The Cafe Achteck (Cafe Octagon) is one of those increasingly rare institutions which is entirely free. Inside it’s spartan, at best; you won’t find much in the way of comforts. However, it was designed to accommodate a single basic human need. I’m afraid I have to admit it is rather discriminatory (sorry ladies!).
Once there were more than 150 of these charming, green cast iron “octagonal cafes” around Berlin. They first became part of the city landscape in the 1870s when Berlin experienced a burgeoning population of young men, drawn to the city on promises of work. City officials faced a sanitation crisis and the Cafe Achteck was born.
War took its toll on the city and many pissoirs were damaged beyond repair. In West Berlin a few were maintained; in the East they were largely forgotten. In the 1990s most of those remaining were given protected status and the private firm Wall AG began renovating them as a public service.
Today many still retain their original purpose – a few have been transformed into Imbiss (snack) stands, burger joints or flower shops. Next time you happen by Schlesisches Tor, check out the ever popular Burgermeister – which once, despite its shape, offered a wider range of services than the traditional Cafe Achteck but now serves up some of the best hamburgers from a former toilet under an U-bahn track in the world!
Here are my top pit stops:
Senefelder Platz, Prenzlauer Berg
Berliner Straße, Tegel