Evolving Berlin, Everyday life in Kreuzberg. A guided tour, organized by Context Travel.
This tour has been offered to me free of charge, on the occasion of the ITB. Context Travel is usually some more expensive than similar organizations. They have a high quality and work with scholars as guides.
I had to meet my guide at the Wiener Stasse, near the U-bahn station Görlitzer Bahnhof. The square is full of Turkish restaurants and phone shops, a fact that reaffirmed the prejudice that Kreuzberg has become a complete Turkish quarter. Outside of the U-bahn station it is very busy, with many foreigners around.
My guide was Lucia Martinez Estefania. Born in Northern Spain, so not a Berliner of origin. But she has been living here for over four years and she feels herself already a local. She arrived on the bike, like a real Berliner.
The groups of Context are small, no more than 6 people. Since two people had canceled, I was the only one, so I’ve got a private tour through Kreuzberg. She has guided me throughout the neighborhood and told a lot about it.
Kreuzberg is in the former West Berlin, right on the edge of the wall. It was originally a district of the lower class, which is now completely rebuilt. After the 2th World War there many Turkish workers have been invited to come to Kreuzberg, because of the rebuilding. Just like in the Netherlands, with the thought that they would be temporary here and would go back again. This was different, their family also came over and now the 3rd generation Turks already lives here and will stay. In the former East Berlin they invited Vietnamese and Chinese people, because of politic reasons.
Besides foreign families more and more young people are living in Kreuzberg, so it has a subculture. After the fall of the Wall, the hip crowd went to the former East Berlin, but in recent years Kreuzberg became hot again.
First we go to “ Original Unverpackt “, a shop where the goods are unpacked in shelves, and you can use bags in paper or fabric. Looks like back in time. A new initiative.
See the article in the Daily Mail about it.
Now we are passing a blue building, originally the public bathhouse. The houses themselves had no plumbing at all. Nowadays it is a large indoor pool. Das Wellenbad, at the Spreewaldplatz.
The houses in this section shall not exceed 22 meters. On every floor the ceilings are becoming lower. The 1th floor e.g. 3.50 m high, 4th floor 2.50 m high.
The former train station Görlitzer Bahnhof. Until 1952 the rail link to the southeast of Germany (Görlitz) started here. In the former station building are restaurants, bars and music events. The former station square has been converted into the Görlitzer Park. Also, a small farm here. A very nice place in the summer, here it happens all.
On a square, an empty space. Here a bomb exploded and it has never been rebuilt, to keep the memory alive. Now it is a children’s playground. Insired on the designs of Aldo van Eyck, a Dutchman.
There are blocks with a common courtyard and a public kitchen. Nowadays it is used purely for fun, and in the summer there is often a public barbecue in the courtyard.
A building with “Bitte Lebn” written on it, the architect is Alvaro Siza.
Covered market. On Thursday evening a large food market here. On Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays the weekly market. Every 3th Sunday of the month a breakfast market. See: http://markthalleneun.de/
At the Mariannenplatz the former hospital Bethanien. It was purchased by the municipality, but is also used for public occasions. Nowadays it is an art gallery.
Fountain with statue of firefighters. In this square there were many demonstrations on the 1th of May. Always a lot of policemen on the square. For several years they have decided to organise a big party in the park. Undoubtedly, the fountain will also be used often.
The Oranienstrasse is the main street of Kreuzberg. All major shops are in this street. In the 19 th century the large department stores were here. In contrast to the other streets, where you will find small shops. This section is called Kreuzberg 36, named after the zip code 36.
SO36 is a famous club. In the 80s, very famous in the punk scene. Over the years, the club has evolved into a broader center that is programming especially music culture, with social awareness. There are evenings especially for for gays, for women, for multicultural people, but there are also normal festivals, with electronic music, or concerts.
There have been plans to transform it into a highway. Therefore, from the Kotbusser Tor a kind of barricade has been built, in order to stop the plans. A very ugly building, without windows.
Finally we are walking through the Adalbert Strasse. It used to be unsafe here, because of drug dealers. In recent years it has changed, and new bars have been opened here.
The end of the walking tour is on the square of Kotbusser Tor. Here is always a relaxed, open minded atmosphere.
I have to say goodbye to Lucia. It has been a very instructive afternoon. Thanks to Lucia and Context Travel!
Some random facts:
- Kreuzberg is always in motion. Besides foreign families more and more young people are living here. Everybody lives here in peace, next to each other.
- The part where we have been walking has the zip code 36 and is therefore called SO 36.
- The Oranienstrasse is the street where all the major shops are concentrated. In the other streets are the special small shops.
- Kotbusser Tor, Schlesisches Tor. The word “Tor” means gate. Here was the former city wall.
- In Kreuzberg, but also in other lower class areas you will find the U-bahn overhead. The reason is that there was no money available for digging. It was cheaper if the train runs overhead.
Besides Berlin there are tours in many other cities. Soon I’m going to meet them again, in Barcelona! On the occasion of TBEX Europe 2015.
The walking tour I have made: