Have you ever heard of Bergmannkiez? When traveling through Germany, especially in Berlin and the north of the country, at some point you’ll come across the word ‘kiez’. Pronounced ‘keetz’, kiezes are these smaller locales. There are many kiezes in Berlin, but some stand out from the pack. When roaming through the western end of Berlin’s Kreuzberg, you’ll find one of the most charismatic and sought after kiezes in the city. Welcome to beautiful Bergmannkiez.
Leafy, creative, bustling yet relaxed, Bergmannkiez is one of Kreuzberg’s more affluent and aesthetically appealing neighborhoods. Home to a veritable supply of cafes and coffee shops, bars and eateries, shopping boutiques and stores, this part of Kreuzberg was one of the first in the district to gentrify throughout the 90s and 2000s, and it’s not hard to see why – 90% of Berlin was leveled in WWII, and of the remaining 10%, a fair chunk of it can be found standing right here.
You only have to take a wander down the cobbled streets of Fidicinstrasse to the Chamissoplatz, where yesterdays gas lanterns, gorgeous stucco and colorful stacked stone facades give locals and outsiders one of the few remaining glimpses of pre-war Berlin – and indeed, pre 20th century imperial Berlin. In a city of concrete, ghosts and glaring absences, the presence of ‘old Berlin’ here is a rarity. With its turn of the century looks and nooks, you’d be forgiven for confusing the Chamissoplatz for a period film set (it’s often used for that purpose).
The pre-loved imperial tenements here help create one of the few areas anywhere near comparable to a neighborhood of Paris’s standing – proof, if nothing else, that yesterday’s cramped, poorly ventilated slums can become today’s architectural talking points. Saturday mornings in the Chamissoplatz are a great time to get amongst the community and check out the lively Ökomarkt, a produce and art market where you can stock up on vegetables, fruit, juice, wine, flowers, oils, cakes and Russian wooden dolls.
A block away, you’ll find bustling Bergmannstrasse, the main artery of the kiez, and HQ to most of the neighborhood’s array of excellent eateries, cafes, bars and dining spots. For a somewhat American affair, Barcomi’s is a local institution known for its delicious cakes and pastries. You have only to walk past its door and experience its incredibly alluring smells.
Immediately across the road, take a wander through the busy Marheineke Markethalle, a 19th century market hall, recently renovated, and full of fresh produce, meats, cheeses and wines, with dine-in stalls and outdoor terraces areas for enjoying all the goods in-house. Sunny summer afternoons are best spent here over a weissbier or riesling, to the lulling tunes of Parisian accordion, and local brass buskers. The market is proximate to the imposing, and very impressive Romanesque revivalist Passionskirche, an evangelical church-cum- performance venue, home to an impressive array of touring troubadours, as well pulpit sermons.
It’s worth noting that coffee options are in abundant supply in Bergmannkiez. For a dose of fine ‘third wave’ barista action, head to Chapter One on Mittenwalder Strasse; otherwise mosey along leafy Bergmannstrasse past the Kirchhof Luisenstadt cemetery to Café Strauss, a cute cafe in the hold of a renovated chapel, with terrace views of the gravestones.
The word ‘Kreuzberg’ translates to ‘cross mountain’, or ‘cross hill’, and the source of this word can be found on the summit peak in nearby urban reserve, the Viktoriapark. This is the berg’ in Kreuzberg. As Berlin is generally flat, the lofty lookout remains one of the city’s few elevated spaces, and one of the most stunning sunset vantages. You’ll share the hill with the imposing viridian Prussian National Monument for the Liberation Wars erected by Frederick William III in 1821, which lines up perfectly with the adjacent waterfall.
For an equally unforgettable sunset experience, be sure to wander south to the breathtaking Tempelhof Feld – once Hitler’s airport, today an incredible recreational reserve open to the public. Enjoy a DIY BBQ grill and biers on a grassy nook by the tarmac, as the sun comes down over Albert Speer’s historical relic terminal building. For dinner options, Felix Austria offers an authentic, candlelit schnitzel sensation, or for something a little more modern (and no less tasty), try the craft biers and delicious grill options at Dolden Mädel on Mehringdamm.
If on the go, consider one of the local institutions further up: Mustafa’s Gemuse Kebap attracts long lines for its Turkish-style vegetarian kebabs (with meat option for the carnivores); while Curry 36 just a few doors down dishes up the city’s most reputable and sought after supply of the old Berliner favorite currywurst.
Well fed and well sauced, intoxicated by the lingering presence of Berliner yesteryear, blue darkness covers Bergmankiez come nightfall, as electric bulbs re-create the feel of the old gas lanterns, and Imperial tenements simmer in the glow, reminding locals and interlopers alike how this remarkable capital once used to be. It’s just one kiez amongst many. But it’s a pretty fine one at that.
Written by and photos by Cam Hassard for EuropeUpClose.com