The bombings during the Second World War blew a large part of Berlin to pieces. Some parts were quickly rebuilt in its former state; others gave the GDR government an opportunity to create new streets everybody would talk about. For example the Karl Marx Allee. It is a street you will never forget after you’ve seen it. If you walk along Karl Marx Allee you’ll feel small like an ant. The buildings are called workers palaces. And like castles made by the rich and famous, they are also lavishly decorated and made to impress and make people look small and humble. The big difference between the castles and the buildings at the Karl Marx Allee are also easy to spot. The freezes show us peasants, and people creating new things with their hands in a factory plant.
This street was a place to be in the 1950’s. It even had bathrooms! At that moment there was a shortage of housing in Berlin and many houses did not have an own bathroom. Therefore it truly must have felt like a palace for the new inhabitants.
Although the new apartments at the Karl Marx Allee were presented as peoples palaces, not a lot of peasants and factory workers actually lived here. People that were high up in the political party enjoyed the views on the Karl Marx Allee and Friedrichshain with the rich and famous, as you can also notice in the nice German movie ‘Das Leben der Anderen’ where a neighbor spies on the artist-couple living next to him at Karl Marx Allee.
In 1953 it became painfully clear that the name ‘people’s palaces’ was pure propaganda, made up by the GDR government. The 1953 riots started on the street of the ‘peoples palaces’. Not in the tiled apartments, but among the builders of the Stalin Allee (the later Karl Marx Allee). They left the street to protest against their government when they got paid less for doing the same amount of work.
These days it is still a popular area to live, although most of the shops are closed and some of the buildings lost a lot of tiles. It is a very nice street to walk through and experience. The two-kilometer stretch never bores with interesting tiles, large lighthouse like towers (Frankfurter Tor), lots of traffic, a weird cinema that wouldn’t look strange in Moscow (Kosmos) and half deserted shops.
More Friedrichshain on Place to be:
At Friedrichshain there is still 1.3 kilometer of painted concrete at the East Side Gallery. Including beautiful art works of the Trabant and the ‘deathly kiss’ of Soviet Leader Brezjnev and East-German leader Honecker. Although a lot of artwork has been restored a couple of years ago, recently a building company tore down a few slabs of Berlin Wall to make way for a luxurious apartment building near the river Spree.
The Oberbaumbrucke is the main bridge between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. 364 days a year crossing this beautiful bridge to the other side of the Spree is a great thing to do. But once a year nobody cares about the great architecture, the small towers and elegant arches. Once a year hell breaks loose.
This part along the river Spree is R.A.W. Raw, because this area in Friedrichshain is half in ruins and covered with beautiful graffiti. And raw, because it used to be the ReichsbahnAusbesserungsWerk. In the good old times 20.000 people worked here on the mighty steel of the trains.
Friedrichshain has a lot of groovy, interesting bars. Students know their way around this area to go clubbing and dancing in Berghain and Cassiopeia. But Friedrichshain has more to offer. For example bars where you can buy the furniture you sit on or home made beer, lemonade, cakes and cider. And others where you can dance as well as play table football.
In Friedrichshain you can find no nonsense food for bargain prices. Even the local bakery near Boxhagener Platz makes really good cheesecake. Not a coincidence. This square buzzes with great little restaurants from all over the world.