It is presumed to be the most colourful, multinational and omnicultural of Berlin’s districts: Neukölln, whose reputation – up to the recent past – could be considered controversial at best. Predominantly low-income (German) residents alongside a high rate of immigrants touching the 40 per cent mark have been benefiting from affordable rents and trying to make ends meet remote from posh Berlin areas. Different beliefs; traditions; habits; tongues; skins or dress codes hailing from alien ethnic backgrounds not seldom ignited the precarious potential for social conflicts. Better-off Berliners and visitors to the city alike preferred to stay at a safe distance for a reason. Yet, by avoiding the confrontation with an often bleak reality, they simultaneously missed out on glamour of a quality only thriving in microcosms such as Neukölln.
Over decades, mostly Turkish and Middle Eastern immigrants have left their inextinguishable footprint in their immediate neighbourhood in the shape of affluent oriental food markets and Souk-like shops hawking objects ranging from intriguing to useful at mini prices. A multitude of reliably brimming cafés and restaurants serving an array of inexpensive refreshments and menus add to an abundance of outlets tailor-made for their customers (not to omit the loud and ever-present undulating music oriental style). Much of it being make-shift, coarsely improvised and definitely not begging for applause. Tiny flower gardens (protected by even tinier bourgeois picket fences) prettify dusty pavements and take passers-by one step closer to a livable urban environment.
Lustre for Neukölln
Lately, Neukölln has been undergoing a dramatic transition. Although living conditions in general are improving, conversion in particular now delivers the foundation for fresh controversy: Low-income: yes. High-income: yes! High immigrant rate: yep. Low rents: mhmm. High rents: yeees! High reality-estate prices: absolutely! Neukölln is sharing the fate of up and coming urban districts the world over: it is in the process of serious gentrification that entails familiar consequences.
Partially revamped: A new member to the league?
Now that it is fashionable for young money-makers to put up their quarters at rocketing prices in one of the face-lifted edifices refurbished back to their former glory, more and more international investors make sure to secure themselves their fair share of an alluring Berlin pie. Even unmodified space in buildings long neglected becomes increasingly costly and chances for average earners to find a financially feasible home base are perpetually dwindling.
All images ©Christina Feyerke The header shows Roasters on Hermannstraße. The young man in the window gave his consent to his image being published.