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8 inventions made in Berlin

It was out of a manufacturing facility in Berlin, that the aviator Otto Lilienthal became the first person in history to make multiple successful gliding flights. While he is one of the most well-known German inventors, have you also heard of an engineer called Konrad Zuse, who constructed the world’s first relay computer?

With a long tradition of innovation and creativity – more than 30.000 patents are currently applied for in Germany every year, it's no surprise that some Berliners came up with a few of the most significant inventions. Find out more about the city’s pioneering spirit and eight very diverse products and developments, that have their origins in the German capital.

4. The Currywurst

While this might not be a very notable invention for mankind – it sure is for Berlin.

In 1949, Berlin still suffered from the vast destruction due to the Second World War. The Berlin Blockade of the Soviet Union ended in spring 1949 and the food supply was still tough. It was a time when creativity had beaten tradition. In September 1949 snack stand operator Herta Heuwer served a “special sauce” – a mixture of tomato paste seasoned with several spices (Worcestershire sauce among others) – with fried sausage at her concession stand on Kant-/Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße for the first time. Ten years later, she registered the sauce under the trademark “Chillup”, composed of the words chili and ketchup. However, to get the perfect Currywurst as we know it today, the sausage needed to be made without a casing. Enter Max Brückner and Frank Friedrich, who created a process to produce casing-free sausage, the famous “skinless Spandauer”, in Berlin-Spandau. Together, Heuwer, Brückner and Friedrich developed the original Berlin Currywurst. This can now be enjoyed with or without a casing, doused in a special sauce and sprinkled with plenty of curry powder.

Recommendations in Berlin: Curry 36 at Mehringdamm is hailed as serving the best of the best. If you like to have one of the most classic currywursts of Berlin, go to Konnopke’s Imbiss at Prenzlauer Berg. Last but not least, there is even a whole museum dedicated to the currywurst!

Curry 36 on Mehringdamm © Imago


8. Electric streetcars

London had the first underground transport system, Berlin the first electric streetcars. Berlin native Friedrich von Hefner-Alteneck worked for the company Siemens & Halske. In 1879, he presented a 300-meter-long course on which the first electric train drove without a horse or steam power. The electric streetcar contained a crucial detail, namely a drum armature in the electric motor – designed by Friedrich von Hefner-Alteneck. Starting in 1881, the first car to carry passengers, measuring 4.3 meters long with twelve seats and eight standing places, drove between the Groß-Lichterfelde station and the local military academy (about 2.5 km). The outdated light intensity unit, the Hefner lamp, was also named after Hefner-Alteneck.

Electric vehicle were not limited to public transport in those days. Robert Anderson – a Scotsman from Aberdeen – invented the first one. Rudolf Slaby designed and built a small electric car for his personal use in 1919. The design aroused such interest that he decided to establish a company and begin volume production of the car together with his companion Herrmann Beringer. The cars were produced in Berlin-Charlottenburg and served as a mobility alternative for disabled ex-service men from the First World War. Later the company Slaby-Beringer suffered heavy losses due to the Depression in the mid 1920s and was sold to DKW that became one of the four companies forming Auto Union, which was later purchased by Volkswagen Group in 1964.

Slaby-Behringer Elektrowagen © Frank C. Müller / Creative Commons Zero

Header: Otto-Lilienthal-Museum Anklam

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