Curiouser and curiouser: Berlin's most unusual sights
Want to discover Berlin's oddest offerings?
From easily overlooked details to frankly bizarre sights, the German capital is teeming with quirky, one-of-a-kind curiosities.
Ditch the guidebooks, grab a camera and take a tour of Berlin's least predictable (and most loveable) highlights.
You've been rumbled
Berlin's planners are a particularly determined bunch, and it's not just a wall that was built where you'd least expect it.
Image credit: www.de.academic.ru
Head to Dennewitzstraße to gaze at a U-Bahn tunnel traversing an apartment block, while at Schlangenbader Straße, Wilmersdorf, one of Europe's largest housing developments is constructed directly above a busy motorway.
Probably not the city's most desirable accommodation, but at least it's very close to transport.
Railway tunnel through an apartment block: Dennewitzstraße 2, 10785 Berlin.
Apartments over the motorway: Schlangenbader Straße 12 - 36, 14197 Berlin.
Dressed to impress
You'd probably need a history degree to fully understand the significance of the twelve, beautifully sculpted figures surrounding Kreuzberg's Schinkel monument (each represents decisive events in Prussia's early 19th century wars against Napoleon) - but one, often overlooked detail doesn't require any homework to enjoy.
Look closely at the figure representing Belle Alliance (aka the Battle of Waterloo) and you'll notice that the 'embroidered' strip on her tunic features each of the additional statues in miniature. Cute.
Extra tip: the base of the monument also contains one of Berlin's most extraordinary hidden spaces. Find out more....
Schinkel monument (Prussian National Monument for the Liberation Wars) Viktoriapark, 10965 Berlin
Fuel for urban explorers
Hidden in an off-street Kreuzberg courtyard, these vintage petrol pumps are a rusting relic of a long-closed business.
Dating back to the 1950s, the dispensers last tallied prices in Marks and Pfennig. Drop by to fill up on some abandoned Berlin nostalgia.
Vintage gas pumps: Muskauer Straße 37, 10997 Berlin
Street art in miniature
Much of Berlin's famous urban art is big, bold and pretty much unmissable, but less easy to spot are the teeny-tiny cork men (Korkmännchen) performing acrobatic stunts on Berlin's street signs.
Yoga instructor Josef Foos began creating these agile mini-sculptures back in 2011, and at least a thousand are now scattered throughout the city.
Want to track down one of these cute little fellas?
We can't list every location here, but a Google image search for 'Korkmännchen Berlin' will turn up plenty of cork man-sighting potential.
Korkmännchen (aka Street Yogis): exercising on street signs throughout Berlin. Click here for image search.
Illusions of grandeur
A swanky terrace of neoclassical homes isn't quite what you'd expect in Berlin's Marzahn, a district far better known for its GDR-era tower blocks.
But this stuccoed street is partly an illusion: a massive wall painting designed to transform dreary concrete housing into des-res accommodation.
Berlin's biggest folly, or a magical make-over? You decide.
Europa Viertel' painted apartment blocks: Stendaler Straße / corner Quedlinburger Straße 12627 Berlin
Berlin's Senefelder Platz commemorates (no surprise) Alois Senefelder, the inventor of lithographic printing, and features an imposing marble monument bearing his likeness.
More interesting than the effigy of the man himself, however, are the cherubic children cavorting at his feet.
Image credit: www.de.academic.ru
One appears to be scrawling Senefelder's name onto the plinth, but take a closer look and you'll see that it's written in reverse.
Why? Simply because back-to-front lettering is part of the lithographic process.
A second child helpfully holds up a hand mirror - not, as you might imagine, to gaze at his own image, but to helpfully unreverse the text and make it legible.
Senefelder Platz, 10405 Berlin
The bottom line in brushes
The display of hand-made brushes in Kreuzberg's Heimstraße showcases the wares of Berlin's only artisanal brushmaker, Volker Schröder.
By far the most intriguing product, however, just has to be the Anal Brush - a patented, wedge-shaped design that's ideal for intimate scrubbing.
Need encouragement to buy? A printed notice suggests that owning one gives you plenty to talk about at parties. Undoubtedly true, though just a bit cheeky.
Bürsten Schröder window display (no retail): 22 Heimstraße 10965 Berlin
Looking more like a '70s art installation than a timepiece, it's easy to mistake the real purpose of Berlin's unique 'set theory clock', a retrotastic display of coloured lights which - if you can decipher the baffling system - provides a novel way of telling the time.
Just yards from the 'Berlin clock' you'll find another horological highlight: the 'Clock of Flowing Time', a spectacular, neon-green water clock towering three floors in the Europa Centre mall.
Berlin Set Theory Clock: Budapester Straße 10787 Berlin (next to Europa Centre). Clock of Flowing Time: inside Europa Centre mall.
The pavement cafes clustered around Kurt Schumacher Platz offer more than people-watching opportunities.
Every few minutes jets roar overhead in their descent into Tegel Airport, a spectacle that has to count as one of Berlin's most exhilarating - if slightly nerve-wracking - sights.
Locals don't seem to notice at all, so simply shrug as a plane zooms into view and blows the foam off your cappuccino.
Kurt-Schumacher-Platz, 13405 Berlin on the U6 Metro line.
A fairy tale U-Bahn
Aptly located at Prinzenstrasse (Prince Street) U-Bahn, this chubby Frog Prince is a delightful relic of the pre-war station where, once upon a time, he adorned a stairway leading to the platforms.
These days he sits on a custom-made perch high in the rafters. Look out for him if you happen to enter his railway kingdom.
Frog Prince: Prinzenstraße U-Bahn station, Platform 1, direction Wittenbergplatz, 10969 Berlin
A revolution in shopping
Nothing symbolises Kreuzberg's alternative spirit quite like the M99 Infoladen, a shop that's heaving with 'mixed wares for revolutionary purposes'.
The haphazard stock comprises everything from pamphlets and posters to combat gear, but although the store has catered to Berlin's rebels since 1985, it's now threatened with closure.
Will 2015 see the sad demise of a Berlin (anti-)institution?
One thing's for certain: M99 won't give up without a fight.
M99 Gemischtwarenladen mit Revolutionsbedarf: Manteuffelstraße 99, 10997 Berlin. Opening times: daily, 12noon-8pm.
Museum of manic design
A word-of-mouth hit with Berlin's visitors, the zany Design Panoptikum is a unique display of bizarre industrial objects - many of which have been spliced together to create even odder artefacts.
Image credits: facebook/designpanoptikum
Half design museum, half cabinet of surreal curiosities, drop by to experience vintage technology at its weirdest.
Designpanoptikum: Torstraße 201, 10115 Berlin. Opening times: Mon-Fri, 11am-6pm. Entry fee 5 Euros.
Berlin visitors will no doubt notice forlorn-looking gum machines almost everywhere, but the contents of this particular 'Automat' aren't meant to be chewed by humans.
The 'Madenautomat' in the district of Wedding dispenses tiny boxes of live maggots on a 24-hour basis, and in case you're wondering why, it's there to provide anglers with bait whenever they need it.
Night fishers (and urban curio-lovers) rejoice.
Angelhaus Koss / Maden-Automat: Tegeler Straße 36-37, 13353 Berlin.
No prizes for guessing what the Ant Store sells, but this emporium of all things ant-related is also a world first, attracting visitors from around the globe.
Particularly fascinating is the network of plastic tubing allowing hundreds of the little fellas to march around the retail space - quite possibly the busiest store in the world, too.
Antstore / Ameisenshop: Selerweg 41, 12169 Berlin.
Opening times: Mon-Fri, 9am-12 noon, then 1pm-6pm. First Sat of the month 12 noon - 6pm.