Berlin

Neukölln

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So big is Berlin, so wide its expanse, that the average visitor sees just a tiny fraction of this amazing city. A collection - it has been said many times before - of small towns and villages all with their own identity as opposed to a unified metropolis, Berlin is home to many wonderful unique districts which often go unexplored by the uninitiated. Every now and then, however, one of these inner-city ortsteil (as they are known in German) gets a chance to shine. Hard as it is to imagine now but Kreuzberg - now as hip and trendy and on-the-beatentrack as they come - was once given a wide berth by visitors to Berlin. The new Kreuzberg, and the latest ortsteil locals really don’t want you to find out about is Neukölln, south of the city centre, particularly the area bordered by Karl Marx Strasse, Flughafenstrasse and Hermanstrasse. Given a new lease of life in recent years by the same artists, students and migrants who once made Kreuzberg famous and diverse (but have now been forced out by fiercely climbing rents), Neukolln so resembles the Kreuzberg of a few years ago that Berliners have given it the nickname Kreuzkolln.

Neukolln is first mentioned in 1360, as a ‘village south-east of Berlin’, centered around the presentday Richardplatz. Back then it was called Richardsdorf and owned by the Order of St. John; which explains why the coat of arms of the current district bears the Maltese cross. Legend has it that the Knights Templar themselves built a fortress here, where the district meets neighbouring Tempelhof (from whence the name, Tempelhof ).

In 1737, King Frederick William I of Prussia allowed about 350 Moravian Protestants expelled from Bohemia to settle in the area, by then called Rixdorf. They built their own church and houses off the village centre along the road to Berlin, today called Richardstraße. This new Bohemian village (Böhmisch Rixdorf ) was granted its own constitution in 1797.

In the course of industrialization in the 19th century a network of new streets was laid out in the Hobrecht-Plan in an area that came to be known architecturally as the Wilhelmine Ring. In 1863 a Turkish cemetery was created north of Rixdorf, the successor of a smaller burial ground in Kreuzberg established in 1798 for the Turkish members of the Prussian Army. It contains the remains of the Ottoman ambassador Giritli Ali Aziz Efendi, the exiled Grand Vizier Mehmed Talat and Bahattin Şakir. No wonder Neukölln was one of the first districts of Berlin Turks headed for when many settled in the city in the 1960s.

When both parts of the village were reunited in 1874, the place had a population of 8,000, and soon became the largest village in Prussia. Shortly afterwards it received the status of independent city and became notorious for its taverns and amusement sites. In 1912, in an early attempt at rebranding, the local authorities tried to clean up its reputation by adopting the current name, derived from the Cölln district of medieval Berlin - an attempt that ultimately failed. Even after being incorporated into Greater Berlin in 1920 Neukölln remained infamous for its decadence: the most decadent part of what at the time was perhaps the most decadent city in Europe.
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