Kreuzberg, the Berlin neighbourhood famed for multiculturalism and a radical counter culture epitomised by annual May Day riots, is, unsurprisingly, also a hotspot for street art. Rampant gentrification has taken some of the edginess off Kreuzberg’s reputation, but it still retains a gritty underbelly. Exploring the area is fun, especially as it’s home to some very good restaurants. At times it seems like every turn in the street throws up new surprises.
It’s a fascinating area, and one that provides an insight into Berlin’s recent past and its inevitable future. A new international crowd had descended upon Kreuzberg, creating much consternation amongst locals. The changing demographics have driven up prices to a point where even hardcore leftists have migrated to nearby Neukölln. It would be fair to say that much of Kreuzberg is now officially bourgeois, even if many rough edges still exist.
A ten minute walk from our new apartment brought us to Mehringplatz, alongside the Landwehr canal and the unofficial border between between Kreuzberg and Mitte. This was once an elegant Baroque ‘circular square’ known as the Belle-Alliance-Platz. It was completely destroyed during the Second World War, and rebuilt as a dreary complex of social housing in what has traditionally been a poor area. Recent improvements have included the addition of some outstanding pieces of street art.
Just north of Mehringplatz, a set of apartment buildings between Wilhelmstrasse and Friedrichstrasse are resplendent with murals painted by Graco Berlin. Wander through the car park and communal gardens and you’ll come face to face with a couple of dozen portraits of people reflecting the diversity of the area. The ‘faces’ were created by five different street artists but all if them are expressive. It’s not a place that attracts many tourists, so if you visit you’re likely to have this open air gallery to yourself.