Kiez Exploration #5: Wedding
To be perfectly honest, I’ve had a pretty low opinion of Wedding for a really long time. I was there for the first time about four years ago when I went to visit a friend, in the dark of winter, who lived just off Müllerstrasse. I didn’t see any of Wedding at all that night, but I immediately thought that it was nothing compared to Neukölln, and I experienced the first of many waves of kiez snobbery that would occur periodically throughout my time living in this city.
Wedding always get a bad rap from those who say that the kiez (which isn’t really a kiez at all but an enormous burrough that encompasses both Wedding and Gesundbrunnen) is riddled with crime and is dirty. Many of the buildings are newish (not the typical German altbau we’ve grown to love); there’s lots of industry, and there’s just one too many neon-lit casinos for many peoples’ tastes.
The second time I went to Wedding was for the birthday party of local Slow Travel creator, Paul Sullivan. Immediately after getting off the train at S Bahn Wedding, Jen and I walked down the stairs to see, well… a man also “getting off” at S Bahn Wedding. This, for obvious reasons, also left me with a bad feeling.
But, third time’s a charm, and on Sunday, Paul Scraton (also a contributor to Slow Travel Berlin as well as founder of the Under a Grey Sky blog AND also works at the Circus Hostel/Hotel) invited me to check out a sample of his upcoming Wedding Walk that will be a part of the new Slow Travel Tours.
Just a quick note here. Because Paul is preparing these tours for STB, I won’t be including a map like I normally do, and I won’t go into too much detail about where we went (except for a few things). If you really want to know, you can go on the tour! Spoiler alert: I hardcore recommend it.
My initial negative conclusions about Wedding were immediately dashed when Paul pulled us (me and Paul Sullivan, who was also there) through an arched passageway into a beautiful courtyard with a tiled mosaic facade on the apartment buildings, towards the hidden little Luisenbad library and neighbouring coffee and cake store. The hidden buildings are not only beautiful in their detail, history, and unexpectedness, but it is also the site where the surrounding area of Gesundbrunnen got its name. The mineral spring there was “tapped” in 1748 and was given the royal charter by the King of Prussia. It’s first official title was the “Friedrichsgesundbrunnen”, and the spa which was built around it was later called the Luisenbad. But the spring’s initial name was the “Gesundbrunnen” or “Health Spring” and the name just stuck.
We wandered along the Panke canal (no doubt beautiful in the spring/summer), past the re-furbished BVG and industrial buildings that now house contemporary dance studios, cafes, and a piano studio, and I was thrilled to discover that Wedding was also a haven for exiled Bohemians, in the same way that Rixdorf was! Apparently there’s also still a farm house in Wedding from this time period (around 1737), which warrants further exploration on a less snowy/wet day. Maybe one day Wedding will have its own Strohballenrollen down Gerichtstrasse!
Paul led us in and around parks, down hidden pathways and courtyards, and and towards squares imbued with history. Turns out, in the 1920s, the citizens of Wedding were staunchly left leaning (they were the city’s only burrough never to vote for the Nazis) and the area’s communist faction fought the Nazis in open street battles. When Hitler and his army finally took over, Wedding was subjected to a quick and merciless takeover for all its opposition.
The tour highlighted not only the cultural aspects of Wedding (such as the Stattbad – an old swimming pool turned gallery and club, and the Panke club/apartment/entertainment “complex”), but also the numerous green-spaces it has to offer. From a distance, I’d always seen Wedding as an area packed with concrete apartment buildings, wide streets, and stale architecture, but I was surprised to discover that Wedding has a lot to offer for the outdoor enthusiast. We walked past the Magic Mountain climbing hall with its enormous outdoor multi-coloured climbing walls, and across the train bridge towards the Volkspark Humbolthain where a few lone joggers were braving the cold, and families were tobogganing around the base of the enormous and imposing Flak Tower.
The Flak tower itself is an amazing piece of the city’s history, and was built between 1941-42 “as part of the anti-aircraft defences of the city during the Allied bombing raids of the Second World War. The tower, that was designed to be bomb-proof, also provided an air-raid shelter for up to 15,000 civilians.” But, the Flak Tower isn’t just a great place to get a view of the entire city and somewhere from which to appreciate history, it’s also a popular urban climbing location, as displayed by the multiple carabiners hanging from the structure’s edges.
Many thanks to Paul Scraton for showing me around, and for proving to me that opinions about an area can easily be changed. For anyone interested in taking a walking tour of Wedding with Paul, he’ll be running some discounted tours on March 3rd and 5th as part of Berlin’s Travel Massive event. They are bookable via Gidsy. Slow Travel is also offering a number of other kiez tours then as well, so they’re also worth checking out.
AND – we wouldn’t be the Mädels with a Microphone if we didn’t throw some audio in somewhere, so here’s the sound of a bunch of birds in a bush by the Panke canal. TE