Walkabout: En route from a pharmaceutical giant to the "stomach doctor"
by Gernot Schaulinski / translation by Rachel Marks
Berlin's most modern Ringbahn station hovers over Müllerstraße, Wedding's major thoroughfare. Its southbound lanes lead past the premises of former Schering AG. The 15-story company headquarters wrapped in glittering sheet metal, hard to overlook, is a local landmark. Though it has since been swallowed up by the next-biggest pharmaceutical corporation, the company's history stretches back to 1851 when Ernst Schering first opened the "Green Pharmacy" here. Today the production plants encompass several streets, which will in the near future be developed into a Pharmacampus . Public thruways across the campus and a park intend to anchor the new development in the neighborhood.
Weddingplatz  lies opposite the company complex. In comparison to the pre-war tenement buildings these relatively prestigious facades were essentially the well-kept parlor room of the working-class neighborhood. None of this was left after the war. But one special aspect of this now otherwise unadorned area remains - under the asphalt of Müllerstraße in the Reinickendorfer Straße U-Bahn station. Until 1989 a recording announced this is as the "last station in Berlin-West," from which it continued to roll through a string of ghost stations in East Berlin. Before it reemerged in the West at Kreuzberg's Kochstraße, National People's Army border guards took care to note numerous "provocations" such as discarding cigarette packs, beer bottles, and "political propaganda" (yellow press newspapers) on the dusty unused platforms.
In the center of Weddingplatz, the Dankeskirche  hides behind a grove of trees. The church's name refers to a failed assassination attempt on Emperor William I. on June 2, 1878. A young, physically ill farmer shot at the monarch from under the linden trees and injured him with thirty pellets. Only William's thick coat and spiked helmet spared him. In commemoration of his recovery it was decided in 1884 to name the new church built on Müllerstraße for his thankfulness. World War II saw the end of the original, ornamental memorial; a simple replacement was built on the old site in the 1970s, now entrenched fort-like behind a thick rampart. Today the hall hosts concerts, readings, and discussion groups more frequently than religious services.
South of Weddingplatz Müllerstraße transforms quietly into Chausseestraße. Without any fanfare, pedestrians wander over Chausseestraßebrücke , which shows little signs of being a bridge since the Panke flowing below can hardly still be called a river and requires little more than a pipe under the road. The social housing block at Chausseestraße 72-75 straddles the small stream all the more impressively, and it is here that your route follows the river through the huge building to Südpankepark , which has been built on the site of a former brewery. Until 1868 this was a local getaway and housed a river-bath location run by innkeeper Liese. On the street named after him at the south end of the park, an art installation by Karla Sachse marks a former East-West border crossing. 120 silhouettes of rabbits are sunken into the ground (it doesn't always have to be lambs). The association with the order to fire along the Wall thrusts itself upon visitors.
Follow the Walter-Nicklitz-Promenade  and the Panke north upstream. Standardized postwar blocks of the 1950s dominate the scene; there's little left here of Wedding's once infamous tenements. Now the water flows flat and clear through the narrow riverbed, but during industrialization the stench coming from the murky "Stinkepanke" - stinky Panke - was a cause for concern. A flood in 1888 even managed to flush away the foundation of a rear building on Schulzendorfer Straße. Past the now dry Stadtbad Wedding  with its giant tape-art murals the Panke pathway shows its best side. A narrow green route proceeds from Gerichtsstraße between the stream and the walls of rear houses. On the left side a group of buildings of the Gerichtshöfe  holds ateliers for some seventy artists, on the right the overgrown ruins of the Wiesenburg , a former homeless shelter where as early as 1896 down-and-out Berliners could anonymously spend the night without the meddling of Christian missionary zealots. Prominent guests included "Hauptmann von Köpenick" and the writer Hans Fallada, whose optimistic novel Ein Mann will nach oben was made into a TV series in the 1980s. Some of the scenes were even shot at this exact location on the Panke.
After crossing under the Ringbahn, the stroll along the river comes to a close at Pankstraße and cuts back southwest to Nettelbeckplatz , which always exudes the authentic local flavor. Thirsty residents of every ethnicity and background come to the corner bar Magendoktor  for a cure-all dose of beer, Futschi (brandy with coke), or schnapps. This is the real thing, Hertha soccer fans, dart masters, bar philosophers and all. They say they celebrate "750 years of Wedding" here every night. And Ringbahn riders can cap the night here - the station lies just next door.
1. Pharmacampus | On the site of the traditional Schering AG developers are now planning a public park and thruways for any interested local residents | Müllerstraße 170-171
2. Weddingplatz | Once the most visually appealing corner of the working-class neighborhood, though because of wartime destruction you'd hardly know it.
3. Dankeskirche | Thirty pellets struck the Emperor in 1878. The church stands for his thankfulness for surviving the assassination attempt. Today the hall hosts concerts, readings, and discussion groups more frequently than religious services.
4. Chausseestraßenbrücke | The route along the Panke begins here and leads under a multistory residential hulk | Chausseestraße 72-75
5. Südpankepark | Site of innkeeper Liese's river bath getaway until 1868. 120 rabbits are tucked into grass on the south end of the park, and a limestone sculpture (Memorial to Reunification) by Hildegard Leest recalls the Wall's influence in the neighborhood | Chausseestraße at Liesenstraße
6. Walter-Nicklitz-Promenade | Constructed in the 1950s with Marshall Plan funds. The pre-war appearance of the Panke has been totally lost.
7. Stadtbad Wedding | No water, but art. The closed public bath consistently puts on exhibitions, and the outer façade boasts the world's largest tape-art mural | Gerichtstraße 65-69 | www.stadtbad-wedding.de
8. Kunst in den Gerichtshöfen e.V. | One of Germany's largest art hubs, the ateliers hold the entire spectrum of contemporary art: photography, painting, graphic design, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, light installations, video art... | Gerichtstraße 12/13 | www.gerichtshoefe.de
9. Wiesenburg | The now picturesque ruins of the former homeless shelter from 1896. Prominent guests included "Hauptmann von Köpenick" and the writer Hans Fallada ("The Drinker") | between Gerichtsstraße and Pankstraße
10. Nettelbeckplatz | Just a few yards from the Ringbahn, a node of local urban life. Rest your feet at the "Dance on the Volcano" fountain and take in Wedding at its most authentic.
11. Kneipe Magendoktor | Just what the doctor ordered. Here bar personnel is happy to cure all thirsts and afflictions. Conversations are candid, words are not minced, and the mood is rollicking | Reinickendorfer Str. 111