Posts Tagged ‘Napoleon’

Zur letzten Instanz – Berlin Restaurant

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Zur Letzten Instanz” roughly translates to “The Last Resort.” It is the name of one of Berlin’s oldest restaurants, located in the heart of the city. If you want to try some authentic German food, put Zur Letzten Instanz on your list. The current owners bought the place after the Berlin wall fell. Their daughter manages it. Her brother is the cook. During the days of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), the State owned the restaurant, and East Germans were not allowed to own businesses.

Zur Letzten Instanz is located in the Waisenstrasse 14-16, not far from the Alexanderplatz, the television tower and Berlin’s red City Hall. Supposedly, Napoléon rested by the restaurant’s tile stove. In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev, last leader of the Soviet Union, enjoyed a beer here, and in 2003 German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder treated French president Jacques Chirac to a meal at Zur Letzten Instanz.

Zur Letzten Instanz – history

First documented in 1561, a residence housing two or three tenant families stood at this site. In 1621 a servant of the Great Elector opened a pub in its basement. The pub eventually turned into a restaurant. Over the years, the building changed hands several time, and the restaurant was renamed each time. Since 1924, it bears the name Zur Letzten Instanz.

During World War II, Zur Letzten Instanz was badly damaged. Then, in 1961, East Berlin authorities decided to reopen it to attract tourists. To increase the seating capacity, the original building and the two neighboring properties were taken down to their foundations, reconstructed and reopened in 1963. Unfortunately, most of the medieval elements and the historical layout of the original three buildings were essentially lost during reconstruction. But parts of the medieval city wall can still be seen in the back of the building. Zur Letzten Instanz currently seats up to 120 guests in its three dining room. The building includes eight hotel rooms with a total of thirteen beds as well as an apartment for the owners.

Zur Letzten Instanz – name

Zur Letzten Instanz owes its name to a court battle in the early 1900s. According to legend, two farmers fought a long-drawn-out litigation in the nearby courthouse. Unable to settle their differences in court, they took their dispute to the pub and reached an agreement over a glass of beer or two. For them, the pub became “the last resort.” Hence the name.

Zur Letzten Instanz – menu

The menu features authentic German cuisine and includes some Berlin specialties, such as Eisbein (pork knuckle). Each menu item is named after a legal procedure so that you might find menu items, such as “Beweismittel – Evidence” (cabbage roll with mashed potatoes and salad), “Kreuzverhoer – cross-examination” (calf’s liver with shallots, apples and mashed potatoes) or “Zeugen-Aussage – witness testimony” pork knuckle with sauerkraut, pureed split peas and smoked bacon.

Guten Appetit – Bon Appetit – Enjoy Your Meal


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.


Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

The Brandenburg Gate–Brandenburger Tor–is Berlin’s most famous landmark. During its 200+ year history it has been a city symbol under many different regimes. At different times in its history, it has symbolized peace, division, and freedom and unity. Between 1961 and 1989, when the Berlin Wall divided East and West Berlin, visitors often climbed onto an observation platform adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate to get a glimpse of the world behind the Iron Curtain.

The Quadriga

Atop the Brandenburg Gate stands the sculpture of a chariot. It is pulled by four horses and driven by a goddess. The goddess was originally said to symbolize a courier of peace. Later it was reinterpreted to represent Victoria, the Roman Goddess of Victory. The Quadriga spent the years from 1806 to 1814 in Paris, France.

Brandenburg Gate - symbol of peace, division and unity

Brandenburg Gate – symbol of peace, division and unity

Brandenburg Gate History

The Brandenburg Gate witnessed many important events in German History:

1730s–Originally, the gate was one of 18 gates within the customs walls that once formed the entrance to Berlin.

1788-1791– King Friedrich Wilhelm II commissioned Carl Gotthard Langhans to rebuild the old city gate in the shape of the triumphal arch we see today. The design was inspired by the Propylaea, the Gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. Hence, Berlin has often been called “Spree Athen” (Athens on the River Spree).

1793–The Quadriga is erected on top of the Brandenburg Gate. (The goddess is said to represent a courier of peace.)

1806– After the French Army defeated the Prussians, Napoleon removed the Quadriga and carted off his spoils to Paris.

1814–The Prussian Army defeated Napoleon, occupied Paris and returned the Quadriga to Berlin. Afterwards, the monument was redesigned as a triumphal arch. The oak wreath on the goddess’ scepter was replaced with an iron cross and the Prussian eagle. (The goddess was reinterpreted to represent the Roman Goddess of Victory.)

1933–The National Socialists marched through the Brandenburg Gate in a martial torch parade and introduced Germany’s darkest chapter in history.

1945–The neoclassical sandstone arch suffered considerable damage during World War II. Berlin was divided into four sectors, and the Brandenburg Gate was now located just inside the Soviet Sector. But vehicles and pedestrians continued to travel freely through the gate.

1961– The Berlin Wall was erected in an arc just west of the gate, cutting off access from West Berlin. On the eastern side, a “border marker” cordoned off the Brandenburg Gate for East Berliners. On 13 August–the day construction of the Berlin Wall began–one crossing remained open on the eastern side of the gate. When West Berliners demonstrated against the Wall the following day, the East closed the only remaining checkpoint at the Brandenburg Gate. Traffic did not reopen until 1989.

1987–US President Ronald Regan spoke the historic words at the gate, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!”

1989–When the Brandenburg Gate opened again to traffic upon reunification, 100,000 people came to celebrate the occasion.

1994–U.S. President Bill “Clinton spoke at the gate about peace in post-Cold War Europe.

2000-2002–The Brandenburg Gate was restored to its former glory.

2013–U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at the Brandenburg Gate about nuclear arms reduction and U.S. Internet surveillance activities.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.