Bundesplatz, Collage © Björn Paulissen


Walkabout: A neighborhood of fame and fortune, by the books

by Sven Olaf Oehlsen and Mathis Sommer / translation by Rachel Marks

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A beloved idyll and an almost forgotten center of cool fluttering between provinciality and prominence. Rather than taking the main exits, plastered in green tile, to thunderous Bundessallee, depart Bundesplatz station through the east exit, through old masonry and directly between the cafe chairs posted on the quiet Varziner Platz.

Passing the small Cosima cinema [1], you enter the Wagner Quarter taking Brünnhildestraße toward the now relatively run-down Cosima Platz. There's little left to recall Sportpark Friedenau's cycling track, which was torn up in 1904, just as its hard to imagine that Schöneberg's major gasometer was once also planned to stand on this spot. The influential residents of the erstwhile country-house colony threw their collective weight against the project, and today it is exactly these refined houses, now under the shadows of multi-storied middle-class housing, that give this neighborhood its singular character.

One country cottage on Sarrazinstraße has housed the Corps Teutonia [2] fraternity since 1929. (On the corner of Albestraße, it's worth taking a look up the street to the left: the well-preserved facades provide a glimpse of the former grandeur of these residential blocks.) The ground floor houses a glass-blowing workshop. Sarrazinstraße leads to Friedrich-Wilhelm-Platz, which has been the heart of this horseshoe-shaped development, thanks to planner Carstenn, since the end of the nineteenth century. Bundesallee today no longer follows its original path, severely disrupting the Platz's design; the church tower [3], however, has maintained its dominant function as a point de vue of the quarter.

Niedstraße begins at the church and with it Berlin's literature headquarters. Among the numerous antique books dealers you're sure to discover the plaques commemorating the quarter's most famous residents: Erich Kästner lived in No. 5, Max Halbe in No. 10, Uwe Johnson (as well as painter Karl Schmidt-Rottluff) in No. 14. Günter Grass worked in No. 13 from 1963 to 1996, though you won't find a plaque with his name. At the end of Niedstraße stands Rathaus Friedenau [5], whose Jugendstil design by Hans Altmann was finished around 1916 for the at the time still independent municipality. Follow the trail of plaques marking famous lives around the Rathaus and across Hauptstraße: Fregestraße 80 stands in memory of Schöneberg's city councilman and later first president of the Federal Republic of Germany Theodor Heuss [6], while No. 76 conspicuously fails to mention its former resident Joseph Goebbels.

Hedwigstraße takes you back in the direction of the horseshoe - past a country cottage complete with a fastfood chain [7], cafes, and the Jamaican embassy - to Renée-Sintenis-Platz, over which the former royal post office [8] by architect Ludwig Meyer presides. Handjerystraße, with its wide curve to the east, offers pedestrians perhaps the best view of this towering building. The street turns into Stubenrauchstraße at its western end and again and again affords glimpses to the right of Friedrich-Wilhelm-Platz from between the ornate facades. The circular layout at the intersection of Wiesbadener Straße forms the counterpart to Sintenis-Platz; a placard at No. 47 recalls the founding of the Comedian Harmonists [9].

The who's who continues at the end of Stubenrauchstraße in the municipal cemetery [10] in which fallen soldiers lay among further impressive Friedenau residents: with some luck earlier neighbors of Marlene Dietrich might approach you at her grave; Mother Josefine von Losh also lies nearby. On Südwestkorso, which leads back to the train station, the name is the game with cafes and restaurants that lend a Mediterranean feeling to the street. In the middle of the popular residential area, in the corner house at No. 64, you'll find an ambitious neighborhood stage for theater and music; the Kleine Theater [11] opened in 1973 and has exactly 99 seats.

The Rheingau Quarter [12], constructed between 1911 and 1915 by the development company of Georg Haberland, begins at Adam-Kuckhoff-Platz. Lead architect Paul Jatzow was given major artistic freedom and thus was able to implement his garden city principles in English country-home style. He created "the most important urban planning contribution to Berlin" according to the state's monuments office. Gradually sloped front yards, bay window, and elements of Fachwerk articulate the row houses that boast both intricate doorways and colorful mosaics of Greek mythological figures and plant motifs. The small park at Rüdesheimer Platz is dominated by the Siegfried fountain [13]: Siegfried the "Horse Tamer," sculpted from sandstone, stands upon a pedestal flanked by male and female allegories of the Rhein and Mosel Rivers respectively.

This compact neighborhood comes to a close as you walk along Aßmannshauser Straße to the north past several villas (the embassy of Gabon, among others), garden plots, and the somewhat incongruent dental clinic [14] of the FU Berlin to Heidelberger Platz. Go through the U-Bahn's sophisticated entrance to find the bridge to the Ringbahn and simultaneously circumvent the heavily trafficked intersection. Those in search of something different can take the short detour through Eberbacher Straße from Rüdesheimer Platz to the infamous "snake," Germany's largest apartment building, built directly over the Autobahn.

1. Cosima-Filmtheater | The last cinema in Friedenau, a small art-house theater built in 1942 on Varziner Platz | Sieglindestraße 10 | www.kinokompendium.de/cosima

2. Landhaus des Corps Teutonia | The fraternity, founded in the late nineteenth century, has kept its old traditions of camaraderie and dueling alive in Berlin since 1929. Friedenau never pretended to be working class | Sarrazinstraße 19 | www.teutonia-berlin.de

3. Kirche Zum guten Hirten | An urban design center focused around the "figure of Carstenn"; the church councilman is Dr. Vicco von Bülow | Friedrich-Wilhelm-Platz | www.vvbuelow.de

4. Niedstraße | On this literary street, almost every address houses new and old books and/or memories of some of Germany's greatest writers| among others www.antiquariat-schomaker.de

5. Rathaus Friedenau | The seat of Schöneberg's youth welfare office and, in the winter, the home of the Morgenstern theater | Breslauer Platz | www.theater-morgenstern.de

6. Wohnhaus Theodor Heuss | "You can't make culture with politics. But perhaps politics with culture." The Goebbels family lived at No. 76 | Fregestraße 80 | www.theodor-heuss-stiftung.de

7. Landhaus Subway | Restaurant Nr. 43976; Günter Grass used to buy his flounder at the weekly market across the street | Rheinstraße 66 | www.subway-sandwiches.de

8. Kaiserliches Postamt I. Klasse | The Rathaus, or city hall, was actually supposed to be erected on this site, but to this day it still serves the Deutsche Post | Handjerystraße 33

9. Haus der Comedian Harmonists | A plaque recalls the foundation of the legendary Weimar Republic all-male singing group | Stubenrauchstraße 47 | www.comedian-harmonists.de

10. Künstler-Friedhof | Each neighborhood had its cemetery, and many headstones here recall former Barnay-Platz residents | Stubenrauchstraße 43-45 | w3.berlin-friedenau.com

11. Kleines Theater | Formerly a cinema, today an intimate theater | Südwestkorso 64 | www.kleines-theater.de

12. Rheingauviertel | World War I hindered any further construction of the well-received garden city built after English archetypes | Landauer Straße

13. Siegfriedbrunnen | A monumental figure of sandstone by sculptor Carl Cauer, 1911 | Rüdesheimer Platz | www.ruedi-net.de

14. Klinik für Zahn-, Mund- und Kieferheilkunde | A major university outpost smack dab in the middle of a villa colony; the word "eyesore" has been mentioned. Still has its own cafeteria | Aßmannshauser Straße 4-6 | web.fu-berlin.de/chronik


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