Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg
Looking at Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg in the Oderbergerstrasse it’s hard to imagine how important it was for the people of Prenzlauer Berg. But a hundred years ago life without a shower or a bath was perfectly normal. Now most people splash with water in their bathroom everyday. But in Berlin this wasn’t common.
No bathroom in Prenzlauer Berg
Even in 1990 some people in Prenzlauer Berg didn’t have a toilet. They had to stumble down the stairs to use the common room. To avoid being stinky and smelly Berliners went to public baths, like the fairytale Stadtbad in the Oderbergerstrasse.
Just after the Berlin Wall fell Russian writer Wladimir Kaminer came to live in Berlin. He ended up in the beaten up workers paradise Prenzlauer Berg. He was really happy, until he realized he didn’t have a toilet. In summer and in wintertime he had to run down the stairs to use the common toilet. Nowadays every Berliner has a toilet, but before 1990 this was not so common. If you didn’t want to stink too badly, Berliners went for a bath at the many Stadtbad’s Berlin has to offer. Every quarter had it’s own Stadtbad, like Wedding and Mitte. But one of the most beautiful ones is Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg at the Oderbergerstrasse.
Big bellied Neptune, the god of the seas, welcomes you at the entrance. Fish, tortoises, crabs and octopuses swim along the façade of Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg. German sculptor Otto Lessing (known for his sculptures in Leipzig and Stadtbad Kreuzberg) made the stunning sea creatures.
In 1902 the smelly Berliners in Prenzlauer Berg could clean themselves for the first time in Stadtbad Oderbergerstrasse. Ludwig Hoffmann and his workmen had been busy building the neo-renaissance swimming pool since 1899. With it’s many windows full of soft lights and arches it looked like a swim church. People could clean themselves under the showers or in the baths.
But in the years after the Second World War visitors were only allowed to use the showers if they brought briquettes to heat up the oven at the Stadtbad. Many Prenzelzwergen (kids from Prenzlauer Berg) learned how to swim in Stadtbad Oderbergerstrasse. And their children too. For decades the Stadtbad was very popular in Prenzlauer Berg. Therefore it was tragic when the magical swim church with its fairytale sea creatures and small angels closed down.
What happened? Stadtbad Oderbergerstrasse got a new chimney. But a stupid mistake was made. The chimney was too heavy and cracks were formed in the swimming pool The concrete and tiles could no longer contain the water because of the numerous cracks. There was no money left to remove the chimney and renovate Stadtbad Oderbergerstrasse. In 1986 the swim fun was over.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall the state of Stadtbad deteriorated. The angels got covered with moss, the cracks widened and the windows broke. The city of Berlin looked for a suitable investor since they didn’t have the money to renovate it. The people of Prenzlauer Berg were afraid that a fancy investor would turn the building into something that didn’t benefit Prenzlauer Berg.
They missed swimming at the Stadtbad Oderbergerstrasse and preferred to plunge in the water again.
Silvester at Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg
In the mean time the Stadtbad was used for exhibitions, theatre plays and Silvesterparties (NYE party). Untill Berliner Barbara Jaeschke finally bought the place in 2011.
She runs a language course in the nearby Kastanienallee and always wanted to expand. Jaeschke turns the swimming pool into a hotel for her course members and language students.
But the most important thing is of course the swimming pool. In 2015 her guests, but also prenzelzwergen, Berliners and tourists are able to swim here again. Finally people are allowed to swim in the most beautiful swimming pool of Berlin.
At the end of 2012 her workers had already collected 75 containers of ruble and dirt and removed the heavy chimney. They even found an old safe. Eagerly they opened it. It didn’t contain a treasure, but old shampoo wrappings.
The swimming pool is being renovated and the old tiles are used in the seminar rooms. The frog motives will remain, just as the three terraces and big window at the swimming pool. The wooden doors of the old Stadtbad will be reused for the 80 guest rooms.
In 2015 the doors of Stadtbad Oderbergerstrasse will open again and you will be able to swim here five days a week for regular Berlin swimming pool prizes.
Until then the location can apparently be booked for conferences, private party’s, concerts and photo shootings.
We show the hidden gems of Berlin, like an abandoned amusement park near the city centre of Berlin with headless dino’s and a ferris wheel that still spins in the wind. At RAW in Friedrichshain you will find great graffiti with pink fish and mad captains with large moustaches. And what about Berlin’s bathing culture! At the Badeschiff in Treptow you can swim in a swimming pool that floats in the river Spree. Imagine the view! At Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg in the Oderberger Strasse you can see the fallen angels and fat bellied watergods of the ruined swimming pool that is being renovated right now.
Berlin has many places to drink large wheat beers, but the best Berlin biergarten definitely is the Prater at the Kastanienallee. The beer garden is surrounded by chestnut trees and young people sit next to elderly people on wobbly benches to drink a beer and eat sausages, while toddlers run around. It is a small haven in the busy streets of Prenzelberg.
The Kulturbrauerei was a vibrant place, back in 1842. Rattling bottles were filled to the brim with beer and people ran to make sure all thirsty Berliners got a sip of their favorite brew. Today it is still easy to spot where the bottles were made and filled and the beer brewed. But nowadays they brew culture at the Kulturbrauerei.
Not surprisingly, in 1890 bread was baked in the Brotfabrik with its remarkable yellow bricks. But the new owner in 1952 was not that into communist bread and fled to West-Berlin, like many other East-Germans. After that no more sweet rolls or rye breads were baked here. After the Wende the Brotfabrik became a house of culture.
Dicke Hermann is one of the landmarks of Prenzlauer Berg. When you enter the Rykestrasse the tall, yellow brick tower is hard to miss. The tower is remarkable for it’s size, but also for it’s history. Dicke Hermann was built in 1856 to provide the inhabitants with water. In 1933 it became a sinister location. Local Nazi’s used the engine room to torture people.
When the Berlin Wall was build, it ran right through the lives of Berliners in the area of Bernauer Strasse. The Bernauer Strasse was right in the middle of the border. When the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, the entrance of a few buildings was in the East. But if the inhabitants looked out of their windows, they saw West Berlin right beneath them.
The Mauerpark was no man’s land near the Berlin Wall. It’s hard to imagine nobody being able to walk or stroll here if you know what it looks right today. Children sled down the hill and in the summertime they swing here. On Sundays there is a famous flee market with vintage clothes and granny furniture. Only the colorful remains of the Berlin Wall remind of the old days.