Friedrichstrasse in Berlin 1900: A realm of flaneurs

Berlin in historical photos
:Friedrichstrae 1900 – a realm of flaneurs

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    Maritta Adam-Tkalec

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Friedrichstrasse around 1900, a view to the north: in the middle of the picture, two tower-lined buildings flank the street. The turret on the left side is part of the Kaisergalerie on the corner of Behrenstrae, which was one of the main attractions for walkers in the bustling Srae.


Wikipedia Commons

“Sensational! The belly dance performed by the beautiful Sophia in the magnificent beer and wine taverns to the ‘hidden violets’. Krausenstr. 71, entree free. It invites a young landlady “- advertising leaflets like this were the passersby Friedrichstrae around 1900 always pressed into the hand.

Those who came from the provinces did not immediately understand the character of the establishments, which had settled in the hottest entertainment district in Germany and were looking for customers. More clearly perhaps this: The “Jockey Club” in the Dorotheenstrae 93 lured with the “most beautiful and dashing sports ladies of the residence”, and the bar “Geier Wally” in the Zimmerstrae 22 promised “service of foreigners”.

On the narrow sidewalk of the Friedrichstrasse strolled around 1900 a lot of rewarding clientele – people in search of experiences and adventures along the cafes and restaurants. Travel guides about Berlin report that at the turn of the century the walk – a fairly recent phenomenon – in the bourgeoisie as well as in the working class, was not just a fun filled leisure park, but also became popular within the city. Many of these walks led through Friedrichstrasse – especially on Sundays.

Friedrichstrae: “No Berliner Strae is so curious”

The Berlin observer and writer Hans Ostwald wrote in 1907: “No street in Berlin serves curiosity, vice and stroll like Friedrichstrasse. All the other big roads are hurried through. In all the hurry runs for profit. In Friedrichstrasse too. But in addition to this rush for profit, time is chasing pleasure. Strangers amazed at the bulging clothes hanging over their hips, at the attracting faces beneath the boldly placed, often so overloaded little hats, beneath which glittering flowers bloom. Many a look sticks to the bare arms, some follow a glittering, tight belt and delicate ankle boots. “

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Entrance to the Kaisergalerie Friedrichstrasse Behrenstrae in the year 1880: Through the Portai the audience entered a 130 meter long passage with chic shops. The passage ended Unter den Linden.


Wikipedia / Karl Emil Doepler

Ostwald also refers to the architecture of the area as an attraction, “strangers” admired in awe or wonder the splendor of the Kaisergalerie (Friedrichstrae, corner Behrenstrae) and other famous buildings. In 1904 he describes the shop windows as places for romantic encounters between homosexual men and the stroll through the passage of the Kaisergalerie as an opportunity for casual conversations between boys and girls.

It will not be like this when, as just announced officially, Friedrichstrasse becomes a car-free strolling zone for a few days in September and in December. It’s not as relaxed as it used to be. Ironically lingering cafes and restaurants are missing, and more and more shops leave the area considered by many to be quite sterile and expensive. But one thing is just like anno dunnemals: commerce is announced.