You might think you truly know Berlin by visiting every cool street, restaurant and bar in Mitte, Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg, but you won’t know Berlin until you visited the Berlin Plattenbau of Marzahn or Hellersdorf.
Travel back in time to East Berlin’s Plattenbau
The most interesting way to travel to the Plattenbau flats of Berlin is by tram. It will take a while, but in that way you can perfectly see how the city changes per meter. Wait. Never heard of Plattenbau?! Okay, travel with us back in time.
Right after the Second World War Berlin was bombed to pieces. People had to live in ruins and apartments were pretty scarce. In Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg houses were battered and people often had to share a toilet. Some apartment didn’t even have a shower, if you were one of these unlucky folks you had to go to a public pool to get a bit cleaner.
Own toilet at Plattenbau
People were really happy when they could move to new apartments with better living conditions, with bigger rooms and own toilets and showers, like the apartments at the Karl Marx Allee. The street was smashed to pieces during the war and after the war replaced by ‘workers palaces’, like the East German government called these houses with freezes of hard working people.
Workers Palaces at Marzahn and Hellersdorf
In Marzahn and Hellersdorf there were also ‘workers palaces’ build. Slightly less luxurious as the Karl Marx Allee, but still, the people who moved to these Berlin districts had bigger rooms, a toilet and bathroom just for their own family. The East Berlin government was really pleased. The new inhabitants loved their new homes and it had been really easy to build the apartments. Plattenbau is an easy way to make new apartments. The flats were constructed with prefabricated concrete slabs. The builders only had to fit the prefabricated slabs together. A piece of cake. Sometimes the new flats were ready in 110 days. A single apartment was even ready in 18 hours-as quick as putting up a really large tent. The new inhabitants were really happy when they could move to the new buildings.
If you travel to Marzahn, Hellersdorf or Lichtenberg right now, it’s hard to imagine why people were happy at the time they started living here in 1980. The flats are not looking brand new anymore. On the contrary. The concrete is starting to look a little ragged. Colors are starting to fade, the concrete crumbles. The kids that enjoyed playing here have all moved to the city centre, leaving their old parents behind. It all makes Hellersdorf and Marzahn a bit sad to live in. But those who stayed behind, don’t like it when people from the city centre say things like that. It might be true that Marzahn and Hellersdorf are full of grannies and granddads and nobody fancies living there anymore like they did in 1980. But still, the people who live here are really proud of their district. Prenzlauer Berg, Mitte and Friedrichshain have had such a nice face lift it’s almost impossible to see how battered the buildings must have looked before the Berlin Wall fell, but those who live in Marzahn, never forgot.
If you want to experience what is was like to live in a Plattenbau flat, they turned a flat at Hellersdorfer Strasse 179 into a Plattenbau Museum. The apartment still has retro furniture that was brand new in East Berlin in the eighties. In the bedroom you can spot funky grass wallpaper. In the kitchen you can put on a Dederon apron, sip Rotkapchen, the East German champagne. The people that lived here in the eighties only paid 109 Mark rent. It is possible to explore the Plattenbau life on sundays, between 2 pm and 4 pm