Running dogs, playing kids and grannies, urban thugs spraying great graffiti and other folks throwing frisbees and grilling sausages. That’s in a nutshell what Gorlitzer Park is all about. But in Berlin, a park is not simply a park. Görlitzer Park used to be a fairy tale train station where thousands of people entered the train to breathe in the air of the country side and come back to their Berlin homes with Spreewald gherkins.
When you walk around in Görlitzer Park you might not even know it used to be a train station. People throw frisbees, spray graffiti, make music and play with their kids. But if you pay close attention to the beer garden in the middle of the park with the beautiful red bricks, you notice it’s not a small house. It still has the old train station atmosphere. Not that strange. The beer garden with beautiful graffiti on it’s red bricked walls used to be office building of the train station Görlitzer Bahnhof.
History Görlitzer Bahnhof
In 1865 Görlitzer Bahnhof was build in a fairy tale style. The architect August Orthe created the train station in Palazzo style. It looked a bit like a Roman castle with towers and elegant arches. Rail king Bethel Henry Strousberg, who owned the train station, knew what he was doing back in the days. If you look at this part of Kreuzberg now, you’ll see a lot of apartments, but in 1865 the area was very different. There were only a few farms with large gardens and windmills around Gorlitzer Bahnhof. But Strousberg knew that was about to change. He knew there were plans to build a lot of buildings in this area for all the people that came to Berlin to find a job. Soon, ground prices would go up, so Strousberg had to be sly. He used other men to buy ground, so he wouldn’t have to pay a lot of money for the ground around his new station. It was a smart move. Because the people that came to live around Gorlitzer Bahnhof longed for some fresh air. And that’s exactly where the trains that departed from Gorlitzer Bahnhof went to. They rode through the countryside, the Spreewald to Gorlitz, near the Polish border. After a few months 70.000 people a day travelled via Görlitzer Bahnhof. They came home with vegetables, coal and of course, Spreewald gherkins.
The fall of Görlitzer Bahnhof
During World War two Görlitzer Bahnhof was badly damaged and it stopped functioning as a train station. The red army used the station to travel to Kreuzberg, but soon after they departed the train all the steel the trains had been running on was used for other purposes. In 1951 the old buildings found a new destination as well. It was used by a hairdresser to cut the wild hairs of the inhabitants of Kreuzberg, newspapers were sold and the buildings were even used as apartments. But the former train station was in a bad shape and nobody really took care of it. The inhabitants of Kreuzberg wanted to preserve the old buildings, but they couldn’t prevent the tearing down of it. The West Berlin government decided in 1975 to demolish the old station. Most of the buildings were empty and they were afraid ‘anti-social elements’ would thrive at the battered place. It was better for the ‘West-Berlin image’ to demolish the old ruin. It seems like a shame right now if you look at the old pictures. But if you realize they couldn’t do anything with the old station anymore because the old rail line ran right through East Berlin the decision to tear it down is less strange.
Görlitzer Bahnhof remained a piece of no man’s land for a long time. But when the Berlin Wall fell, things changed. In 1990 the demolished train station became a park. Officially it’s known as Gorlitzer Park, but Berliners prefer to call it Görli. In the summer you can relax in the grass and listen to music. The park has a nice mixture of all sorts of people. Young, old, immigrants, graffiti lovers, frisbee throwers, skaters: they all enjoy a relaxed day at the former train station. You can find great graffiti here too. The people living in this area are very proud of it. They call it SO36, after the postal code. And that’s visible on a lot of graffiti art as well. The sprayed men wear necklaces with SO36!
The Pamukkale Brunnen at Görlitzer Park are also famous, but in a different way. They were created in 1998 by artist Wigand Wittig and the large artwork refers to the German-Turkish friendship, because a lot of Turkish people live in this area. The stones look a lot like the Turkish Pamukkale Brunnen. But in Turkey, the Pamukkale terraces didn’t start eroding after six weeks. The Pamukkale Brunnen at Görlitzer Park, however, did. The stones were porous and couldn’t deal with the harsh Berlin winter. Or any weather at all. It had to be closed down after a few weeks time. You can still step on the stones of Pamukkale Brunnen, but the Berlin government and the inhabitants of this area want to get rid of the Pamukkale Brunnen. The Berlin government want the French sculptor Wittig to pay them 1,1 million Euros because he used the wrong kind of stones, but the Frenchmen has not paid the large amount of money yet. And he probably won’t in a long time. The inhabitants try to figure out what to do with this piece of crumbling down land and stones, but they haven’t decided yet. Some want fruit trees, others have opposite ideas. If you want to know what the latest ideas are, check their website.