In praise of Kreuzberg: where east becomes west and west becomes east

The gentrification of east Berlin is now in full swing pricing out the bohemians that made the quarters of the “new east” so unique. As a result Kreuzberg, the eastern district of the former west Berlin, is thriving. This once Turkish enclave is now as trendy as Mitte and Prenzlaurberg where a decade ago. I’ve just returned from there and I loved it. My friend Daniel West showed my the area around Oranienstrasse. We ate schwarmas at the excellent Maroush (above left) which were the best I’ve tasted outside the middle east; sipped cocktails at San Remo Upfamor (above right) and downed a few glasses of the local pilsner at Luzia, a converted Butcher’s shop, where to my delight they actually played some old Iggy Pop.

Both Iggy Pop and David Bowie both frequented Kreuzberg in the late seventies, often to attend the legendary club SO36, which remains open. Today the area east of Moritzplatz, down towards Kottbusser Tor is redolent of those heady days. Artful graffiti sits alongside designer shops and surviving examples of the district’s working class roots. There’s also a palpable lack of anything too corporate (aside from a branch of Spa) and an admirable collection of old fishmongers, button stores and a delightful shop selling objects made by the blind: all wooden cabinets and baskets and brushes.

Kreuzburg remains a place of punks and graffiti and politicalisation (I saw handbills enblazened with signs shouting Stop Gentrification!) and it’s also home to many communities of gays and Turks – trendies and crusties – thinkers and drinkers. A great big mix of everything that makes Berlin such a great city in my opinion.