I suppose I was more than a little skeptical when I heard that West Berlin’s iconic Bikini Haus was re-opening as a high-concept designer shopping mall with an emphasis on locally produced objects. Sounds expensive. And while I enthusiastically embrace the movement as an anecdote to the garbage currently sweeping up on Alexanderplatz courtesy of disposable fashion chain Primark, there has to be a middle ground somewhere between €250 bespoke designer t-shirts and €2.50 sweat shop t-shirts.
However I have to admit that Bikini Haus itself is a welcome refuge from the tat and vomit that is otherwise on offer at Bahnhof Zoo. I doubt I’ll ever need what’s available in most of the shops. That’s fine though, as they have turned the upstairs terrace into a lovely mini-Highline with a few cafes, convertible park benches and – best of all – fantastic views over the Affenfelsen (monkey cliffs) of the adjoining zoo (also worth checking out). Relax over a coffee or something stronger at Gestalten’s cafe with both indoor and outdoor seating. It’s the perfect spot for people watching – though it may be the troops of baboons who are doing that.
When you’re done staring at pink monkey butt, Gestalten is also a design shop. And while I haven’t yet found a need for a hand-carved artisanal walnut-maple handball paddle, they do have a nice selection of art books and magazines – including the brilliant Berlin Wonderland, which offers a glimpse of Berlin in those heady years immediately following reunification.