Then the tram moved on so that the view was clear and Emil saw the man hesitate for a moment and then walk up the stairs to the terrace of an outdoor cafe.

Now he must again be very careful, like a detective catching fleas.  Emil took in the situation at a glance, saw a newspaper-stand at the corner of the road and ran behind it as fast as his legs would carry him.  His hiding-palce was excellent for he stood between the newspaper-stand and an advertisement board ….

The man had seated himself on the terrace, close to the railing.  He was smoking a cigarette and looked very pleased with himself.  Emil was disgusted to realize that a thief could enjoy himself, and that the person who had been robbed was the one who had to be depressed.  Emil did not know what to do next ….

What good did it do him to know that the man was sitting in the Café Josty in the Kaiser Avenue drinking light beer and smoking a cigarette?

Erich Kästner, Emil and the Detectives (Jonathan Cape 1931)

In its heyday the Café Josty was the meeting place for authors, artists and other bohemian types.  The literary salon of Berlin, if you will.  So when Kästner set a pivotal scene there, he was using a prime Berlin landmark.   The original Café was closed in 1930 and the building destroyed during World War II.  What remained of Potsdamer Platz was completely flattened during the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. 

Potsdamer Platz, 1975
Potsdamer Platz, 1975 (Courtesy of Fauxaddress- Edward on Flickr)

An investment of over $2 billion  has helped Potsdamer Platz to transform once more.  This is a shot taken from the same place as the above in 2008.

Potsdamer Platz, 2008 (Courtesy of Umschauen on Flickr)

Tucked in amongst the breathtaking skyscrapers is a new landmark, The Sony Centre.  Yet another architectural marvel within the new Berlin.  Inside is complex of cinemas, museums, and tourist watering holes including a reincarnated Café Josty.

Café Josty (Exterior), Berlin July 2009

No longer any newspaper stands or advertisement boards.  But can’t you just imagine Emil hiding behind that leafy palm tree to the right?  A walk through the front door to the back of the café takes you back in time to the nineteenth century as you enter the reconstructed Kaisersaal – the Emperor’s Hall of the former Grand Hotel Esplanade.  Looking just as it did when Theodor Fontane (King of the German nineteenth century novel) was living in the city and frequenting the Café Josty. 

Reconstructed Kaisersaal, Berlin
Reconstructed Kaisersaal, Berlin

Where better to read his novels in the twenty-first century?

Reading Fontane in the Café Josty, Berlin
Reading Fontane in the Café Josty, Berlin