to be one of the most controversial of all. It wasn’t just because it covers part of the site where Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels had his office, but for a variety of other reasons.

The memorial was conceived by journalist Lea Rosh and designed by New Yorker Peter Eisenman. The area is about the size of three football pitches and just a few minutes away from the bunker where Hitler committed suicide on 30th April 1945. Being flattened during the war, the site is in an area of high real estate value, which for some was probably a lost opportunity to make a good deal of money, but the Berlin authorities did the brave thing and endorsed the project with the hope that it would help the city come to terms with its inauspicious past.

Built between April 2003 and December 2004, the monument consists of 2,711 slabs of concrete known as ‘Stelae’ arranged in a grid pattern on sloping ground which Eisenman wanted to be an “uneasy, confusing atmosphere”. Apparently, he got his idea from the overcrowded Jewish cemetery in Prague.

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The Applecross Peninsula

The Applecross Peninsula

Situated between the Torridon Hills and the Isle of Raasay, the Applecross Peninsula isn’t the easiest place to get to but getting here is all part of the enjoyment.

As long as you don’t have a large motorhome or caravan, the scenic route will take you over the infamous Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle) from Tornapress near Loch Kishorn to Applecross village. This road, which was built in 1822, climbs over 2,000ft in 5 miles around hairpin bends before descending into the village and is frequently cut off by snow in the winter months, just as it was for us in March 2016.

The alternative option involves taking the coastal route via Shieldaig, which obviously takes longer, but if you had come here before the 1970’s it wouldn’t have even been an option at all, and at least it gives you the opportunity to visit the picturesque village of Shieldaig.

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Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market

Metaphorically speaking, Leadenhall Market links Roman London with the Modern City of London, and the reason, is that its location on the site of the old Roman Forum and Basilica is slap bang in the middle of the modern Financial District.

It’s also appropriate that there’s a market here because in Roman times the Forum was their marketplace, and the one in Londinium was the largest north of the Alps, but we know very little of what happened after the Romans left.

What we do know though is that by the 14th century there was a manor house at Leadenhall, and the area around it became known as the place to come to buy poultry. That trade was still in evidence when Dick Whittington, the former mayor of London, came to own the lease of the manor house in 1408, and when he bought the land around it three years later, it was the best place to come, not just to buy poultry, but also meat, game, and fish.

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The City of London’s Modern Skyline

The City of London's Modern Skyline

The City of London may be steeped in history, but that doesn’t mean to say that it’s set in aspic. The city’s Financial District is leaving its stuffy image behind and charging into the 21st century without, it seems, pausing for breath.

Nearly all the financial institutions (The Bank of England being a notable exception) have moved into more modern premises in either Canary Wharf or here in the Square Mile.

Many of these new offices are in skyscrapers, which even though they may not rank amongst the world’s tallest, have captured the public’s imagination with their design. Not all of them are iconic, but below is a selection of some of the buildings that have made their mark already, but as each year passes, so it seems that yet more major landmarks pierce the skies over the City of London.

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The Bank of England Museum

The Bank of England Building in Threadneedle St

The Bank of England Museum

There are many powerful institutions in the City of London’s Financial District, but none more so than the Bank of England. Now before you skip this article thinking that it’s going to be another one of those boring Easymalc ramblings, I promise I won’t go on about Fiscal Policies or Quantitative Easing. For a start if I understood any of it I would be sipping a Pina Colada in the Cayman Islands or somewhere instead of struggling to see which lasts the longest – my meagre savings, or me. Anyway, back to the Bank of England.

I don’t imagine too many people know, or even care, about what the Bank of England actually does, but the museum, which is free to go in by the way, will explain its beginnings, the role it plays, and even how Quantitative Easing works (sorry, I couldn’t resist it). To be honest it’s not only educational, but interesting as well – or at least I thought so.

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The Origins of London’s Financial District

The Bank of England and Royal Exchange

The Origins of London's Financial District

Following on from my article about the City of London Corporation, it’s not difficult to see how London became an important trading and financial centre.

As British explorers opened up new trade routes, then most of the important trading and commerce ended up on the streets of London, the hub of which was centred around what is now called Bank Junction.

The junction is where nine streets converge and includes three of The City of London’s most influential buildings –  the Lord Mayor’s Mansion House, the Royal Exchange, and the Bank of England.

The Bank of England was founded in 1694 and ‘The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’ was opened in 1735, but the story goes back much further than that.

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The Looe Valley Line

The Train at Looe Station

The Looe Valley Line

The Looe Valley Line is one of those scenic branch lines that used to exist all over the country until Dr. Richard Beeching got his hands on them.

The less said about that the better, but at least here in the West Country we still have several that are still in use including the one that runs from Liskeard to Looe.

At Liskeard it’s necessary to leave the main line platform and cross over to the separate station that exists purely for the train to Looe. The train times are a bit haphazard but they run on average every hour to an hour and a quarter, and the seven-mile journey takes about half an hour.

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