Berlin’s hidden bargains

City still offers good buys

Berlin is one of the cheapest capitals in Europe — unless, of course, you’re thinking in dollars. Given the current exchange rate, Berlin can lose its bargain luster.

However, there are some good deals to be made in Berlin, even if you’re from the U.S.

Germany’s production fund, which was introduced last year and led to a production boom in Berlin, isn’t the only incentive for producers to shoot in the capital. Romania or Bulgaria might offer lower prices, but in Berlin producers will find an irresistible combination of German efficiency and a city that’s open for business.

In contrast to other German media hubs such as Munich, there’s plenty of studio space available in Berlin and deals can be struck.

If you want to save on studio space, there’s an abundance of derelict or empty buildings in Berlin, especially in the eastern part of the city. Some empty buildings are so flexible they can provide a number of varied locations. Last summer, the same large apartment building was used for a numerous scenes, including two different bank robberies and a state banquet, in both Uli Edel’s “The Baader-Meinhof Complex” and Tom Tykwer’s “The International.” Both productions saved time and money by not having to move.

Also, if you want to blow things up, in Berlin you stand a good chance that you’ll find a location you can destroy for real — no need to spend money on special effects in post.

What’s even more important, the general public in Berlin is very tolerant of film productions. People patiently endure road closures, and Berlin extras are enthusiastic and cooperative. Plus, the Berlin mayor’s office is extremely helpful as far as permits are concerned and can make the impossible happen.

There are experienced and efficient crews available, so there’s no need to fly in your entire team. With the Germans, you can run a tight ship and keep cameras rolling.

If your agenda is shopping rather than shooting, Berlin also has bargains.

For European designer names, hit the Galeries Lafayette store on Friedrichstrasse. It stocks European labels such as Vivienne Westwood, Marlene Birger or Sonia Rykiel at prices that are far lower than in the U.S., even if you take into account the exchange rate. European designer handbags, too, are available at prices that are slightly less breathtaking than those charged in L.A. stores.

Fred Perry, purveyor of fashion to Amy Winehouse, has a store on the corner of Neue Schoenhauserstrasse and Rosenthalerstrasse. The label is hardly available in the U.S. Its mod fashion comes at fab prices and looks cool even without tattoos.

Cheapies such as the Mango, Zara or H&M chain stores, which are only just beginning to break into the U.S. market, are everywhere in Berlin, including the Potsdamer Platz Arcades. Mango is particularly good for eveningwear. Check out Penelope Cruz’s own collection, which is not yet widely available in the U.S.

Hallhuber and More & More are the Teuton equivalents of Club Monaco, only cheaper. Branches of these chains can be found all over town, including a Hallhuber store on Potsdamer Strasse and a More & More store on Kurfuerstendamm 26.

The Buffalo shoe shop at Alte Schoenhauserstrasse 48 in Berlin Mitte sells Christian Louboutin and Marc Jacobs knockoffs; they almost look like the real thing and cost less than E90.

The cosmetics doctor is in

If you’re a fan of Dr. Hauschka’s cosmetics, don’t forget to stock up in Berlin. Dr. Hauschka products are sold at nearly every German pharmacy at what seems like supermarket prices compared with what you pay for them in the U.S. Weleda cosmetics, too, use only natural ingredients and are even cheaper and more widely available than Dr. Hauschka. Almost every drugstore sells them.

Natural-product junkies should also check out the Nuxe range. The French brand is somewhat more sophisticated than Dr. Hauschka or Weleda, and slightly more expensive. Their sparkly Huile Prodigieuse Or makes a stylish gift and is hard to find in the U.S. Although sold in many Berlin pharmacies, outlets can be tracked down via nuxe.com.

The Crumpler store on Rochstrasse in Berlin Mitte, which sells courier bags for laptops, is a must-stop for any self-respecting Mac user, though PC users can also find great items here. Crumpler bags are not just indestructible but also fashionable, and they come in all sorts of colors and shapes. Prices range between E100 and E170.

Crumpler also stocks highly durable photo bags in a variety of sizes, which is a good idea if you decide to splurge on a Leica camera, the photographic equivalent of a Mercedes. Leica created a photographic revolution in 1925 by introducing a small, lightweight, 35mm camera and even in the digital age it remains the cream of the crop. The Leica Shop Berlin at Fasanenstrasse 71 near Kurfuerstendamm sells the entire Leica range at prices lower than in the U.S.

If you enjoy cooking, the Zwilling shop at Kurfuerstendamm 33 is worth a trip. Zwilling has been producing knives for 275 years — not even the films screening in the Forum can be more cutting edge than the blades found at this shop.