Exploring Bernie Gunther's Berlin: Sites and Atmosphere from Philip Kerr's Legendary Detective Series
Are you interested in seeing some of the sites associated with Philip Kerr's legendary Berlin detective Bernie Gunter? If so, here is a starter list of some of the places associated with Bernied you can visit today, as well as a few places which simply evoke the time and era.
You can visit the following places to get a sample of the atmosphere and the major sites associated with Bernie.
- The Alexa shopping centre on Alexander Platz. This was the site of Bernie's office, the Police Presidium, known as the Alex. The original building was damaged in the war and torn down after 1945, and lay vacant for decades before being turned into a car park under the DDR. In the years after the wall fell, they built this shopping center you see there today, but paid homage to the old Presidium by colouring it red, making it look vaguely like a fortress and calling it the Alexa, with the added A giving it enough cover to for them to pretend it is not an outright homage.
- The Adlon Hotel, where Bernie worked as a doorman and met with informers. The building is a copy of the original, but the interior is totally different. The outside captures the look of the original by say 80% or so.
- The Topography of Terror, site of Gestapo HQ and SS HQ. Both buildings are long gone (a Berlin theme), but there is a great exhibition on the history of the place located there, as well as a piece of the Wall.
- Luftwaffe HQ, across the street from Topography of Terror. The largest surviving building of the 3rd Reich, Bernie met with Goring in one of the novels in a building in the back courtyard of the Air Ministry.
- The Mohrenstrasse U-Bahn and its outside entrance. There is almost nothing left from Bernie's time, but this was the centre of power in the time of Hitler. Across from the space-ship-looking Czech Embassy, you'll find a plain 1980s building with a supermarket on the ground floor. This was the spot of Goebbel's residence and office building, part of the Propaganda Ministry, part of which survives behind (look for a 3rd Reich-looking building off the main road). Bernie met with Goebbels in the building where the supermarket is in one of the novels.
- The Babylon Cinema. Rosa Luxemberg Platz. Bernie worked with the stars of the silent film era and this area, and the Babylon cinema, featured in the books. Great for some actual surviving 1920s atmosphere. Communist HQ is down the road, look for the sign saying "Die Linke", the Left.
- Bernie lived off Prager Platz in the future West Berlin, an upper-middle-class area (Einstein lived a few hundred meters away). Bernie lived on Trautenstrasse on the corner of Bundesalle. Look for the kebab shop, that's the place. The building is 20 or 30 years old, so not a period building as the area was badly hit in one of the early bombing raids.
- The Metzer Eck pub. A true classic, you'll get the idea of the types of pubs Bernie drank at. Been in business and essentially unchanged since the time of the Kaiser. Look on Google Maps and note the limited opening times. Get there bang on opening time, as it fills up fast and you can't get in otherwise. The Metzer Eck is not a million miles from the Babylon cinema.
- Any inner city station on the U2 line. This has some great old stations, and this line was in operation during Bernies time and was certainly used by him during his cases. Mohrenstrasse is on this line, although it was called Kaiserhof then. Named after the grand hotel that once stood where the DDR-era North Korean embassy stands today. Hitler used that hotel during his quest for power and Bernie would certainly have visited it at one time or another, it is one of the city's most important hotels for politically connected guests.
This should give you a good start and will give you a nice mix of on and off-the-beaten-track sites to see, all with the Bernie flavour.