The word ‘Kiez’ refers to a certain area within a larger neighbourhood. It is not always defined by administrative boundaries, but by the residents themselves. Each Kiez is identifiable by its own individual spirit, a unique soul that sets it apart from every other, and loved by those who live there. Even if just a stone’s throw from one another, no two neighbourhoods are the same, and the Kiez in which someone lives speaks volumes. Here, we profile some of the most popular and interesting Kiezes.
Schillerkiez is a small area, only 4 blocks by 7, nestled in between busy Hermannstrasse and the expanse of Tempelhofer Feld, in the achingly trendy neighbourhood of Neukölln. In recent years it has become one of the most talked-about places in the city, and regularly tops lists of the most desirable locations in Berlin.
Walking about the streets, particularly during the summer months, it is not hard to see why. The pavements are filled with people sitting outside cafés and bars, sipping cappuccinos or craft beers, or simply pausing for refreshment on their way to skate around the abandoned runways at Tempelhofer Feld. Local restaurants everything from Korean to Ethiopian cuisines, from burgers to barbecue. Young families and elderly couples stroll along the tree-lined Schillerpromenade, and there is a genuine “neighbourhood” feeling to the area.
The fascinating history of Schillerkiez, at once typical for the city yet also unique, gives you an insight into its current fortunes. Originally developed in the 1900s by then-mayor Hermann Boddin, this was an attempt to draw wealthier inhabitants to what was a working-class area of outlying farmland. Having survived the Second World War mostly intact, the area was blighted by the airport at Tempelhof just to the north, forcing out most of the original inhabitants. With its low rents and attractive Altbau buildings, the area became very attractive for lower-income guest workers in the 1950s and '60s, and later artists and other creatives in the '90s/'00s. It has been slowly modernised and gentrified since the 1990s, though this has sped up considerably since the airport’s closure in 2008 and its transformation into the vast open leisure space it is today.
Nowadays, Schillerkiez is in a similar position to neighbourhoods in Prenzlauer Berg some years ago, namely it is perched between trendy and oversaturated, between dive bar and kindergarten, and between youthful freedom and middle-aged tranquillity. The old Altbau buildings are being renovated, dilapidated corner pubs are being replaced by quirky cafés, and everything is looking a little cleaner than it was. Yet there is still a strong character here, and the cobbled streets have more than enough grit to remain interesting and not too sanitised. Who knows what the future holds for Schillerkiez but for now, life is pretty good.