Earlier in August, my Dutchman and I took a road trip from Amsterdam to Berlin.
Berlin isn't a "beautiful" city but if you like history there's no denying Berlin's role in shaping the last century and subsequently, it's absolutely fascinating. History is literally around every single corner. Plus, I like any place where wacky and weird is celebrated and Berlin's alternative vibe seems less untouched that it's comparative counterparts like Amsterdam and Paris.
During our long-weekend in Berlin, I wanted to wander the Kreuzberg area which is known as the ultimate alternative spot of the already very alternative city. Think funky cafes, abandoned urban architecture and counterculture squats and so on. But since we did this trip 'spontaneously' the day got away from us and we ended up drinking margaritas all night instead of continuing our urban exploring. No complaints there!
First things first, we checked out the East Side Gallery. It was okay we got bored after 10 minutes so, we stopped for a drink at Yaam, a 'beachy' Rasta inspired bar along the Spree River and just next to the outdoor gallery. Yaam had nice views which would have been better warm, sunny day. I think we had more fun talking religion, politics and whatever else with a somewhat intoxicated but very well versed guy from the Congo in the adjacent park. Now that was interesting.
East Side Gallery
Our first stop during our wander through Kreuzberg was a graffiti covered, abandoned factory which we spotted from the metro upon our arrival to this side of town. We wandered along the river Spree, through a patch of woods which was covered in rubbish and rats and stunk of urine, giving us some insight for what was ahead. What exactly was that you ask? Well, a squatters 'village' of tents and teepees and a sign declaring the one and only community rule: "No public masturbation." Good to know. Needless to say, we made out way past the not so friendly, tattooed campers/squatters quite quickly as they clearly weren't welcoming or interested in giving us some background info on the building. In fact, I felt really awkward wandering through what was basically someone's 'living room' like a wide eyed tourist. Technically this was public property but we definitely didn't fit in, good thing curiosity got the best of us.
Moving on, we headed straight into the aforementioned abandoned factory and were in awe that a building which somehow survived two world wars has been left in such disrepair. Later, we learned from a local that this was in fact an Eisfabriek dating back to 1914! The building was still in use into the 1990's.
Obviously, we headed inside to explore. There were remnants of old machinery in place, absolutely saturated in graffiti, and it was fascinating peak around. Have a look for yourself...
After carefully circling in and out of the massive halls, up and down the rickety stairs (while snapping a ton of photos) we found the rooftop which was filled with a variety of hipster groups with an expected arrogance. In one corner, guys with bikini tops and animal masks were getting a party started, across from them a photo shoot was taking place, further along a few kids were having a blast propelling rocks off the roof. We settled in the fourth corner to take in a view of the river and the Berlin Tower in the distance.
Given the rooftop views, I can understand see why someone would want to hang out here or even take over the property. It's a prime location along the river, in an alternative but up and coming area of town. I just wish they'd preserve the heritage of this old building and keep some of the city's history alive. Coming from a place like Orlando where basically nothing is more than 30 years old I can't stress enough the importance of utilizing a city's history to encompass growing in a new direction. If you're Berlin, definitely check it out while you can, who knows when the Eisfabriek will be turned into something else with far less character.