Xberg Über Alles! Berlin resident, professional photographer and Urban Travel Blog reporter, Craig Robinson, goes kickin’ it in Kreuzberg… he suggests you join him before gentrification ruins everything.
Iggy and Bowie lived there, the first German punk Mohawk follicles sprouted there, and a network of canals — where Nazis chucked their victims/martyrs — runs through it. You will never get to live there because it is too überhip for you. If you read this and claim to live there, you probably really live in the repackaged, renamed Kreuzkölln (where Kreuzberg and Neukölln blend and bleed together). But Kreuzberg likes a party, and so this West Berlin district is firmly etched into the crusty, graffiti-ensconced Rosetta stone of Berlin culture.
Xberg — as the residents like to call it – is a muddling mix of punks, artists, immigrants, the old and the young (though mostly young). It is the cherry on cake of the Berlin cliché ‘multikulti’ and in this writer’s opinion, the only cool area in West Berlin. Apparently Xberg really wanted to be in East Berlin, as evidenced by being previously surrounded by the Berlin Wall on three sides. The district has only recently been squashed together with its Eastern sister district of Friedrichshain to form the borough of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. A river cuts the two districts in half (not to mention the former site of the Berlin Wall) and only the bridge Oberbaumbrücke connects the two districts. It seems as if some hippie-dippy Euro scholars proclaimed that Kreuzberg must stretch over to embrace its estranged Eastern step sister in a clear bid to keep All Things Cool and Hip associated with East Berlin — if in name only.
As with any hip district in Berlin, a million empty spaces morph into new ideas and no idea is bad. For a city with allegedly no money (see ‘poor but sexy’), this neighborhood packs more restaurants, bars, clubs, cafes and galleries than anywhere I have ever been. There is really something for everyone in Kreuzberg, and if you’re as lazy as I am, there is no need to walk more than a few blocks in Xberg to find anything and everything your heart desires. With too much to do in a year (let alone a weekend) there is no need for me to pay lip service to well-established ruts on the tourist trail. As your attorney I recommend that you plunge into Xberg with a wandering head and party with a full heart. Or vice versa.
Start your day in Kreuzberg with a walk from U-Bahnhof Schlesisches Tor down Schlesisches strasse until you reach Club der Visionaere. If it is summer time you can float on barges chained to the main club. The rest of the year you can cram yourself inside improvised, ramshackle shacks and feel the beat. Just around the corner is the floating swimming pool Badeschiff in case the muddy canal waters don’t invite your tan-sucking bod. Stroll through the Görlitzer Park, pass the old Germans feeding birds by the lake, stroll past the jamming and spliffing Jamaicans and out on Wienerstrasse. Turn right and go until you hit my favorite tiki bar, ‘Tiki Heart.’ You can shimmy downstairs to the boutiki, grab Hawaiian/rockabilly garb and sidle up to the upstairs tiki bar. Apply gel to hair, stab yourself in the arm with a ball point pen umpteen tattoo times and order the Elvis Burger with a one liter cocktail to kill the pain. With full belly and swollen arm, walk down Wienerstrasse until it becomes Oranienstrasse. Keep walking. The Real Fun is just ahead: On May 1, crowds of cops and punks mosh together as one in the famous May Day protests. By day you can buy your Che Guevara pretzels (a Cuban favorite) to fuel your guts for some Molotov cocktail chucking at night.
The rest of the year you can stow the anarchy, relax and hit the bars and clubs at night with no danger of your pompadour or Mohawk being set on fire. A more user friendly parade is the Carnival of Cultures, which winds its way through Kreuzberg flying costume feathers on a balmy spring day, with zero danger of the usual wall of riot police on Oranienstrasse on May 1.
Oranienstrasse is truly one stop shopping for all your food and party needs. Grab a mess of 1 EURO tacos on Taco Tuesday at Santa Maria (Oranienstrasse 170) and wash them down with 1 EUR tequila shots. Legendary rock/punk/thrash club SO36 (named for the colorful quarter of Xberg claimed by all people punk and hip) at Oranienstr. 190 is a great place to put all that taco/tequila energy to work. Right next door at O-strasse number 189 is the aptly named Molotow Cocktail Bar. Don’t worry; the only flammable liquid you’ll have chucked at you is shots during happy hour. By all means, don’t get stuck in a smoky underground club pit just because the sun has abandoned you. Xbergers party all night, neighbors be damned. You can still find many party spots along the river and canals—boats, barges and even floating parties on the Spree—to keep you grooving in the great wide open. And then there’s the beach bars…
Photographer and digital artist Nathan Wright huddles in The Bunker surrounded by skulls, gas masks, camera gear and a large St. George’s Cross flag behind him. Originally from the U.K., Nathan (43) has lived and worked in Kreuzberg for seven years. His basement photo studio Cozmic Underground— nicknamed The Bunker — is home to his gallery and professional photography studio.
Part of the reason Nathan chose Kreuzberg is the friendly atmosphere, nice architecture and the like. “I feel at home here; there’s cheap food and beer, lots of green spaces and great public transport,” Nathan explained. “I don’t like all the hipsters, though.” I asked him if hipsters are those grubby little bearded people who wear big glasses, skinny jeans, orange shoes and woolen hats in the summer. He said yes and added that “they’re ruining everything.” I agreed that they are.
Aas a dense residential area, there aren’t that many hotels in Kreuzberg anyway but you could try the stately and stoic Hotel Angleterre (Friedrichstr.31), which is a stone’s throw from both O-strasse and Checkpoint Charlie, so you can kill two birds with that very same stone.
Like this? Check out Craig’s weekend guide to Berlin for great tips and insight on the entire German capital, or stay district focused with our guide to Prenzlauer Berg. More Berlin stories right here.