MARZAHN (Hellersdorf)

MARZAHN displays many of the contrasts which characterise the outer suburbs of East European cities that expanded in the post-war socialist era. Since less emphasis is placed on consumerism, towns or districts are not physically laid out around a shopping centre, indeed the centre is often hard to locate.

Marzahn and Hellersdorf were villages into the 20th century, and although administratively part of Greater Berlin early in the century, it was only with the East German government's drive to move Berliners out of the decaying inner city suburbs in the 1970s, they became rural islands in an eight square mile satellite town of what most people would consider awful high rise blocks.

East Germany had a shortage of building materials which made it hard to restore the 19th century terraces nearer the centre, and many who lived there dreamed of an escape from high-ceilinged, difficult to heat Altbau (older housing), often lacking baths and with shared toilets on the stairs. This explains the current occupancy of the high rises, which include many solid families and older couples who one would expect to avoid an environment that reminds us, in the west, of outer city problem suburbs of the 50s or 60s.

With increasing unemployment in the east, some areas are problematic for visitors. A volatile mix of disenchanted younger people and rehoused immigrants (Vietnamese, Russian Jews of German origin and East Europeans) means that some parts of Marzahn can be dangerous alone at night, extremely unusual for Berlin. But it's worth sampling the area to get an idea of the non-tourist side of the eastern city.

Of particular interest is Marzahn's neogothic village church, built by Stüler, a pupil of Schinkel. The village museum, with its farm implements and equipment, records village life in the last centuries.

Marzahn's recreation Park features the largest Chinese garden in Germany. The Gründerzeit Museum in Mahlsdorf, HELLERSDORF, to the south-east, is housed in an 18th century manor and displays recreations of typical Berlin interiors - working class family homes, bars - from the period 1880-1900, the so-called Gründerzeit or period when Berlin really became Berlin.

The Feuerstätten Museum was founded by a local chimney sweep and houses a collection of the beautiful decorative tiled ovens with which Berliners used to heat their homes.

Marzahn and Hellersdorf are served by the S-Bahn and many tram lines.


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