Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


Mehringdamm, one of the best known and busiest streets of central Berlin as well as of the locality of Kreuzberg counts at the same time among very few Berlin streets with 99% of its numbers belonging to one borough and only one placed in the neighbouring district: Mehringdamm 8-128 are in Kreuzberg but No. 129 – home to both Berlin´s Main Customs Office and Water And Shipping Board – is already in Tempelhof.

Before it became Mehringdamm, however, it bore a name that corresponded perfectly with 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 1864 Tempelhofer Strasse, part of the old 16th century commercial road from Berlin to Halle (through Tempelhof, Trebbin, Luckenwalde) and of even older trade route from the south of Europe to the Baltic Sea, was re-named 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  – in 1318 that land became the property of another Crusade-weathered military order, the Hospitalers.

The original 1837 name of the street, Tempelhofer Strasse, commemorated the Templars and their first settlements south of Berlin, the future borough, then locality, of Tempelhof.

The new name, Belle-Alliance-Strasse, commemorated the victory of allied armies at Waterloo in June 1815 where Napoleon suffered his final, crushing defeat. “Belle Alliance” stood for the farm (or estate) which became Napoleon´s headquarters before the decisive battle: it was where Field Marshall Blücher the commander of the Prussian army, and Duke of Wellington who led the English troops, met their French opponent after the battle.

The Belle Alliance Inn around 1880

The Belle Alliance Inn around 1880

Although the co-produced strategy worked out splendidly, 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. Eventually, the two gentlemen agreed to disagree and both kept their name of choice.

Hence the difference in history books published in the UK and Germany: the British children learn about the Waterloo victory 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


  1. Gary Costello
    November 27, 2016

    Another history lessons which cleared up a few more questions on the Berlin names list! Keep up the great work.


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