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As many of you know the hostel is being renovated which has given me a little extra time to head out into the world and see what I can discover. I decided I wanted to take a long weekend to get a small break from Berlin and the stresses of daily life, and so I headed west to The Hague. I had no idea what to expect. I have been to Amsterdam a few times, and somehow imagined it to be a smaller version… but I was pleasantly surprised to find that whilst there are similarities, it is a quaint and quiet city that was not much like Amsterdam at all.


Much as in Berlin, whenever I travel I like to eat and especially to see what other cities are doing that I cannot get in Berlin. On a couple of the nights I headed into Chinatown and was very happy to get noodles with duck, wanton soup, and the highlight: chicken wings. Now, coming from America I have been trying to find the perfect chicken wing in Berlin for some time. Some – like the Bird or Angry Chicken – came close, but in The Hague I found it, the perfect wing, with the flavors of Asia and crispy to perfection.


Being a smaller and quieter city than Berlin, the bars were more spread out than here – where they are on every street corner – and I sometimes found it difficult to find smokes. So I spent a lot of time roaming the streets until I stumbled across a place where a couple of men were drinking little beers. Before I knew it I was in there with them and having a conversation that lasted the whole night. I don’t remember what we talked about, just that it was very in depth. And this process repeated itself over the following nights… it seems like the Dutch are extremely friendly when it comes to socializing!


There was another reason for coming to The Hague, and that was because of my interest in the history of Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal that is located in the Dutch city. The proceedings of the ICTY – where Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are currently on trial – are open to the public, and so after a couple of security checks, a scanned passport, and the issuing of a headset, I was ushered into the public gallery. It was strange to be sitting there with the judges and the lawyers all just meters away, and it was fascinating if surreal to watch international justice being administered right in front of my eyes.

And then it was time to come back to Berlin, and after all the eating, drinking and legal proceedings, the time had flown by and I felt strangely more tired when I returned than I had done when I left. Time for another holiday?

Kennedy in Berlin

We are extremely pleased to announce the details of the next  Circus Talks evening in cooperation with the ZeitZeugenBörse (Centre for Witness to Contemporary History) which will be taking place on Tuesday 19th November 2013 in Fabisch at the Circus Hotel.

Alexander Longolius was born in Berlin in 1935, two years after the Nazis came to power and four before the outbreak of World War II. In the early 1950s he went on a school exchange to the United States, before studying in Berlin. He has been strongly involved in Berlin politics, and was a member of the Berlin Senate (state government), as well as being the Chairman of the executive board of the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation.

In 2005 he was awarded the German Order of Merit in recognition of his work for German-American friendship. He has lived in Berlin through the war, the Allied occupation, the division of the city and its eventual reunification, and he will be coming to the Circus to share his experiences of the last 76 years. It promises to be another fascinating evening, and we are really excited to welcome Mr Longolius to the Circus and hear the thoughts of someone who has lived through and been a participant in the modern history of the city.


Eyewitness History Talk with Alexander Longolius
Tuesday 19th November 2013, 6pm
Fabisch at The Circus Hotel, Rosenthaler Str. 1, Berlin-Mitte
U-Bahn Rosenthaler Platz

The talk is open to all and is in English. Admission is free, and we will be collecting contributions for the ZZB to help them continue in their important work

Photo credit: Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F015843-0016 / Schmitt, Walter / CC-BY-SA

bernauer 1963

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and we thought that this would be a nice time to re-visit something that originally appeared in the third edition of our in-house C Magazine about a dramatic escape that took place not far from The Circus beneath Bernauer Straße – pictured above a year before Tunnel 57 was built, in 1963:

Berlin is a city of stories, a place where it sometimes feels like there is a memorial on every corner where history permeates every length of pavement and every building older than a handful of years. The city is packed with museums that help us imagine the unimaginable. Then there are the monuments and memorials that stimulate reflection, as well as the piles of books in the windows of bookstores that take us back in order to explain those momentous events that shaped not only Berlin but the modern world. But the process of encasing history in buildings, marble or the pages of a book can put a distance between us and the events, and sometimes it takes a conversation, the hearing of personal testimony, to really bring history to life.

For almost three years now The Circus has been extremely fortunate to have formed a partnership with the ZeitZeugenBörse e.V. (Centre for Witness to Contemporary History), whose network of “eyewitnesses” give talks to schools, journalists and other institutions, telling their personal stories of life in Berlin and Germany. It does not matter whether the stories are extraordinary or simple tales of the everyday – each time we have hosted one of the talks in our Fabisch Restaurant it has been incredible to hear “what life was really like” for people who often spent substantial periods of their life in the shadow of repression, violence and war.

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The 9th November 2013 is the 24th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. To mark the occasion we have organised two special history tours for Circus guests over the next couple of weeks. This date is also the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht – the 1938 pogrom against the Jewish community in Berlin, and there is a new exhibition being launched in Berlin at the Topography of Terror (see below):

Tuesday 5 November – Mike’s Berlin Wall Memorial Tour

Tomorrow morning, Mike will be taking guests on a tour of the Berlin Wall Trail, focusing on the Bernauer Straße and the Berlin Wall Memorial. Bernauer Straße divides the neighbourhoods of Berlin Mitte and Wedding, and thus became the border between East and West Berlin during the years of division. It was here that some of the most dramatic scenes of August 1961 played out, as the wall was built and people desparately tried to make their escape. A number of escape tunnels also crossed beneath the Bernauer Straße, and it was also home to the Church of Reconciliation, which found itself stranded in the death strip of the Berlin Wall until it was eventually destroyed in the 1980s by the East German regime.

Tuesday 12 November – Paul’s Back in the GDR Tour

On this tour we embark on a morning wandering around some of the sights and important locations from the forty-odd years when the eastern half of the city was the capital of the German Democratic Republic. Led by Circus Communications Manager Paul – who along with Jim has a long-held fascination with the history of East Berlin – the tour will leave from the Circus and explore the streets around Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Karl-Marx-Allee, Alexanderplatz and more. You will hear stories about life in East Berlin and the history of communism in Germany and the German Democratic Republic, as well as the decline that would lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the reunification of 1990.

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Bild 183-S91025
We have a very special edition of our eyewitness history talks this month, as we celebrate the 5th birthday of The Circus Hotel on Rosenthaler Platz with someone who can tell us about our neighbourhood from  a little bit further back in time… the years between 1935 and 1953.

Dr Klaus Riemer will talk about his childhood in Berlin before the Second World War, including what the Rosenthaler Platz neighbourhood was like at the time, the anti-Jewish pogrom of 1938, the start of the war and evacuation from Berlin. Dr Riemer then returned to the city where he was forced to work in the GDR as a sign painter, portraying Stalin and other communist leaders, before he finally left the East following the uprising of 1953.

As always it promises to be a fascinating evening at Fabisch, and we are really happy to be welcoming Dr Riemer back to The Circus. The talk will be in English, is open to all, and is free… although we will be collecting contributions towards our own donation to the ZZB to help them continue in their important work.

Where: Fabisch at The Circus Hotel, Rosenthaler Straße 1 (U8: Rosenthaler Platz)
When: Thursday  31st October at 6.45pm

Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S91025 / Kümpfel / CC-BY-SA


The abandoned sanatorium buildings of Heilstätten Beelitz was the destination for last Tuesday’s History Tour. Jim and 15 intrepid guests headed out on a 60km journey to a place that can only be described as heaven for history geeks and photographers. The sanatorium was first opened in 1902 as Germany’s largest lung clinic and through the years has treated some notorious people including none other than Adolf Hitler who was here receiving treatment for wounds he received while fighting on the western Front in 1916. Erich Honecker the former leader of communist East Germany also spent his last days on German soil in the safety of the military complex before disappearing to Moscow and then on to Chile after East Germany collapsed in 1989.

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Brandenburg Gate

Tomorrow is the 23rd anniversary of German reunification, which took place on the 3rd October 1990, some eleven months after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The 3rd October is a public holiday in Germany – which means for those travellers staying with us at The Circus that the city will be both quite busy, and also all the shops will be closed. Luckily there are plenty of things to see and do…

Brandenburg Gate

German Unity Day is the starting point for a four day festival around the Brandenburg Gate and the Straße des 17. Juni that runs through the Tiergarten park. There are food and drink stalls, fairground attractions, and live music on a number of different stages, the largest of which can be found on Pariser Platz, in front of the Brandenburg Gate itself. Sponsored by a well-known fizzy drink company, this stage will also feature the world’s biggest karaoke party, featuring the man behind the legendary Bearpit Karaoke events in Mauerpark. Entry is free, and the Facebook event page is here.

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Resistance Museum

(photo: Adam Carr)

Tomorrow we have our regular Tuesday morning history talks for Circus guests, and this week we are returning to a place that we have not visited for a while: The Memorial and Museum to German Resistance to the Nazis. The memorial and museum is located in the Bendlerblock, which served at the headquarters for the Wehrmacht (German Land Forces) until it finally surrendered to the Red Army on the 2nd May 1945.

It was from here that Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators plotted the 1944 failed assassination attempt on Hitler. Stauffenberg was executed in the courtyard, and the tour reflects not only on his resistance attempt but those others that were opposed to Hitler and the Nazis, as well as attempting to answer the difficult question as to why there was not more opposition within Germany during the twelve years of the Third Reich.

The tour takes place on Tuesday 24th September at 11.30am. It is free for Circus guests, but please note you will need a public transport ticket to and from the memorial and museum, and that places are limited so we ask you kindly to sign up at reception.

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