Walkabout: The many sides of Karl-Marx-Straße
by Max Bach
The main exit of the Neukölln S-Bahn Station takes you out onto Karl-Marx-Straße. Take a look under the S-Bahn bridge at the steel tunnel and the light and public art installation by Matthias Friedrich and Roland Stratmann, part of the city’s efforts liven up previously neglected areas of Berlin. The installation, up since July 2008, consists of 74 backlit glass panels, each printed with the name of a street in Neukölln that refers to something outside the neighborhood (Elbestraße, for example), accompanying close-up photos of different tree trunks – a diversity that reflects the make-up of this district.
Walking northwest up Karl-Marx-Straße away from the station is a mild introduction to the shopping stretch, the third largest in Berlin, which really explodes further up the street between the Karl-Marx-Straße and Rathaus Neukölln subway stations. A left on Schierker Straße will take you to the neo-baroque Körnerpark. This modestly-sized and carefully-tended park, with statues, fountains, green lawns, and an almost kitschy “European” feel sets itself apart from the neighborhood’s unpresumptuous atmosphere. A café and art gallery in the orangery offers a good place to pause and reenergize. If you plan correctly, you can catch one of the many musical and cultural events.
Exit the park on Jonasstraße and you’ll see the southern part of Thomashöhe across the street, a more classic Berlin park scene– overgrown grass and weeds littered with cigarette butts and picnic garbage. On the way back to Karl Marx Straße there’s another Neukölln gem, a music club called Little Stage that puts on all sorts of international music events (an acoustic night – in Berlin!) and also offers a Kultur Lounge.
Back on Karl-Marx-Straße, the eighteenth-century cemetery across the street is the most visible indication on this street of the neighborhood’s origins as a village of Bohemian refugees. Heading left on Karl-Marx-Straße, soon Karl-Marx-Platz appears on the right side of the street. The renowned Blutwurstmanufaktur (Blood sausage manufacturer) has its store here since 1902 and sells quality meat, traditional handmade sausages to go or for eating in. Further up Karl-Marx-Straße is the artist space Rue Bunte, a creative conglomeration of artist studios, outdoor theater, workshops, and recording studios.
Walk through Karl-Marx-Platz and on the other side you’ll find Richardplatz with the distinctive Bethlehemskirche, the center of the old Bohemian-Rixdorf Village, and still a beloved part of Berlin history with its small town feel. The smithy in the center of the square is still in use, and houses a women’s center and art gallery in its old living quarters. Locals and children populate the square in the warmer months. Gustave Schöne has old carriages from its business, around since 1894, on display, and offers the possibility to rent some of the newer ones out for weddings, funerals, or props. If you still want more meat after the Blutwurstmanufaktur, take a seat at Louis (Richardplatz 5), home of immense Wiener Schnitzel platters, or Villa Rixdorf (Richardplatz 6), which offers some Bohemian plates on their very international menu.
North on Richardstraße leads you to two other notable sights. One is the Comenius Garden, pedagogical, spiritual, and philosophical center, opened 1995 in a gesture of healing and community-building on the former site of run-down workers’ tenements. And just down Kirchgasse, almost directly across the street from the garden, is an old schoolhouse from 1753 with a little two-room museum to add to the whole historical experience in the center of Neukölln, and further advice on Bohemian sites worth seeing.
To head back to the Ringbahn, go down Kirchhofstraße from Richardplatz, passing Marco Flamenco, a dance studio, and taking a left on Wipperstraße. This small street has at least a couple interesting art galleries – Gönül’s Art and Kunstsalon Posin – the latter which is run by three striking Russian brothers who do reproductions of classic artworks like da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Rembrandt’s Night Watch. A side entrance to the Ringbahn can be found at the end of the street, where it intersects with Saalestraße.
1. Art and Light Installation | Up since 2008, this installation representing Neukölln’s diversity is already a little time-worn but worth a look | Under S-Bahn bridge
2. Körnerpark | Well-tended neo-baroque park from 1910s with café and art gallery | www.körnerpark.de
3. Thomashöhe | A contrast to Körnerpark, this more standard Berlin park attracts more residents and has enough lawn, trees, and bushes for plenty of picnicking and game-playing | Thomasstraße 27
4. Little Stage | A small – hence the name – music venue with international acts and regular events. | Jonasstr. 1 | www.littlestage.de
5. Böhmischer Gottesacker | Dating from the eighteenth century and still in use today, this cemetery served the area’s Bohemian refugees | Karl-Marx-Platz 10
6. Fleischerei Blutwurstmanufaktur | Butchers that sells quality meat and traditional hand-made sausages since 1902 | Karl-Marx-Platz 9-11 | www.blutwurstmanufaktur.de
7. Rue Bunte | A community of artists and musicians works and puts on events and performances in the back courtyard here | Karl-Marx-Str. 177 | www.ruebunte.de
8. Bethlehemskirche | First built in the fifteenth century, this church was the center of Bohemian life in Rixdorf and was last renovated in 1941 | Richardplatz 22
9. Rixdorfer Schmiede | The old smithy today houses a women’s center and art gallery | Richardplatz 28 | www.rixdorferschmiede.de
10. Gustav Schöne | Another Rixdorf institution: Today it houses a carriage museum and rents them out too (with horses and drivers) | Richardplatz 18 | www.gustav-schoene.de
11. Louis | Austrian family restaurant with immense Wiener Schnitzel specialities | Richardplatz 5
12. Villa Rixdorf | Café and restaurant with Bohemian platters as well as other international cuisine | Richardplatz 6 | www.villa-rixdorf.com
13. Comenius-Garten | Pedagogical, spiritual, and philosophical center, opened 1995 in a gesture of healing and community-building on the former site of run-down workers’ tenements | Richardstraße 35 | www.comenius-garten.de
14. Kirchgasse 5 | A museum on the Bohemian village and Rixdorf in an old schoolhouse from 1753 | museumimboehmischendorf.de
15. Marcao Flamenco | Flamenco dance studio that offers lessons for the curious | Kirchhofstr. 7a | www.marcao.com
16. Gönül’s Art | Local artist’s studio, gallery, and meeting point with occasional performances, readings, and coffee-drinking | Wipperstr. 10 | verruecktgruen.blogspot.com
17. Kunstsalon Posin | Three renowned Russian brothers make art – their own and copies of old masters’ works | Wipperstr. 20 | www.kunstsalon-posin.de