Karl-Marx-Allee 99 // Berlin, nostalgia, and a bygone Briefmarkenhandel

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Like everyone, I have my vices. These include: Haribo candy; buying more lip balm than I could ever use; a mild Google-stalking habit; nostalgia.

The word “nostalgia” was coined by a Swiss medical student in 1688. Back then, it was considered a disease, to be treated with leeches, opium, and bracing Alpine air. In her 2007 essay “Nostalgia and its Discontents,” Svetlana Boym wrote, “Nostalgia is a yearning for a different time—the time of our childhood, the slower rhythms of our dreams.[…] The nostalgic desires to turn history into private or collective mythology, to revisit time like space.” That’s me—guilty as charged. Rationally, I know nostalgia is a false friend, tinging the past with a rose-coloured sentimentality that, like every good addiction, messes with your head. But just like I can’t stop scoffing Haribo even though I know it’s the byproduct of boiled bovine hooves, I can’t shake my nostalgia habit, either. It’s probably a good part of why I fell head-over-heels for Berlin. There’s hardly a better place to indulge.

Recently, a walk along Karl-Marx-Allee in Friedrichshain brought me a quick, little nostalgia fix. Like many things from old Berlin, this beautiful stamp shop in one of the boulevard’s iconic Stalinist buildings is bidding farewell. I pressed my face to the looming windows. The shop had been stripped bare, save for its gorgeous, custom-built wood furnishings. Pipes jutted; brick gaped from raw spots on the wall; wires hung askance from ceiling-mounted lights. The floors shone wet from a recent mopping.

The stamp collectors’ Laden has closed up shop for good. Who knows what will become of this beautiful space. At the very least, I hope the lovely interior and the classic signage are preserved.

10 Comments
  • katie
    February 20, 2014

    lovely photos, hilarious etymology 🙂 i love street photos from other cities…

    • Hilda
      February 20, 2014

      Thanks, Katie! Luckily for me, Berlin is a very photogenic city.

  • Sylee
    March 10, 2014

    Oh you must tell the Buchstabenmuseum ladies!

  • dantra
    March 12, 2014

    I want to rent that store.

  • Francesca Vespasiano
    March 26, 2014

    Dear Hilda,trying to find curiosity about Berlin on the web, I found your blog and I was deeply touched of this post. You can understand why, reading this translation of my post that I had written few minutes ago on my Facebook page with a link of your blog:

    “Hilda, the author of this nice post, will be happy to get back in this place so nostalgically “old fashion” and see that the appearance and decor of this shop were deliberately left intact by the two guys who, like her, have been impressed with this old but charming place and have chosen to realize their desire to open a place where people who stay can continue to enjoy the charm of this shop and enjoy a good glass of wine among the books and good music.
    In a couple of weeks it will be opened at this address the “Briefmarken”, the wine shop of two boys who had to go outside of Italy to have this opportunity. They will bring the good of Italy without distorting, but retaining and integrating in a place instead deeply Berliner. One of that boys, I can say with pride, is my brother!”
    🙂

    • Leslie
      April 22, 2014

      Hi Francesca and Hilda, I live in the same block as the Briefmarken shop and was happy to visit “Briefmarken Weine” on their opening night. The owners really have done a wonderful job of preserving the spirit of the Briefmarken store with the sign, the name, and the stamps displayed inside the shop! And the wine is delicious. Looking forward to visiting again.

      • Hilda
        April 26, 2014

        Hi Leslie, thanks so much for the update! The shop sounds lovely, and I’m so pleased the spirit of the Briefmarken store has been preserved. Can’t wait to check it out very soon.

    • Hilda
      April 26, 2014

      I’m so pleased that you enjoyed my post, and also to hear that your brother has opened a wine shop there. Leslie (below) gave a glowing recommendation to the shop, and I’m really looking forward to visiting it very soon! All the best!

  • Francesca Vespasiano
    May 29, 2014

    Thank you Leslie, and thanks to Hilda for this interesting website that helps us to look with different eyes Berlin, to really experience this city!All the best!!

  • Georg-André
    March 7, 2015

    It’s still a perfect place to have a relaxed time, wine and stay with friends. Strongly recommended ed veramente italiano o piemontese. Giorgio

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