Berlin's districts

Berlin is essentially a composite of a number of different districts, each with their own centre and greatly different character. I would be only too pleased to show you both the special and every-day aspects of the Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, Schöneberg and Kreuzberg.

Diversity on a small space - across the Kollwitz quarter

Today, the area around the Kollwitzplatz is one of the most prestigious quarters in the town. Building on the former vineyard and millers? area began in 1850 as part of the plan to extend Berlin and the new area started life as an area for workers and the petit-bourgeois. The water tower in the Knaackstrasse supplied Berlin with its drinking water. The area is also significant for other developments, acting as the site of one of Germany's first concentration camps; the home of the sculptor Käthe Kollwitz; the site of the Berlin Wall and the Berlin?s largest synagogue.


From Schönhauser Allee to the Stasi: Cliewe takes you through his Helmholtz quarter

Today, the Helmholtz quarter is one of Berlin?s most hip and happening areas in Berlin, yet has managed to retain more of its original character in comparison to the neighbouring Kollwitzplatz. Come with me on a tour through the area where I grew up. Learn some of the fascinating urban history based on the story of my family and see what has changed in the building practices, housing fashions and everyday life of its inhabitants since 1900. Of particular interest is the museum Zimmermeister Brunzel baut ein Mietshaus, showing how such a house was actually built. If you are interested, we can incorporate a stop here into the tour. What changes came with the Second World War, the time of the GDR and the fall of the Wall? Let yourself be drawn in to the multiple layers of this fascinating area of Berlin.

From the Ostbahnhof to the former border crossing at Heinrich-Heine-Strasse on the trail of the past

Originally a suburban area named after the Prussian Queen Luise, the Luisenstadt still boasts the relics of its not so recent industrial past, including factories, brown land and the Luisenstadt Canal system. Visiting the ?Angels Pool? and the Mariannenplatz, I can tell stories of occupied houses, daring escapes over the Berlin Wall and the work of talented architects. Walking through this urban landscape, we can see how a Prussian suburb developed into a hotbed of urban radicalism. We can examine churches and their communities torn apart by the Berlin Wall; the ?Tree House on the Wall?, urban gardens, and other attempts at creating an alternative lifestyle. The Kreuzberg of today is just as interesting, with high-rise flats jostling for space next to exclusive town houses, fin-de-siècle residences, trendy cafes and spit and sawdust pubs. A peaceful community or a problem area? Decide for yourself on this exciting tour through a sensational area of Berlin.


The Bavarian quarter

The exclusive area designed by Georg Haberland once played home to such illustrious names as Albert Einstein, Gottfried Benn, Erich Fromm, Marcel Reich-Ranicki and a number of other thinkers, doctors, lawyers and academics. A number of the Jewish inhabitants of the areas were forced to leave Germany in the 1930s; many others were deported and murdered. Today, this brutal chapter of German history is marked in the area with a memorial trail.


Through Friedrichshain: From Boxhagen to Stalinallee

Standing on the Boxhagener Platz or walking through the Simon-Dach quarter, a visitor to the area is struck by the lively nature of the Friedrichshain quarter. A working class area and Communist stronghold before the war, renamed in Nazi propaganda and heavily damaged from Allied bombing, Friedrichshain provided he starting point for the people?s uprising of 17 June 1953. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the area witnessed pitched battles between squatters and the Police, especially in the Mainzer Straße. Our tour finishes on the former Stalinallee (Stalin Avenue) with its truly impressive architecture: ?Socialist Classism? also known more popularly as ?Monumental Chocolate Box.?


From the abattoir to the murder cellar

The grounds of the former central stockyard and abattoir located between Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain is today the focus of a highly attractive scheme of urban regeneration. The new houses and commercial properties springing up between the ruins of the historic cattle auction houses provide a glimpse of Berlin?s future. Starting in the past, the tour traces the role played by this abattoir in the establishment of Berlin as a modern metropolis, the Olympic Games of 1936 and the vision of a car-free town. The area also provides numerous other attractions: the Samariterkirche, the location of protests in 1989 against the falsification of the GDR elections as well as the Frankfurter Tor and former Stalinallee.

Rummelsburg bay

In the middle of the 19th century, there were no more than 100 inhabitants in Rummelsburg ? today, just more than 2.000 flats have been built here. We pass the former boys' houses of the old municipal orphanage ? the yard is still visible today in the outline of the Medaillon square. Near the orphanage, 1879 the Prussian workhouse has been built. Since 1951 the buildings have been used as a prison by the GDR. After several fruitless attempts to escape from the GDR, I had to spent several month in the summer/fall of 1984 in the so called House I of the remand prison Rummelsburg. Me and five other prisoners shared a small single cell. The former cells have been reconstructed to housing flats in 2007 and the former prison hospital has become a small hotel. In the middle of the complex you can see the original water tower of the prison. 


Kreuzberg: once round the Urban Harbour

Nestling between Kreuzberg?s Oranienplatz and the Südstern are a number of areas currently exercising Berlin?s town planners: a party on which the town?s youth celebrate long (and entirely illegal parties) and the drugs centre of Berlin. As ever in Berlin, the words beautiful, ugly, surprize, history and even the unexpected all apply to life in this most interesting and varied of Berlin?s districts.


Southern Kreuzberg, with its urban mix of social housing and canals, almost resembles the Prenzlauer Berg. A number of nineteenth century houses and Hermann Blankenstein?s monumental hospital give the Luisenstadt canal between the Spree and the Landwehrkanal its characteristic appearance. Now a green area, it stretches from the Engel-/Bethaniendamm (see my tour ?between the Ostbahnhof the former border-crossing on Heinrich-Heine-Straße?) via the Oranienplatz and Wassertorplatz through to the former docks. Not long in operation, the Urban docks proved too small to handle the demand of traffic and closed soon after opening.


South of the docks is the former officers? quarter. It is a very smart area with a very unusual building: the Fichtebunker, a former stone gasometer. The purposes for which the building has been used reflects the exciting history of Berlin. Refashioned in the Second World War as an air-raid shelter for women and children, it was later used as a refugee camp, a remand prison, a hostel for the homeless and a warehouse. Today, it has been converted into a number of flats.

On tour with Cliewe

Water tower in Prenzlauer Berg

In Kreuzberg

Friedrichshain: Old slaughterhouse