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
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
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
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