Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Once a year, usually in autumn, Berlin turns into a historic-site paradise: closed doors open to reveal places not accessible to the public; stories are told of long forgotten people and buildings; and you can do site-hopping – from Lichterfelde to Wittenau, from Friedríchsfelde to Halensee – to your heart´s content.
Since it is physically impossible to attend all events during the Tag des offenen Denkmals or to visit all places one would wish to see, it is better to approach it as a life-long process and begin small. Out route this weekend – the event stretched over both Saturday and Sunday – covered a water tower standing in the middle of a giant old cemetery; a house made of copper; a villa of the man who created the masterpiece of pre-WW2 cinema, “Metropolis”; as well as the seat of the Berlin parliament. That was Day 1 and the distance of 25 km by bike.
Day 2 proved to be even more exciting, with a 30-km bike ride that began with a fascinating story of ice-harvesting in Berlin-Lichtenberg (more about it next week), continued through the industrial neighbourhood around Rummelsburger Betriebsbahnhof (large historic railway freight yard used as a long-distance train depot today) to the wonderful and leafy villa neighbourhood of Karlshorst and the See-Siedlung next to the horse-racing track in Treskowallee. Past the massive Kraftwerk Klingenberg (Power Station Klingenberg) built in the 1920s as a true cathedral of industry, through the well-hidden and stunning marina at the River Spree, along the shore of the Rummelsburger Bucht and after meandering – drunk on the warm fresh air, the exciting ride and a small bottle of beer drank at the water – it was time to get back to Kreuzberg again.
It is not impossible to tell of all the wonders seen on the way, all the electrifying stories heard duing those two days or, come to that, of what it feels like to discover the city that is not possible to capture in words. Whether you live here or are planning to come as a guest: forget the city centre, skip the Brandenburger Tor (or go, have look and be done with it) and hit the “suburbs” instead. With everybody complaining about the “real Berlin” being gone, the spirit of the place having been finished off by the endless stream of strangers and their ever growing influence on the place, my message is clear: stop it! The “real” Berlin, the old city in its slightly dusty clothes, swathed in the musty smell of your grandfather’s house, “un-chic” and “un-cool” yet often heartbreakingly lovely, is still there. You must only look behind the edge of your own Kiez (Berlinerisch for “neighbourhood”).
Here are some impressions of this magic weekend in the city. Enjoy them!