PANKOW (Prenzlauer Berg, Weissensee)

PRENZLAUER BERG is the name of the suburb standing on a slight rise north of the old city walls. When the city expanded from the middle of the 19th century, the farmland and windmills outside of the city were swiftly surrounded by dwellings for factory workers. In a later building phase, the Wedding style barrack like blocks with their 6 successive courtyards were replaced with more modern 2-roomed flats intended to reduce the probability of insurrection encouraged by cramming too many workers in tight quarters.

Prenzlauer Berg, or Prenzlberg, to its inhabitants, boasts beautiful 19th century 5 storey terraces, but, owing to the shortage of building materials in the DDR, they were left sometimes semi-derelict after the war, and as the suburb declined, it attracted an interesting mix of students, disaffected artists and became the focus for resistance to the East Berlin government in the 1980s, with meetings of the extra-parliamentary opposition taking place in churches like the Gethsemane Church.

"Cowhouse" near KollwitzplatzThe first urban public water system in Germany was introduced here in 1855, on Windmill Hill. The initial tower was replaced in 1875 by the current water tower, which was subsequently used by the SS to torture German resistance fighters, and is now converted into flats, set in a children's playground. Across the road, in Rykestrasse, is the Berlin orthodox synagogue (1902), gutted but not completely destroyed on Kristallnacht - the night when the SA burned Jewish property throughout Germany. On the corner nearby, Russian and Jewish restaurants can be found. Further west, Kollwitzplatz, named after the sculptress, is the centre of the ongoing Yuppification of the suburb - a pleasant square, ringed by open air restaurants like the Guglhof, and cafes.

To the north, Husemannstrasse is an interesting example of the East Berlin government's belated attempt to restore some of the older buildings.

Elsewhere in the suburb, renovation is proceeding at lightning speed. It is however still characteristic to find streets where totally dilapidated houses lie next to immaculately restored buildings with ornate balconies and stucco facing. This mix is echoed in the population of the area - professionals, students, many younger visitors from abroad, as well as older original residents.

Another swiftly developing area is around Helmholzplatz, originally the site of a Dutch-German building company that provided bricks and tiles for the expanding city, now adorned with open air cafes on every corner.

KulturbrauereiPrenzlberg was from the earliest days equipped with the necessary resources to sustain its working population. Several breweries graced its heights - one of which, the enormous renamed Kulturbrauerei (Culture Brewery) is now an Arts Centre with multiplex cinema, ice rink in winter, several bars and clubs, a Russian theatre and Bavarian restaurant.

Beer gardens, like the Prater on Kastanienallee, supplied entertainment as well as alcohol and were famous holiday excursion destinations for those Berliners who lived in the centre, and still attract the crowds in the summer.

The western side of the suburb runs along Schönhauser Allee, and here can be found a Jewish cemetery founded in 1827. From the earliest days the funeral processions were forbidden to enter from the main road since this was the route taken by the Rulers to their palace in Niederschönhausen. In 1944 resistance fighters were discovered hidden in the cemetery cisterns and hung from the trees in the graveyard.

Further in towards the centre, Senefelderplatz celebrates the inventor of lithography - a white carrera marble statue of him stands in the park triangle formed by the intersection of Schönhauser Allee and Kollwitzstrasse.

PANKOW, to the north of Prenzlauer Berg, takes its name from the little river Panke, which flows through Pankow Park, on into Wedding, and finally into the river Spree. The original village grew up around the Schloss Niederschönhausen (1704), and as the southern suburb of Prenzlauer Berg expanded along the Schönhauser Allee, it became more closely linked to Berlin, finally incorporated in 1920.

The baroque Schloss, originally home to Elisabeth Christine, the estranged wife of Frederick the Great, features a ballroom, ornate stairwells and marble gallery in rococo style. In the summer months the palace hosts public musical recitals. The surrounding Park, laid out in the French manner, runs on either side of the Panke and has an indoor and outdoor swimming pool.

From 1949 to '59 the palace was the seat of Wilhelm Pieck, President of the new East German State, and subsequently a guesthouse for important visitors to the regime. Gorbatchev stayed here when attending the 40th anniversary celebrations of the DDR - the occasion when he delivered the famous warning that history doesn't forgive those who react too late.

The concentration of State functions in the suburb turned the area of huge villas south of the park into a Who's Who of DDR functionaries - diplomats, artists and writers who had the blessing of the State, and other assorted Bonze (bigwigs). To the west of the suburb is a smaller park, the Bürgerpark, with lakes, teahouses and sports facilities.

Other buildings of historical interest include Pankow's parish church, redesigned by Schinkel, the expressionist Mary Magdalene Church from the 1930s, and the Carl von Ossietzky High School, Berlin's most imposing example of early 20th century school architecture with its castle-like towers and stepped red brick gables.

WEISSENSEE
The Soviet War Memorial in the Schönholzer Heide park is dominated by a 33.5 metre high obelisk overlooking a bronze statue of a mother grieving over her dead son. WEISSENSEE takes its name from the small lake round which the original village grew up. The surrounding park has an open air stage, a swimming area, and, to the north, a cycle track, scene of some of the first pop concerts permitted by the East Berlin authorities.

The Jewish cemetery on Herbert-Baum-Strasse was the last Jewish graveyard to be established in Berlin (1880), preceded by that in Schönhauser Allee which had become full. It is the biggest in Germany; desecrated during the Third Reich but restored under the Communists, its central feature is a circle of stoneblocks each bearing the name of one of the Extermination Camps. Here lie, under headstones and monuments designed by architects like Gropius, some of the famous Jewish personalities that gave Berlin much of its colour - Kempinski (the hotel chain), Tietz and Jandorf (the stores Hertie and KaDeWe), Garbaty (cigarette manufacturer) and the publishers, Mosse and Fischer.

In the southern section of the cemetery is a further memorial to the dead of the First World War.

Pankow is served by the U2, S-Bahn and many trams.


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