Saturday, 20 September 2014

Exploring Schöneberg

Fantastic news: I've found a place to live! I will now annoy everyone who has ever hunted for a room in Berlin, by saying that I got it through contacts.
For that reason, I only have a limited time with this area on my doorstep. I'd probably never have thought to explore it otherwise. It sounds really silly to say that I'm surrounded by history around here, because that's precisely what you'd expect from Berlin. But read on...

My mind was blown this week when I found out that I live five minutes away from where President Kennedy gave his 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech: Rathaus Schöneberg, which is essentially a town hall! I mean, I always knew it was there - it's where I tried to register - but I found out completely by accident. I mean, I'd been using the train station named after the building almost every day! It came as a surprise as I'd always expected the place where he gave the speech to be somewhere in Mitte, for some reason (which wouldn't make sense as that was not in the American sector at that time).

The area used to be very Jewish. As well as providing services to residents, Rathaus Schöneberg houses a free exhibition called Wir waren Nachbarn (we were neighbours). It focuses on the lives of individual Jewish locals around 1933.
At Bayerischer Platz station, the underground walls follow on from this exhibition. They are covered with facts - in German and English - about former residents and the gradual destruction of their homes, businesses and places of worship. There have been recent school projects which are depicted on the walls too, with children writing the name and birthday of a person on a brick.
I wasn't expecting to come across all of this when I arrived at the station, and so its effect was rather disarming. It was the first time since arriving in Berlin two weeks ago that I had really faced this aspect of the city's history. It's something that, as a new Berliner, I will have to learn to navigate for myself. I did cry at the Jewish Museum in Kreuzberg a few years ago, so it is difficult. But I feel that saying that is making it about me, yet that consciously avoiding it is irresponsible.

Grunewald Straße

Today, I explored the area around Eisenacher Straße station, particularly Goltzstraße. As I walked along the street, I got the pleasant (though not smug) feeling that I was stumbling upon a well-kept secret. Cafés everywhere, little boutiques, a very healthy vibe. Rumour has it that David Bowie - who famously came to Berlin to work on three of his records in the 70s - still maintains an apartment in Schöneberg.

There was a craft fair going on near the pink building

I made quite a discovery: Sorgenfrei Café. Well, it's not just a café; all around the place there are authentic vintage sunglasses, storybooks and other bric-a-brac for sale. The name translates as "worry-free", which after reading the website, seems to be a nostalgic nod to the 60s, a time that some people look back on as "easier".

The little cloths on the tables reminded me of when my grandma used to get out my mum's old Sindy dolls and their accessories, like blankets and rugs. I felt a little bit like Alice in Wonderland, sipping on my coffee while taking in all the weird stuff around me. I had actually come to the area in the afternoon to find somewhere to sit down and work, but I felt too nervous to ask if there was internet there, let alone get my laptop out! It would've been completely anachronistic.

I've heard Akazienstraße is pretty good for cafés and restaurants, too, so I will definitely be back here. I'm going to miss the U4 line when I move. It's yellow and so cute! It is five stations long and only ever made up of two carriages. Plus, I love Nollendorfplatz and its 24-hour Kaiser's store, always got my back.