Around 20.000 Vietnamese live in Berlin - most of them in Lichtenberg. Brought here some forty years ago to work in East Germany’s fraternal socialistic cooperatives, many have made a new home in Berlin. And they make up an extremely lively community. How lively, a first glance in the Dong-Xuan Centre will reveal: over 200 traders, service providers and restaurateurs ensure a colourful hustle and bustle. And of course: you can’t get anywhere more Far East than in Lichtenberg!
From Siemens to VEB Electrical Carbon
Herzbergstraße runs for a total of 2.3 kilometres (1.5 miles) through Lichtenberg – and right through Berlin’s industrial history of the 19th and 20th century. Already in 1872 the “Siemens & Halske” company (today’s Siemens) opened a production plant in Herzbergstraße 128-139, initially for so-called “alcohol measuring apparatuses”, and later for lighting carbon and carbon brush products. After the war, the company became the Elektrokohle (Electrical Carbon and Graphite) Lichtenberg (EKL) state owned company in East Germany with more than 3,000 employees. In 1997 production ceased when the plant was closed down.
Old building, new life
Even though in the years following the reunification of Germany many factories and chimneys were closed down (and even demolished), the street has remained a key industrial location for the district. The streetscape alone reveals that many new companies have successfully sprung up here. So successful in fact, that today over 50 companies have made their home here. And a stroll will take you past numerous listed industrial buildings as well as many examples of the new industrial presence.
Shopping in the “spring meadow”
During your stroll you will come across Herzbergstraße 128, where in four wholesale markets the “Dong Xuan” Asiatic Cultural and Trade Centre is located. It is named after the largest market in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Translated, its name means “Spring Meadow”, and even though your search for spring-like meadows will be in vain here, you will be unable to miss the thriving activity going on all around you.
The Dong-Xuan-Centre: from artificial flowers to sacks of rice
Just turn the corner in Berlin and you’re already in Asia. While Asian plastic pop music pounds out of the hall loudspeakers, inside the halls the din of over 200 traders discussing prices with their customers is almost indescribable. The products range from kitschy artificial flowers in the gaudiest colours to eminently practical 50 kilo sacks of rice. From hairdressers via nail salons right through to travel agencies and driving schools, the centre caters to all the services you can imagine.
And when you’ve finally seen enough, you’re going to be hungry with an appetite for Vietnamese food, of course. The Vietnamese cuisine, rated by many gourmets as one of the best in Asia, combines its own traditions with influences from China, India and France. And when you round off your visit to the Dong-Xuan Centre with Ga Xao Xa Ot (spicy fried chicken on lemon grass) or Rau Xao Thap Cam (variations of fried vegetables), by the time you get to your dessert (at the latest!) you’ll doubtless be thinking when you can come again. Maybe the next day? Lichtenberg is definitely worth a visit!
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