Mittwoch, 12. Februar 2014

Early spring afternoon in Neukölln

The spring is seriously out in the air, inviting me to continue the exploration of areas from Berlin where I don't go usually. This time, my choice is Neukölln. I stop at the S-Bahn station with the same name, and go out direction Karl Marx Street. Close to the entrance, colourful fruits and the cries of vendors announcing significant discounts create a lively ambiance. The area is considered a sample of local 'multi-kulti', with plenty of shops selling local products - spotted a Polish and Indian one only within my first 15 minutes of walk. 
Directions to the main areas of interest appear every 150 meters. From the complex of statues in Karl Marx square, I go to Richardplatz. Most houses around are complexes of houses built after the war, whose sobriety is contradicted by colourful graffiti and messages in various languages.
Neukölln is considered a heaven of foodies and restaurants of all sorts are at every corner of the street. A couple of years ago, I had once an innocent beer at this Villa Rixdorf restaurant. The spirit of the spring conquered not only the nature, but also the hip inhabitants of the area. Two youngsters are talking relaxed on a mattress on the pavement, as it is no tomorrow.
A couple of meters away, there is a small forge workshop, usually open during the cultural events organized on the occasion of the 48 Hours Neukölln: the two days when the center of Berlin moves here, the exhibitions are open till late in the night and unique concerts and happenings bring here thousand of people. But before and after, the poet slams and other attractive events are continuing.
Recently, I discovered the traces of a small Czech colony in Potsdam. Religious refugees from the Bohemian lands, like the Huguenots from France, settled in the German lands bringing their cultures and customs. In Neukölln it used to be a Boehmisches Dorf/Bohemian Village and a small 2-room museum retraces their history through pictures and samples of material culture. 
From 1700 till today, in this corner of Berlin, the Czech minority kept their traditions and organized regularly various street festivals and concerts, while wearing their traditional costumes.
From the museum, I took the advantage of the good weather and went in the Copernicus Garden, where you can enter only by pushing an ingenious systems of buttons opening the door. Except the mud, it was a pleasant walk.
This quarter seems to offer a repertoire of traditional jobs, such as this old distillery that is proudly presenting old and new products in the window. 
The more I walk around, the more I understand why my friends living here are rarely showing up in my part of town. There are not only delicious Turkish delights and cheap shops, but also various cultural opportunities, such as Heimathafen Theatre where usually topics related to multiculturalism and ethnic diversity are approached.
 Nearby, an exhibition about a German locality close to the border to Poland, at Heimish gallery.
I go through the passage of the Neukollner Oper, with a small kino with bar, and arrive at a flea market.
Everyone is busy here to buy cheap and bargain for almost nothing. At the first sight, except the smell, the pieces of furniture don't look too tempting, but if you have time and not too much money, you might find something to start a new life.  
More walking, before having a short look at some big discount shops, the classical Arkaden and other traditional shops. As I always wear (quite) long skirts, the shops here are always having a good selection of good products, but this time I religiously avoid shopping. The big townhall seems to be a place of gathering for youngsters.  
In the lobby, a mosaic map of Neukölln, explaining the evolution of the borough from the Middle Ages till now, in a colourful way. 
I walked for more than 3 hours, discovering every 100 of meters something new. What about some food? As I am on Sonnenallee, there are a lot of choices, many featured in magazines and blogs. This time, I am not pretentious and I am happy to enjoy a 'proletarian' vegetarian meal at Al-Safa made of hummus, grilled cheese, and a very good salad with mint, and cucumber and tomatoes. Plus Lebanese bread. While eating, I have a look at the customers keen to have their own doner, a display of the mini-Neukölln world: from the policeman, to the young creative and the mother with hungry children. 
On the way back, I stop in several small sweet shops, to buy more delicious desserts for home. All were eaten within minutes and I suppose soon will be back in Neukölln for a new culinary and cultural adventure. 

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