The Kiez provides a 'home' with small pubs at the corner and local shops where everyone knows you. It is here that tourists can meet the 'true' Berliners and get a taste of their notorious sense of humour.
Two very different areas or 'cultures' in Berlin are Wannsee, a very wealthy suburb of the city, and Marzahn, probably Berlin's biggest high rise development in the east of the city.
- Prenzlauer Berg
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Location: Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin
This area signifies the continuous change of living conditions in the city. It was built as cheap housing for blue and white collar workers' families, and became a centre for the political opposition in East Berlin under the Socialist regime. It then developed into the 'cool' place to live after the fall of the wall.
Today it is a sought after area of Berlin, with comparatively high prices for housing, expensive restaurants and trendy shops, sometimes too expensive for the locals. It is also the district with the highest number of playgrounds for children per square metre in the whole of Germany.
Here you can discover many independent art galleries and theatres, such as the sound art gallery, Singuhr-Hörgalerie, in an old water tower.
[Image 35th Oderberger Str: zle7e on flickr]
Location: Kreuzberg, Berlin
The counterpart of Prenzlauer Berg in East Berlin, is Kreuzberg in the West. It was a cheap area of housing built during the industrialisation and became the most populous of Berlin's boroughs at the turn of the 20th century, with more than 400,000 people, although it was and still is geographically the smallest. Rents in the area were regulated after World War II and the low quality housing remained affordable.
Many artists, students and Turkish immigrants moved into this district community during the 1960s. Kreuzberg became famous for the alternative lifestyle of many of its inhabitants, as well as for the strong Turkish and African-American cultural influences. Kreuzberg has the youngest population of all European city boroughs.
[Image Zossener Straße: svenwerk on flickr]
Location: Wannsee, Berlin
Discover the leafy suburb Wannsee, which is named after the two lakes Großer Wannsee and Kleiner Wannsee, on the banks of which many beautiful villas of the rich and famous are built. This Western suburb earned its fame as the number one spot for swimming and water sports in Berlin.
Visit the Strandbad Wannsee – an open air swimming pool – with the longest inland beach in Europe.
To some, Wannsee is better known for the infamous Wannsee Conference, held in 1942, where Nazi leaders planned the deportation of Jews as cheap labour or for extermination.
In Wannsee, the famous German writer, Heinrich von Kleist, committed suicide in 1811, together with his lover, Henriette Vogel. The painter Max Liebermann, head of the Berliner Secession, had a summer house built here in 1909.
[Image of villa, location of Wannsee Conference: Adam Carr on Wikimedia]
Location: Marzahn, Berlin
Berlin-Marzahn is a notorious suburb on the Eastern outskirts of Berlin. Only part of Berlin since 1920, it remained a quaint fishing village until the mid-1970s, when the East German government decided to counter housing shortage in the capital by erecting one of the typical East German 'new towns', with its high-rise, cheap concrete apartment blocks.
Marzahn was also infamously nearby the site of the biggest detention camp for 'people of different races', during the Nazi era. It was set up initially to 'hide' all Sinti and Roma from the eyes of foreign visitors in the city centre, during the 1936 Olympic Games.
Today the suburb is shrinking, and the upper floors of many of the high-rise blocks, which have lain empty for years, are now being removed, in a process that has started changing the face of the entire suburb.
[Image: jack_of_hearts_398 on flickr]
Cultures: further cultural references
'Russian Disco', by Wladimir Kaminer. This autobiographical account is a very funny and telling depiction of the life of a Russian immigrant in Prenzlauer Berg after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Herr Lehmann (2003), a comedy by Leander Haußmann, epitomizes life in Berlin Kreuzberg during the months before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Käthe Kollwitz was a highly acclaimed painter who captured the hard living conditions of the families of the working people, children and women in particular, in her famous charcoal drawings. She also devoted much of her time to working on committees that supported the improvement of the housing and the infrastructure of the areas where these families lived.
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