Five Senses Survey - Kreuzberg



Defining the “kiez” that is most relevant to Kotti e. V. proved difficult, since the organization serves such a large area of Beriln. Even the two specific sections of Kreuzberg that they said they work the most in would take more than an hour and a half to walk across from east to west. For that reason, I decided to narrow down the area I explored but made sure to include all of Kotti’s locations (the community center, the two primary schools, and the Familiengarten). For this assignment I explored the area with Landwehr Canal to the south, Oranienplatz to the west, the river Spree and Bethaniendamm to the north, and Skalitzer Str. to the east.

The attribute that surprised me most about the area was how quickly the neighborhood could change as I was walking. I will give an example. I found the school I will work at for the next three weeks in the south part of the kiez. On one side of the school, several homeless people were sleeping, the streets were wide, and the buildings were mostly colorless. Walking down a road in between the two parts of the school, the scene rapidly changed as I saw parents with their children walking. On the other side of the school there were flowers and brightly colored housing alongside the canal.


Flowers between the housing and the canal

Two residential buildings on the canal, but the left older and claimed with graffiti
Going along with these abrupt changes were incongruities with what the neighborhood was willing to pay for food. An instance of this was along Mariannenstraße. At Reichenberger Str, one corner of the intersection is fenced off, covered with grafitti, and contains some rubble, and some average apartment buildings are across the street. Right next to the rubble-filled corner is a Vietnamese place (with very good reviews on Google) that has prices around 2 Euros for an order of sushi and tops out at about 10 Euros. However, if you walk down the street towards the canal and the Kottbusser Bridge, the apartment buildings are of a noticeably higher quality and the restaurant “Feed Back” has many dishes around 15 Euros. Development bounds the kiez on all sides, with the touristy restaurant/bar area where we are staying to the northeast as well as nicer housing and public gathering places like churches and parks across the canal. However, affordable housing still remains in many parts of this kiez. Even within a block, we see differences in infrastructure and businesses which likely reflect the conflict occurring between new, well-to-do residents and those who have lived there for many years or decades. Now, there are living options for both groups of people.

The corner by the Vietnamese restaurant

The modern sign for the restaurant "Feed Back"
The smells became infiltrated with the smell of sewage, the tastes became more diverse with fast food and cafes, and the sounds became louder and faster to match the activity near Kottbusser Tor and Schlesisches Tor. I can vouch for the quality of a café named Kremanski, though it felt aimed towards tourists and the middle-class hipster. There are also industrial businesses close to the river on the wide Kӧpenicker Str. that cuts off the neighborhood to the north. While the businesses and crowds is economically positive, it also restricts how much the parents can let their children play in the neighborhood and how far they can walk safely to build community. However, the well-connected, centrally-located public transportation in the area helps with the safe movement of children and families. Parks, schools, and some quiet streets can also be found within the neighborhood to provide social and educational needs. Several were well taken care of (even if they had adjacent construction), and one had quite impressive play equipment and sports facilities (including a basketball court and ping pong tables) for those under 15 years old. These facilities are being used, as when I was walking through children were riding bikes through or playing in almost all of them. These areas smelled clean, and there were generally small, accessible cafes close by. 
A quiet park south of Oranienplatz

Construction next to the park above
At the beginning of my walk near Mariannenstraße and Reichenberger Str. I saw many people of seemingly Turkish descent, and near the U-Bahn stations I saw a globally diverse crowd speaking many languages. As I moved north though, an increasing number of white people were out and about. Near Puckerstr. and Wrangelstr., a group of five black children stood out from the other nearby pedestrians. The demographics I saw must be taken in context though, because not as many people as I expected were walking around especially compared to the capacity of the housing. It may be biased towards the higher class, white people who can afford to relax and want to walk around on Saturday.

In many of the large and repetitious residential buildings, people had put out items to personalize their home such as flowers or art. One person had even hung a sign saying “Refugees Welcome.”

The "Refugees Welcome" sign

Most of the buildings were claimed with graffiti, even the school, which further personalized the neighborhood with individual character. I noticed graffiti near Puckerstr. and Wrangelstr. includes many full-fledged images in contrast to the many tags and writing near Schlesisches Tor. With this street art, people have taken their time to beautify the neighborhood which shows a caring attitude towards the area.

Jens-Nydahl Primary School

A more image-based piece of graffiti in Kreuzberg
Occasionally, like in the industrial area to the north, the area felt empty and I started to feel uncomfortable. For most of the time, especially south part of the kiez, I felt warm-heartedly safe. I was even comfortable using an ATM though I was planning to go a bank to be extra safe. This kiez approaches a small-town feeling on many residential streets that I enjoyed exploring.

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