Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


Named in June 1906, the 95-metre long Brommystraße is the 7th shortest street in Berlin-Kreuzberg – shorter even than the tiny and quaint lane known as Kleine Parkstraße, hidden between numbers 77 and 78 Kreuzbergstraße (100 metres). However, it still a whole 35 metres longer than the shortest street in the borough, Enckestraße.

Betweeen 1851 and 1906 it was nothing but an extension of Eisenbahnstraße, used almost exclusively by wgat was known as Verbindungsbahn: a ring railway connecting all of the main Berlin terminus stations (to find out more about this unique line, read the following post).

After crossing Köpenicker Straße and reaching the river bank of the Spree, the train continued along a single-track train bridge constructed especially for the line – the bridge made it possible to deliver cargo directly to and pick new one from Berlin´s Schlesischer Bahnhof (Ostbahnhof today).

Unterspree Brücke (Moltkebrücke today) with Verbindungsbahn on it in 1868.

Unterspree Brücke (Moltkebrücke today) with Verbindungsbahn on it in 1868.

In order not to hamper the river traffic too much (“too much” being clearly an understatement as this bridge was a pain in every single Spree skipper´s neck), the middle bridge pier was built as a swing bridge. It allowed ships and Kähne (typical Berlin barges) to continue upstream towards Oberbaumbrücke.

A narrow wooden platform on one side of the tracks enabled the residents of Luisenstadt (Kreuzberg) and Friedrichshain to cross the river on foot to the other side. In 1882 the authorities added an elevated platform above the tracks. This way, pedestrian traffic took place on a separate and much safer level. Unfortunately, so rotten and in such a precarious state was the construction by 1893 that it had to be closed down again.

It seemed that the hour of the skippers´revenge struck at last: the Verbindungsbahn no longer used the bridge but the mid-river bridge pier still got in the way of the river traffic. Why keep it then? In a motion sent to the Berlin Magistrat they kindly asked for the removal of the offending swing bridge.

However, the Magistrat had entirely different plans. It employed one of the best urban architects at the time, Alfred Messel (who built, among others, the first Wertheim Department Store in Oranienstrasse and then in Leipzigerstrasse as well as Pergamon Museum in Berlin-Mitte) to design a new street bridge that would span the river at this point – but this time with more class and extra glamour.

Messel´s bridge became the first concrete bridge ever built in Germany´s capital. 95 metres long and 18 metres wide it was named even before the construction began: on June 15 1906, the authorities announced that it would commemorate the man who created the first German navy, the Reichsmarine – Admiral Karl Rudolf Bromme, known as “Brommy”. The new street carved out in Kreuzberg between the aforementioned Köpenicker Strasse and the Spree and continuing on the other side of the river from the river bank to Mühlenstrasse was named accordingly, too.

Opened in December 1909, Brommybrücke, which emerged in Kreuzberg between the Proviantamt or Heeresbäckerei (later better known only as the “Army Bakery”) on the left and the Pionier-Garde barracks on the right, was supported by two massive mid-river bridge piers and ended between the stables and factory buildings on the northern bank.

Although built of concrete, the bridge was covered with granite (underwater) and shell limestone (above the water-level). The beautiful yet quietly subdued decorations – little cherubs with fish-tailed eagle, bear, lion and dog – were hand-crafted by Ignaz Taschner, the same man whose works adorn the famous Märchenbrunnen in the Volkspark Friedrichshain.

The new Brommybrücke designed by Adolf Messel (photo: Hermann Rückwardt)

The new Brommybrücke designed by Adolf Messel (photo: Hermann Rückwardt)

In April 1945 Brommybrücke was blown up by the German army to prevent the Soviets and their allies –  approaching at a sound pace from the south – from reaching the opposite, northern side of the Spree too fast.

It was one of few Berlin bridges never to be re-built again.

Its remains, apart from one of the mid-river piers (they were clearly built to last), were removed in 1950/51 along with the buildings that lined the street on its northern end. And although the northern bridge pier disappeared only in 1977, Brommystrasse ceased to exist already three years before that, in 1974.

East and West Berlin were planning to remove remaining bridge pier together (East Berlin had a solid reason to do so: Werner Probst shot during his attempt to flee from East Berlin tried to use it to reach the West Berlin side) but November 1989 brought an end to this co-operation.

Spreebalkon (photo: fritztram)

Spreebalkon (photo: fritztram)

In 2007 the southern pier of the former Brommybrücke was turned into a Spreebalkon (A Balcony Over The Spree) or Brommybalkon, an observation deck with a view towards the new O2 Arena (and the disputable construction site along the East Side Gallery). Plans to build a new bridge, announced as early as in 2007 are still far from realised. But one thing is certain: as far as traffic goes, on the new Brommybrücke you will hear nothing by footsteps and the sound of the passing bikes.

In Kreuzberg Brommystrasse has been back on the map again since more less 2000.


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