Quite a number of street-sellers and shops, situated mostly around Checkpoint Charlie, offers "reliquia - reliquiorum" of what was once DDR (Deutche Demokratische Republik). It is nothing but worthless trash! Do not waste your time and money here. DDR was created for one reason only, to punnish Germans even more, I am really glad it finally disappeared, for good.
You see the Buddy Bears all over Berlin – they are sitting, standing, upside down, or down on all four legs. Some of the more popular Buddy Bears are available in small 22 cm versions for you to take home. I also found a much smaller version on a keychain in some of the shops. The take-me-home versions can be found in various souvenir shops near the Brandenburg Gate and the train station.
I don’t usually buy things to take home – typically my photos are my souvenirs – but every once in awhile something grabs my attention and I decide to break with tradition and make a purchase. The Berlin Buddy Bear was my exception this time. The hard part was deciding which one I wanted to get. After looking in several shops, I settled on “Li-bear-ty” – the one I had seen in the U.S. Embassy dressed up as the Statue of Liberty (you can see the original in one of my photos - taken through the windows on the side of the embassy facing the Holocaust Memorial). The bear comes with a stand and is very sturdy, although I’m not really sure what he’s made of (nothing fragile, that I know).
I purchased mine at Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (central train station) while waiting for me train home. The shop boxed the bear up in its original packaging (he had been on display) and I was able to get him home safe and sound. Total price for the bear was €59, a bit more than I might normally spend, but I’m happy all the same.
Some of the bears are available for purchase on the Buddy Bear website for about the same price I paid plus shipping.
The cultural icon of the little man in a hat that first appeared in the East German pedestrian traffic lights now has his own shops. Together with his female counterpart, Ampelmann can be found in four locations in Berlin selling all kinds of products that sport his iconic logo. These shops have proved to be quite popular; although Ampelmann products can also be found in other souvenir shops in Berlin, the best selection is at an actual Ampelmann store.
Hackesche Höfe (Hof V)
Rosenthaler Str. 40-41
Potsdamer Platz Arkaden
Alte Potsdamer Str. 7
I have described in my Local Customs tip how the East Berlin pedestrian crossing lights created a sort of cult enthusiasm for the little figure known as Ampelmann. So popular is he that he has his own shop, where you can buy a multitude of items adorned with the little fellow or with his mate, Ampelfrau.
What to buy: Items on sale include wall and table lights, clothing, toys, edibles, household goods, stationery and many, many more things. I couldn’t quite believe how many different items they had adorned with the symbol. There was even a bag of Ampelmann jelly-babies!
And if you can’t get to Berlin you can buy Ampelmann items online – see website below.
What to pay: A light will set you back around €80, a key-chain €4 and a ball-point pen only €2. In between are mouse-mats (€5), mugs (€6), t-shirts (€16), watches (€50) – whatever you can afford, there should be something at that price!
This store offered a lot of various, oriental stuff mainly from Morocco, Turkey, Egypt and India including postcards, posters, terracotta, tiles, ceramics, furnitures, perfumes. Hmm... I am not sure whether they were original though.
What to buy: I put attention to the two items I knew from Morocco:
1. Henna lamps - handcrafted leatherlamps painted with henna;
2. Tajines - special ceramic pots for cooking... on gas and electrical stoves (kouskous was cooked inside them in Morocco but they put charcoal under the pot).
What to pay: 19 € for Moroccan (really?) lamp on my picture. Go to fascinating country of Morocco better.
One way to tell if you're in the East or West Berlin is looking at the traffic lights. In the east the government of the DDR standard traffic lights changed to red and green circle for a friendly character. That is how the Ampelmann (men's light) were born, the Ampelmann green and red across strongly with arms outstretched to indicate that no one should cross. After reunification began to replace the traffic lights in East Berlin by those who had in the West but popular pressure got to cancel the changes and keep on with the old lights. Ampelmann today has become a symbol of the city and the Ostalgie and even in a business that sells T-shirts, candy, stationery and more.
Una de las formas de saber si uno está en el Berlin Este o Oeste es mirando los semáforos. En el este el gobierno de la DDR cambió los semáforos estándar con el círculo rojo y verde por un personaje amistoso. Así nacieron los Ampelmänner (hombres del semáforo), el Ampelmann verde cruzando decididamente y el rojo con los brazos extendidos para indicar que nadie debe cruzar. Después de la reunificación se empezaron a sustituir los semáforos de Berlin Este por los mismos que había en el Oeste pero la presión popular consiguió que se cancelaran los cambios y así seguir con el antiguo semáforo. Hoy el Ampelmann se ha convertido en un símbolo más de la ciudad y de la Ostalgia e incluso en un negocio que vende camisetas, dulces, material de papelería y demás.
Berlin has plenty of souvenir shops where you can buy all manner of gifts. Mugs, t-shirts, postcards, pictures etc...
The quintessential souvenir has to be a piece of Berlin wall, I opted for a bottle containing small fragments to signify its demolition.
One of the best shops we saw in Berlin if you want gifts to take home. Their selection is second to none and only the shops at K'Damm seemed to have as much available. Watch the prices though, most things can be bought for less elsewehere, but with this kind of purchase you may not see what you want again!
What to pay: A little higher than normal
Are you looking for something different in souvenirs? Just around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie, in Zimmerstr (?) is a place called "Bob" that has some interesting stuff. Even better though, at the Gendarmenmarkt, in Markgrafenstr (?) is a shop that has very different and quality items. Can't think of the name sorry, but as you face away from the Concert Hall, it's on the opposite side towards left.
What to buy: Examples are:
- scrubbing brush in shape of Brandenburg Gate
- t-shirts etc printed with mosquito climbing (mounting?) the Furstenturm
- views of Berlin printed on old boards
Although many offers at Checkpoint Charlie are a tourist rip-off, like paying for photos with the actor-soldiers or for a stamp in your passport, I was impressed with the souvenirs in the shops there.
Whereas I think you would not really need a Russian soldier’s hat with the insignia at the front, the thick fur hats are of good use on a cold day. Also the t-shirts were reasonably priced, and I did not see them anywhere else in Berlin. You know, those t-shirts with the print that you are leaving the American sector, in English, German, Russian and French.
They also sell historic post-cards and photos.
The little red and green Ampelmann figures of East Berlin proved so popular that they have thankfully been saved and continue to be used at most pedestrian road crossing points around the city. They are another (very lucrative) little symbol proving to be a best seller amongst tourists and a few shops selling nothing but Ampelmann merchandise have appeared around the city.
What to buy: Think of an object - put a red or green Ampelmann on it - and these shops probably sell it! Immensely collectable, (and quite expensive!) - they make an interesting souvenir to take home.
Green to walk, Red to stop by the way :))
What to pay: Anything from a Euro to a lot more!
Everybody likes to take home souvenirs. The best place to find from my opinion was the road leading up to the brandenberg tor. I thought would be most expensive but comparable to prices elsewhere.
What to buy: Good mix of crafts on Christmas stalls and the more "normal" souvenirs in various shops.
What to pay: Souvenirs are expensive but no more than elsewhere on my merry travels.
Under Den Linden is one of the most beautiful parts of Berlin, with lots of souvenirs shops - mostly up the st., when you face Brandenburg gate. It doesn't really matter which one you enter, since most of them sell more or less the same stuff and charge unbelievably high prices.
DO NOT buy pieces of the Berlin wall there - you can find all over the city, for much lower prices, starting 0.5 EUR.
You can find some Ampelmenn products in most of the stores, which are also pretty expensive - starting at about 5-10 EUR for simple stuff, like hats and postcards.
There are some nice T-shirts and woolen hats, as well as a lot of very cool postcards and posters, but they too are pretty pricy.
What to buy: Generally speaking, Berlin is a city with lots of bargains - most of the shops in the east part quarters are surprisingly inexpensive.
Also, there's Bergman st. in Kreuzberg (and many other places in this nice quarter), where you can find great stuff and pay less. There's also some great second hand clothing shops there, and a nice market.
AVOID the shops in the west side. If you're looking for boutique shops, cloth or souvenirs, try to look for little shops in the Mitte quarter (also the place with most of the tourist attractions).
Also, you can find some inexpensive gifts, souvenirs and clothing all over the net. I like very much this one that I found lately: http://www.cafepress.com//berlin_2006
What to pay: I bought a wonderful coat for 4 EUR only, at a second hand outlet. My GF bought 6 kg of cloth for 12 EUR in Bergman st. We bought some very expensive Ampelmenn goods, and lots of tiny souvenirs for cents - outside the central places.
If you're looking to buy souvenirs, head to Unter den Linden. It's lined with Souvenir shops from the Brandenburger gate all the way past FriedrichStraße. You can buy almost anything there too, from postcards to t-shirts, and pieces of the Berlin wall (though how they dont eventually run out of those is a mystery).
What to buy: Well, if you REALLY want to take a piece of Berlin home with you... Buy a piece of the wall. they come in various shapes and sizes, most still have some form of paint on them, and they range in price from €2 - about €8.
What to pay: Postcards start at abou €0.50. T-shirts are at the top end, costing about €15 - 20.
Giving in to a serious fit of Ostalgie can be solved by visiting the plentiful souvenir shops in Berlin-Mitte. Especially around Checkpoint Charlie you'll find a huge array of former communist memorabilia. I love the little Ämpelmännchen, but hey to each his own, right?
What to buy: I'd say buy a red t-shirt with a hammer and sickle. Red's the new black, after all, and at less than EUR10 they're very inexpensive.