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.