Millions of people are on the move every day in Berlin. They get on and off buses, trains and trams, heading to work, shopping or picking up the kids from day care. They often have only their goal in sight and lose sight of Berlin. We want to change that in our new blog series. Yes to getting off the beaten path, no to ignoring our surroundings. So, we’ll be travelling to stops that are less well-known but which have a lot to offer Berliners and guests of the city alike. And we’ll take an especially close look, try things out, have new experiences, in other words, enjoy Berlin to the fullest! Today I'm taking the U2 to Klosterstraße and the beginnings of the city on the Spree...
As I was blasted with the usual gust of wind as I left the station, it smelled of freshly cut grass. Not quite what I was expecting on today's journey, especially since I haven't even left the city. And I haven’t even left the city – I'm climbing the steps from the Klosterstraße U-Bahn station straight into the heart of Mitte, the historic centre and absolute heart of the German capital. It was here along Mühlendamm that the neighbouring villages of Berlin and Cölln grew together into a double city about 750 years ago. Once I get to the top of the steps, I decide to check out the source of this smell that I associate with summer in the country. But as far as I can see, from Grunauer Straße to the left to Stralauer Straße to the right, all I see is another all-too-typical sight for Berlin that has a completely different smell: a construction site. Behind me stands the sublime Altes Stadthaus, now home to the Berlin legislature, in front of me is the four-storey former headquarters of the Tietz department store chain constructed out of light sandstone, and at the corner of Parochialstraße, the Parochialkirche.
I follow the scent of the freshly cut grass to the old churchyard, where the grass in the attached cemetery has just been mowed. The ancient iron crosses and grave stones stand peacefully under the large trees in full bloom and surrounded by bird song. Along the rear wall, I also discover two large mausoleums. As I enter the church, it is pleasantly cool. The stark, exposed walls and the gigantic cross hanging in the apse of the Baroque building make it seem much larger on the inside than it had appeared from the churchyard. Unbelievable, I think as I step outside the church again, that I can travel back more than 300 years right here in the middle of the pulsating life of a modern city. As I leave the churchyard, I pass Klosterstraße 68, a grand edifice in yellow. A few steps further take me even deeper into the history of Berlin: the towering red brick ruins of the 13th century Franciscan monastery. As I walk along the ruin, I peer into what was once the nave and as my eye traces the ruins of the ancient walls, I look up and smile as I see the TV Tower poking its head through the missing roof of the church. Past and present, side-by-side. As I walk onto Littenstraße, I watch two lawyers leave the Berlin district court and get into their limos, parked in front of what's left of the medieval city wall. I wonder if they realise the historical importance of their parking spots? Or if they know that the city's major courthouse once stood on Neue Friedrichstraße?
Zur letzten Instanz
As I muse on these questions, I stroll along the old city wall and my eye catches the tiny beer garden set up beside the city wall and an extremely narrow façade. It looks like the sixteenth century forgot to take this three-storey house with it, as it stands here all alone in the middle of the street. When I walk around and look at it from Waisenstraße, it’s the same view – it seems as if Berlin's oldest pub was a little doll-sized house that has set roots in this spot and has withstood all that the waves of time have thrown at it. I take a seat at one of the wooden tables in the beer garden and order poached fish cakes and spinach ravioli. Surrounded by these places so full of memories of the city's earliest days, with the birds singing and a delicious meal, I enjoy dessert and realise: getting off the U-Bahn at Klosterstraße was worth it for this moment alone.