Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Did you know that Kreuzberg’s Wiener Straße, a long street connecting Skalitzer Straße with Görlitzer Ufer running along Berlin’s Landwehrkanal used to end with a bridge? For nearly 50 years it spanned the canal connecting Eastern Kreuzberg (SO36) with Treptow.
Wiener Brücke, built in 1896, was erected 23 years after the street changed its name from rather dull Verlängerte Oranienstraße (Extended Oranienstraße) to that honouring the Austrian capital, Vienna. Görlitzer Bahnhof, famous terminus railway station erected in 1866-68 within the boundaries of today’s Görlitzer Park, was where the first Berlin-Vienna line had its start.
As for Wiener Brücke, its heyday was the year of its construction: in 1896 Treptower Park was home to Berlin’s Great Industrial Exposition – to provide as comfortable an access to it as possible, next to next railway stops and omnibus services, a well-frequented tram line used the bridge on its way there. The span also connected Wiener Straße with what was then known as Straße Nr 4 des Bebauungsplannes, later named Liststraße, then re-named Graetzstraße. Since 1962 it has been known as west Treptow’s most popular street, Karl-Kunger-Straße.
The original Wiener Brücke shared the fate of many other Berlin bridges: in April 1945 the bridge was blown up by the Wehrmacht to slow down the progress of the approaching Red Army. The wooden footbridge built to replace it after the war became the border zone in 1961: its western end stood in West Berlin while the eastern, rather symbolically, in East Berlin and ended at the Berlin Wall (the bridge itself was property of the DDR).
In August 2000 the remains of the by then badly weathered wooden footbridge vanished for good.
To find the traces of the original bridge today you have to travel to Berlin-Heiligensee, a locality in the north-west of Berlin’s district of Reinickendorf. You will find them at the local cemetery: two bas-reliefs made for Kreuzberg’s Wiener Brücke in 1895 by Wilhelm Wandschneider were fished out of the Landwehrkanal and installed there as Memorials to the Victims of the Second World War. If you look at them carefully, you will notice an interesting similarity: Windschneider used two Pergamon Altar motives for his work. He used “Alcyoneus and Athena” (where the goddess prevents the winged giant from being saved by his mother, Gaia, emerging from the ground) featured on the East Frieze and one of the Erinyes, possibly Nyx, about to hurl a vessel filled with snakes at another giant. You will find the latter motive on the North Frieze.
More about Berlin bridges and waterways as well as everything else you never even knew you wanted to know about Berlin can be found in my “Berlin Companion” books (now both Part I and Part II available as paper editions plus as e-books) at berlinarium.bigcartel.com.