Getting Around in Prenzlauer BergEdit This
by Gisela Hoelscher and some others
When people talked about Prenzlauer Berg, for a long time they meant the area around Kollwitzplatz and the water tower. But the old working-class district is much bigger than that, and various different scenes have now developed there.
Most of the pubs and cafés are still concentrated around Kollwitzplatz and Wasserturmplatz. A few years ago it was still an experimental area for adventurers and creative spirits, with an air of improvisation. Now the area seems rather established. Most of the houses have been renovated and simply glow with their freshly-painted turn-of-the-century beauty, idyllic and picturesque like a glossy advent calendar. Only a few still have peeling plaster façades and the remains of old shop signs and crumbling brickwork. A well-dressed crowd of young people can be seen here both daytime and evenings. In summer the old streets exude a truly Mediterranean flair and chairs and tables are set up outside wherever possible. In summer in Berlin, life happens outdoors. Then it hardly matters where you spend the time - whether at Anita Wronski at the water tower, sipping an elegant cocktail outside the Akba-Lounge in Sredzkistraße or in one of the many cafés and bars in Rykestraße, Kollwitzstraße or Husemannstraße. In winter people are a bit more choosy - those with aspirations only drink a coffee here and don't stay long because they're going to spend the late night elsewhere. An exception is the bizarre little Luxus Bar in Belforter Straße, which only fills up late and where you can stay forever. If you're hungry, Tandoor or Bahu in Rykestraße offer very cheap Indian delicacies - you can smell the curry 100 metres away. Kollwitzstraße is also trying its luck as Little Italy: most of the restaurants here are Italian, in all price categories. Belluno provides a good compromise between expensive and tasty. Gugelhof is the right place in this area for a big leisurely breakfast. At Wasserturmplatz you can sample a large variety of cuisines from different countries and cultures: Russian in Pasternak, Jewish food in Restaurant am Wasserturm or Spanish (tapas) in Aragon in Diedenhöferstraße. Or you can simply pick up a falafel or shawarma and sit in the park above the tower with a view of Mitte district and a couple of boccia players in the background. In communist times this neighbourhood was already something very special. Its idyllic atmosphere is not only decisively cordoned off geographically by Prenzlauer Allee and Danziger Straße. Beyond Prenzlauer Allee you really go deep into the east. Life seems more leisurely; people know each other. They even talk differently - you can hear the typical Berlin dialect everywhere. At the moment there's restoration going on all around. There are hardly any fashionable pubs here, but changes are in the offing: for instance, new shops and restaurants are setting up in Winsstraße. Titanic has been here for quite a while now and is good for a relaxed game of billiards. anna chron, in Marienburger Straße, sells cult furniture and accessories from the '60s and '70s at much cheaper prices than in Mitte. In Immanuelkirchstraße you find one Indian restaurant after another where you can eat tasty food at reasonable prices. Somewhat further down, tucked away in a backyard and oddly enough, right next to a fitness studio, is Blow-up, a cosy neighbourhood cinema with worn-out velvet and good movies. The Filmtheater am Friedrichshain, close to the area's major park, is also very lovely, with several screens, good films and a beergarden in green surroundings for before and afterwards.
The area around Helmholtzplatz between Danziger Straße, Prenzlauer Allee and Schönhauser Allee is quite different. The houses are rundown, rents are cheap and the little park in the middle of the square is mainly a gathering-place for alcoholics. It's not sleepy here, but trashy - but original local neighbourhood blossoms are sprouting here again. Enjoying hot cocktail in cold weather by Cafe MIA in Pappelallee with their unique color-changing concept and scandinavian chips served free with every cocktail. In Wohnzimmer in Lettestraße you can recline in the afternoon on a chaise-longue; later it will become full, hot and stuffy, but everybody's happy in this atmosphere of elegant salon decor and Gelsenkirchen Baroque. This neighbourhood is nice for breakfast - Eckstein in Pappelallee is particularly popular, along with Frida Kahlo and the other cafés in Raumerstraße. The sombre charm of the neighbourhood makes it interestingly lively, and lots of new places are setting up around Stargarder Straße.
The area around Kastanienallee towards Mitte district presents yet another world. Here there are bars and clubs that only open briefly - so-called Monday or Wednesday bars, called after their opening days. They're more or less illegal and have a brief, excessive existence before they vanish again without trace. Longer-lived establishments like An einem Sonntag im August or Café Schwarz Sauer constantly attract a colourful crowd of guests, mainly students. At the start of the avenue is a Berlin institution: Prater, a beergarden which first opened in 1852, where you can not only drink your beer under tall shady trees but go to concerts and other cultural events. The Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz also stages theatre productions here. Another, very beautiful beergarden is Pfefferberg, on Schönhauser Allee at Senefelder Platz. The old brewery has been converted into a venue for parties, festivals and lots of music, especially of French origin.
Brewing obviously used to flourish in this neighbourhood, because the Kulturbrauerei is also close by, between Schönhauser Allee and Danziger Straße. Here parties and concerts are being embellished by art and culture, because galleries are moving in alongside the dancefloors and people with a taste for melancholy and nostalgia can indulge themselves in the Russian studio theatre.
Another leisure spot near Kastanienallee is Mauerpark below the Jahn Stadium. Very early on there was a freight depot on the site; then the Berlin Wall between Wedding and Prenzlauer Berg ran along here. This explains why the park is so oddly partitioned: you sit on an embankment and look at the rows of houses in Wedding. The park can hardly be described in terms of classical beauty, but it's still a very popular place for people to meet, read peacefully and lie in the sun.