KREUZBERG-FRIEDRICHSHAIN

KREUZBERG straddles the Landwehr Canal, south of Mitte. It is a residential district with a huge number of restaurants, cafes and bars. Running along the line of the canal is Berlin's first U-Bahn line, the U1. Kreuzberg, in the late 19th century, was a working class area and the local council who financed the line couldn't afford to run it underground as richer suburbs like Charlottenburg could. The result is a spectacular overhead track with several attractive stations - Kottbusser Tor and Schlesisches Tor - running parallel to a lazily flowing canal spanned by arched stone bridges.

The U1 is rather unkindly nicknamed the Istanbul Express, a reference to the many Turkish guest workers who were invited to Germany in the 60s and who make up a large part of the suburb's population, particularly round Kottbusser Tor, where Turkish grocers, snack (Imbiß) stalls, restaurants and banks represent two thirds of the business.

Another contribution to Kreuzberg's character is that Berliners, under the Four Powers agreement, were not subject to conscription, which increased the wave of younger Germans anxious to experience life in their sometime capital. 30 years on, the suburb's two halves - nicknamed after the original postal codes - display rather different characters. SO 61, to the west, is relatively prosperous, fashionable and professional - the once alternative society dominates the restaurant, bar and clothes and furniture business. SO 36, to the east retains more of the original flavour, with its junk markets, squatted property, murals and generally a younger scene.

Checkpoint CharlyThe northern edge of Kreuzberg abuts the site of the Berlin Wall. On Kochstrasse, the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie records escape attempts, and is located at the old American military border crossing. Further east the massive tower of one of Germany's press barons, Axel Springer, rears up, only two blocks away from Daniel Liebeskind's Jewish Museum, a jagged concrete structure representing a broken Star of David. To the west of Checkpoint Charlie, on Stresemannstrasse, the museum The Topography of Terror, built on the site of the old SS HQ, chronicles the horrors of the Third Reich. Next to it stands the beautiful Martin Gropius building, a museum with a permanent Surrealist collection and regular adventurous temporary exhibitions. To the south are the ruins of the Anhalter Bahnhof, the old station for South Germany, and beyond it, the Tempodrom, one of Berlin's most prestigious cabaret venues, housed in a strange tent-like structure.

South of the canal, SO 61 lies east of the old rail lines running south, and stretches to the point where the land rises up from the Spree's southern flood plain to the rise with Tempelhof, the city's original airport.

The Museum of Transport and Technology records Berlin's rich industrial heritage - suspended high in the air above the entrance is one of the Raisin Bombers, the planes that supplied the city during the Berlin Airlift.

The intersection Mehringdamm-Yorckstrasse is the focal point of cafe and night life in SO 61. Two streets south, galleries, clothes shops and restaurants range along Bergmannstrasse towards Marheinekeplatz, with its covered market, and the Passionskirche, a music venue. Two further and you come to the beautifully restored Fidicinstrasse, with its water tower and The Friends of the Italian Opera, an English theatre venue.

West along Yorckstrasse, through a rounded arch at number 83-86, one of the most beautiful original Berlin closes can be visited. Riemers Hofgarten is a paradise of stately mansions, divided into flats, overlooking a maze of gardens instead of the usual bare yards.

South again lies Viktoriapark with its lawns, a waterfall, rocky grottos and a monument on a hill commemorating the dead of the War of Liberation against Napoleon. This is the hill and cross that give the suburb its name. Behind the hill the outdoor nightclub Golgotha has attracted generations of Kreuzbergers.

East along Gneisenaustrasse's clubs and bars you arrive at Hasenheide Park on the right, where the Turkish population gather in the summer and the air is thick with the smell of barbecues.

Hermannplatz nearby was the site of the biggest department store in Europe, built in the 20s, although now a more modestly redesigned branch of the Karstadt chain. SO 36 is centred round Oranienstrasse with its alternative shops, bars and cafes. Here, and to the east, the buildings are often covered with graffiti and some beautifully executed murals.

Mariannenplatz is a stop off for many festivals in the summer, including the wonderful Karneval der Kulturen (a chance for the many nationalities living in Berlin to dance through the streets Rio-style).

Görlitzer Park, with its Swimming baths and sauna, leads you towards the canal again. To the east, beyond Schlesisches Tor station and the sculpture garden nearby, stretches the river Spree, spanned by the recently re-opened mock medieval Oberbaumbrücke which leads to FRIEDRICHSHAIN, previously East Berlin, but now administratively the same suburb as Kreuzberg.

 

Straußberger PlatzFRIEDRICHSHAIN is the area on either side of Karl-Marx-Allee, previously Stalinallee. This huge ceremonial road is lined with Russian wedding cake style blocks faced with Meissen marble. This was a good DDR address. It was the building workers from this site who sparked off the protest that led to the so-called workers uprising in 1953, which was suppressed by Russian tanks. The uprising took place on the 17th June, and the West Berliners, who were powerless to intervene without risking triggering World War III, named the alley running through the Tiergarten in the west, after that date.

Where Friedrichshain meets the river the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall can be see. The East Side Gallery is a collection of murals painted by artists from all over the world shortly after the Wall came down, including the famous kiss between Breznev and Honnecker.

Fairy Tale FountainFriedrichshain has a large park, Volkspark Friedrichshain, laid out in 1840 on the anniversary of Frederick the Great's accession. It contains a Fairy Tale Fountain, decorated with statues of characters from the Grimm Brothers collection of stories, an open air venue for music and theatre, and cafes, all dotted around the central view which offers a good view out over the eastern city.

South of Karl-Marx-Allee, a booming restaurant, cafe and bar district centres round Simon-Dach- and Boxhagener Strasse.

East along the Allee is the Forum Mall where the S Bahn ring crosses the street. Northern Kreuzberg is served by the U1, SO 61 by the U6, SO 36 by the U8, and Friedrichshain by the S-Bahn, the U5 and countless trams.


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