Berlin has dozens of tour companies showing residents and visitors around the city; many of them simply point out buildings and places and highlight historical facts. Others have a different approach, or very special topics. Berlin In Your Pocket has been on some unusual tours recently, and this time we’re exploring the Neukölln district with Finding Berlin.
Neukölln, a worker’s district south of Kreuzberg, has always been something of Berlin’s rotten apple. A century ago named Rixdorf it was home to dozens of dodgy taverns and theatres off ill repute, attracting thousands of party-goers every weekend, and they had to rename it to Neukölln just to polish its bad image. When the Berlin Wall strangled the district from 1961-1989 it became a poor immigrant area, and after 1990 has been infamous for all manner of immigration-related problems. But in recent years the district has gone through something of a revival, with young people moving into the attractive northern and western parts of the area (and thereby creating completely new kinds of problems), and renovations having effect on the look of Neukölln.
On Finding Berlin’s tour, you see Neukölln through the eyes of the locals. Over several hours, tour guide and Neukölln resident Adda Bullerdieck walks you around the Schillerkiez, Boddinstraße and Karl-Marx-Straße and introduces you to the locals, many of whom are children or grandchildren of the Turkish ‘guest workers’ that arrived in Germany from 1961.
You chat with the owner of a Turkish supermarket (which amazingly flies in most of its supplies); the proud third-generation immigrant owner of a travel agency tells you about his family’s life story. You duck into a messy electronics shop to hear the owner play beautiful music on his baglama lute, and visit a mosque. A bakery shop employee lets you taste various Turkish gözleme snacks and sweets, a late-night shop owner tells you about the community theatre and dance school that he runs next door to his business, and at a Turkish fashion shop the ladies get to try on trendy headscarf. The walk often ends with a delicious meal at a Turkish restaurant.
This tour doesn’t cover much history, remarkable buildings or kilometres, but it’s a fascinating way to get insight into the lives of ordinary Berliners in a multi-cultural district, and to freely chat about any topic that seems interesting; the locals are all very happy to interact with visitors and tell them something about their lives, livelihood and neighbourhood. Some of the locals speak English, but otherwise Adda translates.
Besides this ‘Little Istanbul’ tour, Finding Berlin has several themed walking and cycling tours, focusing on art, street art, Vietnamese Berlin and individual districts. For added glamour, the cycling tours are performed on unique vintage single-speed race bikes, which are also available for rent. Find out more about Finding Berlin, their tours and bike rental here.