I always head to KaDeWe if I need a new pair of shoes. There is a vast selection, the staff are really helpful and the prices are no higher than anywhere else. In fact they are considerably lower than in some of the innocent-looking little boutiques in trendy Mitte. For the uninitiated, KaDeWe stands for Kaufhaus des Westens (Store of the West) and is the flagship department store of Berlin, an equivalent of Harrods or Selfridges in London. It has a wonderful food department on the sixth floor and a conservatory-style restaurant under the glass dome above – both great places for Saturday brunch.
But back to shoes… I chose a couple of pairs I liked and sat down to try them on. As I stood up to look in the mirror I was confronted with a familiar figure walking towards the display stands behind me. It was Angela Merkel, completely on her own. For a second, I thought I would have to say something, but she cleverly averted my gaze and an eager sales assistant rushed to her side to offer help. A couple of men in suits were strategically placed a few yards away quietly observing everyone’s movements and all the customers nearby were surreptitiously smiling at each other and reaching for their mobile phones to record the moment in a text message. No photos were taken though. I was struck by the calmness of the situation. Frau Merkel had defined the atmosphere in her own quiet and unobtrusive manner. It was 5.30 p.m. and apparently the German Chancellor often pops into KaDeWe after a busy day at the office. When I told some Berlin friends I had seen her they weren’t a bit surprised. ‘We saw her picking up asparagus in the food hall only a couple of weeks ago’ they said.
A new addition to Tauentzienstrasse, only a stone’s throw from KaDeWe on the other side of the street, is the first Uniqlo store in Germany. It opened to the public on April 11th to a considerable amount of hype including huge street posters (see below) featuring Daniel Brühl, a ‘Berliner since 2001’. I don’t suppose Angela will shop here though. The bright red flashing neon city names along the steps of the main staircase freaked me out. Just not Angela’s understated style, even if the assistants are über helpful.