SHOPPING IN GERMANY (BERLIN & FRANKFURT)
The Ku'damm (or KurfÃƒÂ¼rstendamm) is the Fifth Avenue of Berlin. It's filled with quality stores but also has outlets hustling cheap souvenirs and T-shirts. Although Berliners themselves shop on the Ku'damm, many prefer the specialty stores on the side streets, especially between Breitscheidplatz and Olivaer Platz. You may also want to check out Am Zoo and Kantstrasse.
Another major shopping street is the Tauentzienstrasse and the streets that intersect it: Marburger, Ranke, and NÃƒÂ¼rnberger. This area offers a wide array of stores, many specializing in German fashions for women. Stores here are often cheaper than on the Ku'damm. Also on Tauentzienstrasse (near the Ku'damm) is Berlin's major indoor shopping center, the Europa Center (tel. 030/3480088), with around 75 shops, as well as restaurants and cafes. At the end of this street lies the KaDeWe, the classiest department store in Berlin and the biggest in continental Europe.
A new, upmarket version of the Europa Center is the Uhland-Passage, at Uhlandstrasse 170, which has some of the best boutiques and big-name stores in Berlin. Shoppers interested in quality at any price should head to Kempinski Plaza, Uhlandstrasse 181-183, a pocket of posh with some of the most exclusive boutiques in the city. Haute-couture women's clothing is a special feature here. More trendy and avant-garde boutiques are found along Bleibtreustrasse.
If you're looking for serious bargains, head to Wilmersdorferstrasse, with a vast number of discount stores, although some of the merchandise is second-rate. Try to avoid Saturday morning, when it's often impossibly overcrowded.
In eastern Berlin, not that long ago, you couldn't find much to buy except a few souvenirs. All that is changed now. The main street, Friedrichstrasse, offers some of Berlin's most elegant shopping. Upmarket boutiques -- selling everything from quality women's fashions to Meissen porcelain -- are found along Unter den Linden. The cheaper stores in eastern Berlin are around the rather bleak-looking Alexanderplatz. Many specialty and clothing shops are found in the Nikolai Quarter. The largest shopping mall in eastern Berlin, with outlets offering a little bit of everything, is at the Berliner Markthalle, at the corner of Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse and Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse.
Most stores in Berlin are open Monday to Friday 9 or 10am to 6 or 6:30pm. Many stay open late on Thursday evenings, often to 8:30pm. Saturday hours are usually 9 or 10am to 2pm.
Treasures in the Barn District
At the very heart and soul of Berlin's fashion and art revival is the Scheuenviertel, or "barn district" (S-Bahn: Hackescher Markt). The name comes from a period in the 17th century when hay barns were built far from the city center for fear of fires. In time, the city's growth overtook the area, and it became Berlin's Jewish quarter. For some reason, many of its oldest buildings survived World War II bombing assaults.
The remains of a grand 1909 shopping arcade -- which occupies most of the block formed by Oranienburger, Rosenthaler, Grosse Hamburger Strasse, and Sophienstrasse -- have been turned into a series of galleries, studios, and theaters. Worth a visit is Tacheles, Oranienburger Strasse 54-56 (tel. 030/2826185; S-Bahn: Hackescher Markt), or "talking turkey" in Yiddish. It's an alternative arts center. One of the several cutting-edge shops in the immediate Hackesche Hofe neighborhood includes Lisa D., Hackescher Hofe-Hof 4, Rosenthalerstrasse 40-41 (tel. 030/2829061; S-Bahn: Hackescher Markt), a sought-after designer whose women's clothing has been favored in Berlin and New York for a long time. Clothing includes a sophisticated multicolored mixture of sportswear, office wear, and evening wear, with an of-the-minute emphasis on stripes.
The more prestigious galleries are found along Auguststrasse. Galerie Wohnmaschine, Tucholskystrasse 35 (tel. 030/30872015; www.wohnmaschine.de; S-Bahn: Oranienburger Strasse), became the area's first gallery when it opened in 1988. Some of the best artists in the city are on exhibit here, most of them of a conceptual or minimalist bent. One of the most prestigious and respected of these galleries is viewed today as a pioneer that made its way eastward within a few weeks of reunification: Eigen & Art Gerd Harry Lybke, Auguststrasse 26 (tel. 030/2831002; U-Bahn: Rosenthaler Platz; S-Bahn: Oranienburger Strasse). They represent a roster of artists that include, among others, Leo Rauch and Carsten Nicolai.
Johanna Petzoldt, Sophienstrasse 9 (tel. 030/2826754; U-Bahn: Weinmeisterstrasse), sells handicrafts from the old Erzebirg region, including wooden toys and assorted curiosities, such as scenes fitted into a matchbox.
This literate and culture-conscious city boasts lots of bookshops catering to a multilingual clientele. An outfit richly stocked with works from German publishing houses is Literaturhaus Berlin, Fasanenstrasse 23 (tel. 030/8872860; U-Bahn: Uhlandstrasse). The leading gay bookstore of Berlin, containing both erotica and upscale literature in several different languages, is Prince Eisenherz, Lietzenburgerstrasse 9A (tel. 030/3139936; S-Bahn: Wartenberg).
As the ceramics lovers learn more and more about the late Hedwig Bollhagen, a great ceramics artist who died in 2001, they are making their way to her Ceramics Studio in the little village of Marwitz outside Berlin. The location is at Hedwig-Bollhagen Strasse 4 (tel. 03304/39800), reached on the A111 Autobahn toward Hamburg. The unmistakable and brightly colored geometric patterns of her tableware, with its HB monogram, are appearing in more and more collections around the world. Under the East German Communists, her Bollhagen ceramics were unavailable in the West for decades. The workshop here is open Wednesday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 10am to 2pm. You can purchase seconds at prices beginning at 12Ã¢â€šÂ¬. Free tours in German are offered the last Wednesday of every month at 1pm.
One of the many surprising aspects of the rebuilt and redesigned Potsdamer Platz is the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden (U-Bahn/S-Bahn: Potsdamer Platz), one of the most comprehensive shopping malls in Berlin. In a deliberate rejoinder to more outdated Ku'damm malls, such as the Europa Center, it contains more than 100 shops scattered over three levels.
When it comes to shopping, Frankfurt has everything. The specialty shops here are so much like those in the United States that most visitors from America will feel right at home.
In Frankfurt, the shopping scene is divided into different regions. On "The Golden Mile," the Zeil, a pedestrian zone between the Hauptwache and Konstablerwache, you'll find department stores, clothing shops, shoe stores, and furniture outlets. Once one of the most famous shopping streets on the Continent, the Zeil was destroyed in the war and hasn't regained all of its former prestige, though it has the highest sales of any shopping area in Germany. Still the Fifth Avenue of Germany and one of Europe's best places to shop, the shopping on the Zeil now faces too much competition to enjoy the prestige it once had. In the 14th century, it was a cattle market. Nearby is the Kleinmarkthalle, a covered market with international grocery products.
The Hauptwache, in the center of Frankfurt, has two shopping areas, one above and one below ground. Groceries, book dealers, flowers, clothing, tobacco, photo supplies, recordings, and sporting equipment abound. In the Hauptwache-Passage are restaurants, travel agencies, and banks.
Schillerstrasse, another pedestrian zone, lies between Hauptwache and Eschenheimer Turm, near the stock exchange. Walking from Schillerstrasse northeast toward Eschenheimer Tor, you'll pass many elegant boutiques and specialty shops.
Southwest of the Hauptwache is the Alte Oper. You can reach it by taking either the Goethestrasse, with exclusive stores evocative of Paris or Milan, or the parallel Grosse Bockenheimerstrasse, traditionally nicknamed Fressgasse or "Pig-Out Alley." Most wine dealers, delis, and butcher shops here look back on a long and venerable past. Opernplatz has a variety of restaurants and cafes.
West of the Hauptwache is Rossmarkt, leading to Kaiserstrasse. It passes the BFG skyscraper, which has three floors of exclusive retail stores, boutiques, and restaurants, and directly connects the downtown area to the Hauptbahnhof. Kaiserstrasse is also known for its large selection of stores selling clothing, audio and photography equipment, and stainless-steel ware. The heart of the fur trade in Frankfurt is DÃƒÂ¼sseldorfer Strasse, opposite the Hauptbahnhof. Most book dealers are located around the Hauptwache and Goetheplatz. Antiques, old books, etchings, and paintings on Braubachstrasse can be found near the RÃƒÂ¶mer, at the Dom, and on Fahrgasse.
Art and antiques are the domain of Alt-Sachsenhausen, an appealing and original neighborhood. The Frankfurt Flea Market takes place here every Saturday 8am to 2pm along the Main River on the Sachsenhausen side. To get there, walk from the RÃƒÂ¶mer toward the river and cross the Eisener Steg bridge.
Fashion -- For basics, check out the vast array of clothing at the local department stores.