Walk III: Planterwald to Neukölln to Prenzlauerberg

August 13, 2016 § 1 Comment

I got on the wrong train.

My intention was to take the S-Bahn ‘ring-train’, which circles Berlin, to the Neukölln. Upon noticing that the stops were no longer matching my map, I realized I had hopped aboard the S-Bahn 8 train, which heads directly out of central Berlin.

I jumped off and checked the stop: Planterwald. Never heard of it.

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Within a couple of years, this will be a trendy bar. In the meantime, I enjoy tasting a mix of past and present.

It turns out I was only 5 km off my intended route. So I started to walk. Not much to say about Planterwald. Very suburban, lush, dotted with more East German housing projects.

But Neukölln? A gem.

This is what Berlin can offer: a trip into the past. In previous pieces, I’ve touched on the issue of gentrification in other great cities like New York and San Fransisco. Neukölln makes the argument for a limit on how enriched a neighborhood should become.

The main thoroughfares are Turkish, middle-eastern. Then one heads into the back streets and sees a fascinating mix: a mother in full black arabic regalia, laden with shopping bags, dragging her children home; a hipster with a beard Nostadamus would have envied; Africans, older white families speaking French, on it goes.

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Construction on the main drag, but I hope the remnants of what came before, the Kino and Oper houses, remain in place.

 

The trendy parts of Neukölln spring up in pockets: I found myself walking down a pretty downtrodden street, only to find a platz with cool cafés and bars on each corner. This may sound strange, but these kind of Berlin neighborhoods in summer remind me of New Orleans. The close streets, the lush canopy of trees pushing against the facades, the feeling of cultural freedom and festivity.

This feeling is the emotional engine of a city. It can’t occur on perfectly manicured streets with chain stores lining the main boulevards. It can’t occur when the buildings are full of wealthy yuppies and finance people. I may love refined, elegant Prenzlauerberg- but a vibrant city needs its Neuköllns pumping life into its core.

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