TEXT: CORNELIA BRELOWSKI
Walk in a Berliner’s shoes for one day of your next summer visit to the capital! We have gathered over five secret tips for those who prefer to take the locals’ view.
“When in Berlin…” Did you know Berlin continuously changes because it is built on Brandenburg sand? This means that every visit will show you something new, if you feel so inclined.
For all its metropolitan claims, Berlin in reality is a conglomerate of villages. ‘Kiez’ is the local term for neighbourhood – and each of the 12 boroughs have several of these, all of their own colour and nature. So, if you think you know Mitte, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, you may refer to Alexanderplatz, Warschauer Straße and Boxhagener Platz while missing out on areas of the same borough you didn’t even know existed.
No matter if you are staying at a hotel or Airbnb, many a seasoned Berlin visitor may have grown tired of circling the same haunts from Humboldtforum to Berghain club, or pub-hopping in Neukölln. Now, if you care to venture off the trodden path just a little bit, a different turn may take you to places of unexpected beauty, inspiration – or even a surprise fashion fix.
Morning: Breakfast with swans
Between Kreuzberg and Mitte, right where the wall strip used to be, there is a magic place called ‘Engelbecken’ (Angel Pool).
Hidden just a little below street level opposite the Michaelkirchplatz, it is part of the Luisenstädtische canal ensemble; a listed garden monument reflecting the original design and layout by Erwin Albert Barth, Berlin’s renowned garden director from 1926-1933.
Entering from Michaelkirchplatz, a few steps will take you down to the beautifully laid out Engelbecken Café, where you can enjoy your coffee in the close vicinity of entire families of swans, ducks and turtles. This unlikely mix of animals peacefully circles the shallow pool, navigating the 16 fountains and sometimes checking whatever munchies you ordered along with your coffee. Right in the middle of the city, you suddenly feel like being at a public spa resort, set right on the former wall strip. You may feel like ordering one of the breakfast specials or, if you arrive a little later in the day, a selection of beers, wine and pizza, as well as Asian crossover cuisine, will also be found on the menu.
From here, take a turn around the pool through fragrant pergolas and rose gardens. On your way to Kreuzberg’s renowned Oranienplatz, you will be surprised to stroll by a female ‘Buddha’ statue. Peacefully overlooking the pool, the formerly destroyed fountain sculpture Indischer Brunnen was reconstructed following Barth’s original design and sits exactly on the same axis as the Michael-Kirche; the church to the other side of Engelbecken that lost its roof in the war.
More often than not, someone will have decorated the statue’s hands with flowers.
Having reached Oranienplatz, turn left and you will reach the street of the same name, lovingly nicknamed ‘O-Straße’ by the locals.
Midday: Independent fashion fix
Housing iconic night venues such as the SO 36, Oranienstraße is also still lined by a number of small independent businesses, as well as some genuine Kreuzberg-style cafes and pubs, some of which have been around since the ‘80s.
The Dante Connection at Oranienplatz is a nice interim stop for bookworms. Walking on, you will experience the slightly chaotic, almost Mediterranean feel of typical Kreuzberg traffic – and finally, just after passing Heinrichplatz, you will spot the red sign of the UKO boutique. Owner Doritt Körzel, who started out with a secondhand shop decades ago, nowadays sells carefully selected fashion items; from Italian leather handbags to vegan sneakers. Inclined male company can meanwhile amble across the street to browse the racks at Depot, for independent skater wear.
Hungry again, you may try out the Indian restaurant next door or simply flop down for a refreshing snack and drink at the rustic, yet genuine Bateau Ivre cafe-pub opposite the SO36, which like so many O-Straße independents, has just recently escaped forced closure one more time.
Afternoon: Art Smart – a central yet hidden gallery treasure
Back in Mitte, culture will find you at every corner – however, most who circle the museum area between Berliner Galerie and Gropiusbau near Leipziger Straße are unaware that right opposite the Jewish Museum resides a hidden treasure trove for contemporary art.
The Kang Contemporary houses an exclusive selection of artists inspired by their personal living environment in relation to our global human community, with its manifold and often challenged habitats.
Artist and founder Elizabeth Kang completed her postgraduate studies at Sotheby’s Institute New York before moving to Berlin. Her process of selection is subject to her own artistic sensitivity: “I choose artwork which moves me, is visually compelling, and can be contextualized to the world we live in.”
The summer programme shows artworks by seven contemporary artists presenting an array of medias which unexpectedly enter a dialogue, creating a vibrant space of exchange.
Evening: A special treat at sundown
Want to round up your day at a traditional GDR open-air venue? Access the Volkspark Friedrichshain park, e. g. at the corner of the enchanting Märchenbrunnen fairytale fountain, with its recently restored assembly of sandstone sculptures.
Walk on through the park and stop at the iconic Schoenbrunn restaurant for a delicious early dinner – or a currywurst just outside. From here, it is just a short walk to Freiluftkino Friedrichshain, where you can slip in among the locals for a magical open-air film night, enjoying the cooling breeze among rustling trees.
Morning: Cafe am Engelbecken: www.cafe-am-engelbecken.de Midday: UKO boutique, Kreuzberg: Oranienstraße 201, 10999 Berlin Afternoon: Kang Contemporary www.kang-contemporary.com Evening: Restaurant Schoenbrunn www.schoenbrunn.net Volkspark Friedrichshain www.freiluftkino-friedrichshain.de
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