One of my favorite hobbies in Berlin is going for a bike ride with no planned route or specific destination. I simply cycle around the city on a sunny Sunday, discovering new places, admiring the many architectural styles and taking pictures, lots of pictures.
That’s how I came up with the idea of creating an Instagram account called Berliner Carwatching, where every day I post a picture of a different car spotted parked on the streets of Berlin.
The landscape of the streets wouldn’t be complete without the parked cars. Like many other European cities, most of Berlin’s buildings don’t have a garage, either a parking lot in the courtyard or an underground garage. Only the more recent buildings and some of the houses built after World War II have private parking areas.
In Berlin, the “Mecca of vintage cars” is the huge warehouse that’s home to the Classic Remise, in the Moabit district, a space dedicated to car-lovers of past decades. Housed in a 19th-century building that served as a tram depot until the 1960s, when West Berlin’s electric tram system was shut down, the Classic Remise is the perfect setting to see display models and automobiles in storage.
The complex has mechanics and specialized maintenance services, workshops with enthusiasts, and temporary showrooms for dealers that show off their rarities for sale. The Classic Remise also has a bar and a restaurant overlooking the cars on display as well as a Biergarten, open in the summer.
For me, who couldn’t tell the difference between torque and engine displacement, which were just categories of Super Trump cards, the interest is purely aesthetic. I also don’t get into ding-dong discussions with aficionados about whether a car is antique, classic, vintage, modern, old/young timer, a rating set by the Auto Clubs of each country, which also determines a vehicle’s condition. You can get a quick idea of it here.
My “car attraction” is thus far from technical. The delight is visual, with all the color and shape appeal, in the contemporary context when cars can’t easily be distinguished and are mostly grey and black! For all these reasons, I’m sure it won’t come as a shock for you to learn that I don’t even know how to drive!
The biggest surprise is that, living in Berlin, I would have never imagined that I could still spot all those cars from the panini albums I collected as a child in the 1980s. I should explain that in my home country, Brazil, up until the early 1990s, there were only four main car manufacturers: GM/Chevrolet, which actually produced models from the German-owned Opel, Volkswagen, Ford and Fiat.
That means that about half of the cars manufactured in Brazil at that time were adaptations of models sold in Germany by Opel and Volkswagen, and most often marketed under different names: Brazil’s Chevrolet Monza corresponded to Germany’s Opel Ascona, the Chevrolet Opala to the Opel Rekord, the Ford Del Rey to the European Ford Granada… And the Brazilian Volkswagen Santana was clearly inspired by the German Passat, a name that had been previously used by Volkswagen for another model which it began producing in the 1970s and which was also adapted from the German Passat! Sounds a bit confusing, doesn’t it?
But If you’re interested in vintage cars like me (or just have a thing for design!) there’s nothing better than a little car hunting to make everything clear! And here’s the tip: the probability of spotting a mint condition 1950s Mercedes-Benz or some convertible jewel on a summer weekend is higher in the city’s, shall we say, rich and chic westside neighborhoods like Dahlem, Frohnau and Zehlendorf. If you’re looking to come across a rusty Trabant or Wartburg, both produced in the former East Germany, head to the not-yet-gentrified eastern districts, like Weissensee, Lichtenberg or even Marzahn.
And finally, a dream: may I one day be in need of a taxi when this Peugeot 404 from the 1960s pulls up to take me home!
This article was originally published on Chicken or Pasta.