Berlin was once considered Europe’s largest industrial city, however, during the Cold War industry and construction declined. With this changing economy many buildings lay vacant but instead of tearing down the industrial constructions the city chose instead to give its buildings a trendy, new make-over.
Many of Berlin’s famous clubs have been made out of converted factories with their open spaces and industrial appeal being ideal for all night (and day) raves. For example, Berghain was converted out of an old power station. Also, come out on Warschauer Strasse and turn right to see an old train depot turned into an urban playground for young, hip partygoers. Casseopeia, which once lived as a train repair shop, has now been transformed into a trendy, techno club complete with a climbing wall formed on the outside of an old bunker.
If you’re feeling hungry on a day out a toilet might not be your first port of call for a quick bite to eat. However, Burgermeister, a former public toilet located under Schlesishes Tor station has gained renown for its quality fast food. Also, more appetisingly, the corner of Tortrasse Strasse and Friedrichstrasse is home to a big, yellow American school bus which has been converted into an ice-cream café. Here you can purchase a milkshake or frozen yoghurt for a reasonable €2.90, sit on the comfy garden chairs on the sand and pretend you’re on the beach in the middle of a junction.
Abandoned buildings, such as Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule, are also sought after by contemporary artists to provide large spaces and interesting contexts to their work. During the Nationalist Socialist plan to exterminate the Jews this school, located on August Strasse 11, was closed following years of pupils and staff mysteriously disappearing. The school was reopened as a space for art and dining in early 2012. However the original spirit of the school remains as its history is written on the walls of the halls while restaurants, such as ‘The Kosher Classroom’, which serves traditional Jewish meals with a Shabbat dinner on Friday evenings, preserve the memory of the teachers and pupils.
Heckmann-Hofe, a small courtyard, located between Oranienburger Strasse 32 and Augustrasse 9, also celebrates its former usage through the use of food. In honour of its former life as a sweet factory it contains Bonbonmacherei; an old fashioned sweet kitchen as well as a restaurant, clothe shops and benches to relax around a stylish fountain. Walking into this courtyard feels as if you have travelled to a quaint town far away from the city rather than just stepped a few paces off of bustling Oranienburger Strasse.
Converting rather than bulldozing means that history is infused into the present buildings of the city. Not only do converted buildings and vehicles create colourful business opportunities but they memorialise a past that should rightly not be forgotten. With Germany being one of the only European countries to ever vote in the Green Party it comes as no surprise that Berliners are pretty keen on their recycling.
Team Curso/CTR Berlin Travel Writing