The only way to discover the beauty of city is to go out and start talking to people. Although seeing the sights may be interesting and city guides are often well-written, they cannot replace a unique experience you gain if you visit the place and have personal contact with people who live there. That's why we divided into five groups and went to five different parts of Berlin to find out more about them. It gave us a lot of unusual impressions, for instance that the capital of Germany consists of many small cities. There isn't a main city centre, but each part of the city has its own. Although some of us had some misgivings about Berlin, it turned out to be very nice city.

One group started sightseeing in the Charlottenburg district, the first area described in this City Guide. Despite adverse weather conditions, we were glad that we had an opportunity to visit one of the most famous places in the capital of Germany. The trip began at Zoologischer Strasse and our first destination was Charlottenburg Palace. We walked along in the rain, admiring the modern architecture and discussing the history of this district. Charlottenburg Palace was dedicated to the wife of the king of Prussia. It is the biggest palace in the whole of Germany. Nevertheless, after a while we were very wet and started complaining about the weather. What was really impressive was the buildings which in fact are skyscrapers - the headquarters of many world-wide companies. Our trip finished in a lovely restaurant on the main square of the Charlottenburg district, where we drank mulled wine with cloves, the special drink of this region.

Photo: copyright E&M
The writing's on the wall in Neukölln: "Rent increases, modernisation... What should you do? 1. Don't sign anything 2. Talk to your neighbours! 3. Seek out tenancy advice!"

While some people were admiring the charms of the city, others were breaking through the horrible drizzle. However, the rain had no impact on our opinion about Neukölln, which is the second district we would like to describe. The first thing that grabbed our attention was the diversity of the place. There were tastefully arranged schools and kindergartens as well as dark alleys. It was obvious that a large proportion of the citizens were Turkish. Many of the signs were written in two languages: German and Turkish. A conversation with a baker from Pannierstraße gave us a glimpse of Neukölln's history. The man compared the citizens of the area before 1989 and after the Fall of Berlin Wall. He also helped us understand the writing on one of the walls which gave some advice to tenants. He explained how difficult the life of squatters and small businessmen became when the rents were raised. However, he also expressed his hopes connected with the influx of students to Neukölln. A place that we can recommend, apart from the bakery of course, is the café Selig, which not only offered us delicious coffee, but also gave us an opportunity to dry off. 

Kreuzberg is described as "European Brooklyn." It seems to be a very ordinary area, inhabited by people who just like living there.

The third area in our City Guide? Kreuzberg. The most impressive description of this area is that it may be called "European Brooklyn." Kreuzberg has a lot in common with Neukölln. Although both districts have contended with social and economical problems, they are now some of the most popular destinations for young people hoping to live in Berlin. It seems to be a very ordinary area, inhabited by people who just like living there. Simultaneously, the citizens have chosen a cute symbol of the area - a flower bud. Probably the reason for it is what we have heard - 'the neighbourhood is about to bloom', so we can describe Kreuzberg as the most promising area in Berlin. In case of that district the future is supposed to be more attractive than the past.

Photo: copyright E&M
Workshop particpants Madalina and Laura outside a Turkish cafe.

The fourth district is "Prenzlberg," which "is not what it used to be" as we heard, when we visited this part of the Berlin neighbourhood Pankow and talked to the people who live here. During communist times, Prenzlauer Berg was neglected and quite a dirty area, we found out. Later, cheap rents attracted workers and immigrants as well as artists, musicians, students and other free thinkers. Prenzlberg became a "Szeneviertel," a place of unique diversity and an inspiring atmosphere. "I moved here 15 years ago and everything has changed since then. I think this area has lost everything that made it special. Today there are extremely high rents, so that only rich people can live here," a shopkeeper told us. She was angry with the city planners, because she thinks that they changed the place on purpose and heavily refurbished all the buildings. "Still," a waiter from a restaurant explained, "this is a very good place to raise children. It's calm, it's safe and everybody is quite wealthy." Nowadays, as a result of gentrification, many families, celebrities and actors live here. It is a place for people who have money and want to live with people who are like them. You can find Europe's biggest store for organic food in Prenzlauer Berg and Konopkes Currywurst, a well-known diner. We met a young couple there. They still liked the area. Biting in their sausages they said: "Yes, a lot has changed, but we are sure that one thing at least won't change: the Currywurst!"

Photo: PD
Simon-Dach-Straße in Friedrichshain - the heart of the neighbourhood. We stayed in hostel close by.

And the last part of our City Guide is Friedrichshain, situated slightly south-west of central Berlin. The name of Friedrichshain (Frederick's Grove) derives from the Volkspark which was planned in 1840 to commemorate the centenary of Frederick the Great's coronation. Friedrichshain is considered to be one of Berlin's most fashionable areas. It is well-known for its bars, clubs, and pubs and is home to MTV Central Europe. To get an insider's perspective on Friedrichshain we interviewed some local people: a young man working in a cafe, a middle-aged woman working in a second hand clothes shop, a young man working in a pizza par, a man on the street and a lady working in our hostel. The outcome of the interviews was quite impressive as they all said they liked living in Friedrichshain because it was very safe, colourful, multicultural and there were a lot of things going on. In Friedrichshain you can see a whole mixture of agegroups and many tourists on the streets, especially Spanish tourists. We observed that Friedrichshain was a reasonably industrial area. It was neither rich, nor poor. But it is quite obvious that in the future Friedrichshain will become rich and gentrified. It was surprising to see so many clubs and bars at the every corner. People say that Berlin is the heart of nightlife in Europe and we think Friedrichshain proves that saying.

Thanks to Berlin's wealth of history, it is a unique city. Although almost all differences between the East and West parts of Berlin have already disappeared, the diversity of the different quarters gives Germany's capital a fantastic atmosphere.

In cooperation with: Kulturstiftung.Compressed
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This project is financed with support from the European Union through the program YOUTH IN ACTION. The content of this project does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the national agency JUGEND für Europa and they cannot be held responsible for them.

IN -1714 DAYS