Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin

TODAY IN KREUZBERG: NOVEMBER 27th – Belle-Alliance-Strasse

Mehringdamm, one of the best known and busiest streets of Berlin and Berlin-Kreuzberg is also one of the very few streets in this city with 99% of its numbers belonging to one borough and only one placed in the neighbouring district: Mehringdamm 8-128 belong to Kreuzberg but No. 129 – home to the Berlin´s Main Customs Office as well as to Berlin´s Water And Shipping Board – is already in Tempelhof.

Before it became Mehringdamm, however, it bore a name that corresponded perfectly to the names of almost all neighbouring streets. Here is a short story of a long thoroughfare.

Belle-Alliance-Strasse corner Gneisenau- (right) and Yorkstrasse (left), looking towards the Landwehrkanal, in 1900.

Belle-Alliance-Strasse corner Gneisenau- (right) and Yorkstrasse (left), looking towards the Landwehrkanal, in 1900 (please, notice the old shape of the street at its northern end, changed in the early 1970s).


On November 27th that year Tempelhofer Strasse, part of the old 16th century commercial road from Berlin to Halle (through Tempelhof, Trebbin, Luckenwalde), is re-named Belle-Alliance-Strasse.

In fact, the street is considered to be a much older trade route between the south of Europe and the Baltic Sea – the proof for it were the coins found while excavating the foundations for the late 19th-century houses built along the Belle-Alliance-Strasse. The road was also used by the Knights of The Temple, or the Templars, Berlin´s and Cölln´s southern neighbours whose land it was on  – between 1200 and 1318 when it was taken over by another Crusade-weathered military order, the Hospitallers.

The original name of the street from 1837, Tempelhofer Strasse, commemorated the Templars and their first settlement south of Berlin, which became the core of the future Berlin-Tempelhof.

As for the the name Belle-Alliance-Strasse, it commemorated the victory of allied armies at Waterloo in June 1815 where Napoleon suffered his final, crushing defeat. “Belle Alliance” was actually the name of the inn which became Napoleon´s headquarters before the decisive battle and standing close to where the Field Marshalls Blücher (the commander of the Prussian army) and Wellington (leading the English troops) met to afterwards.

The Belle Alliance Inn around 1880

The Belle Alliance Inn around 1880

Although the co-produced strategy worked out just splendid, there was clearly some disagreement over the naming of the historic triumph. Wellington insisted on calling it the Battle of Waterloo while Blücher preferred the sound of Schlacht bei Belle-Alliance (perhaps because the French part made the German word Schlacht – battle but also massacre or butchery – less, well, bloody). The gentlemen agreed to disagree and both kept their chosen name. Hence the difference in history books published in the UK and Germany from which the school pupils learn about the event: the British children learn about the event under the name of Waterloo while their German counterparts refer to it as the Battle of Belle Alliance.

The inn itself, partly damaged during WW2, serves as a nightclub today.

Tempelhofer Strasse on Hobrecht´s map of Berlin of 1863

Tempelhofer Strasse on Hobrecht´s map of Berlin of 1863

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