Arriving, tired from a Night Shift, I was hesitant that my unremitting devotion to this city had finally waned, having done the museums and the sights what else was there to do. Walking around my old familiar haunts, Museum Island, Potsdammer Platz and LeipzigerStrasse I felt comfortable but aware that I had done all this before, at least on this trip I had the ‘walking tour’ to do which would show me something a little more. My fears were, as ever, misplaced.
Having done Prenzaulerberg I was saddened that the city was embracing capitalism with a vengeance. In the 1930’s Prenzaulerberg was the poor district, where those who could not afford to live anywhere else, which then grew into a radical ghetto of left-wing social dissent. On the site of where the Nazi’s tortured Communists – careful enough NOT to sound proof the cellars so the screams could echo around the area as a warning – there is the remains of the Water Tower now turned into luxury apartments. After the fall the Third Reich came the Communists, and again it became the gathering place for the malcontents of society, in the churches and in the parks. It was the place where you were automatically suspect. Eventually the Wall fell, and the Yuppies moved in.
In the squares where people were harassed and tortured the Yuppies moved in with a vengeance. The Designer Shops, the Organic Food Markets, the BioShops (Pranzaulerberg is the home to the biggest Organic Food shop in Europe), along the streets where the last German Expressionist Artist, and the first woman to be elected to the Prussian Arts Academy, Kathe Kollwitz spent her last days penury due to her opposition to the Nazi Regime now run children of capitalism, blissfully ignorant of her opposition to tyranny, save for a square named after her.
Prenzaulerberg is the Chelsea of Berlin, not knowing itself, not aware – or bothered – about its history, concentrating on raising Helmut.
Anything would have been desirable to Prenzaulerberg, apart from Kreuzberg, or so I thought.
A mixed borough, it is dirty, noisy, full of graffiti and surprisingly not a Starbucks in sight.
Having a similar history to Pranzaulerberg its fate was to be on the ‘other side of the wall’ in a city imprisoned by geo-politics of the Cold War. Hemmed in on three sides by the the Berlin Mauer its respectable inhabitants soon fled, the rents for the properties dropped, and the artists and the lefties moved in, and stayed. McDonald’s managed to sneek a restaurant in after violent street protests, but no-one bothered after that, the cost was too great. Kreuzberg (or XBerg as it is know locally) is a great mixture of the migrant Berliner and the Left-Wing radical and yet it retains a charm all of its. The Marianeplatz Apotheke jokingly has a stone embedded in its signage, a nod to the yearly riots that are held on Labour Day (8,000 Police were drafted in 2013 to cope) and yet they seek the alternative of a arts festival to counter the radical violence. The squats that remain are tolerated by the Police, after a evicting one squatter a plague of car burnings spread across the city. Kreuzberg feels ‘dodgy’ but safe.
XBerg is where the ‘real people’ live, where people have a sense of community and a sense of identity not provided by commercialism, it seems like the last bastion of hope, the last bastion of where social change can occur. In a city that is ploughing up its past, Kreuzberg seems like a place where the people are making a stand against the property developers. Once it stood as the bastion of capitalism, now it is socialism.