Neukölln’s cleared and abandoned allotment gardens

by Matthias · 18.07.2012 · Places · 6 comments

Neukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areas

A Berliner’s soul is crazy about his retreat in the coun­tryside. Be it the house at the Baltic sea, the cot­tage in Branden­burg, or, as in my fam­ily, the sum­mer house some­where in the city’s calmer areas, some­times as small as an allot­ment garden: The love for one’s own small retreat from the frantic city is what every Ber­liner (and per­haps every city slicker) is born with. Some­times dec­ades of com­mit­ment and joy shape the lovely gar­dens and many a Lauben­pieper, as we call ourselves, make their dreams a real­ity there.

How­ever, back in Novem­ber 2010, the city of Ber­lin denounced demise charters for 314 Neuk­ölln allot­ment gar­dens, cov­er­ing an area of 125.000 square meters. The ground was sub­ject to make place for one of the last sec­tions of the city high­way A100. In order to con­duct the plan­ning approval, the prop­er­ties were cleared soon. The res­id­ents had to move out. Dreams, that grew over dec­ades, were smashed in a minute. Though they received a com­pens­a­tion, I am sure every allot­ment gardener shed bit­ter tears that their beau­ti­ful gar­dens should make place for a highway.

Protest arose and ruled the head­lines for weeks. Res­id­ents col­lec­ted newts and frogs, thus res­cuing them from the excav­at­ors. But the dig­gers came any­way. In one part of the allot­ment gar­dens areas, of which the biggest were “Treue Seele” (68 prop­er­ties) and “Stadtbär” (67 prop­er­ties), tree felling com­menced but had to stop due to an court order in Feb­ru­ary 2012. As of now, the demol­ish­ing is stopped for an uncer­tain time. While one part of the allot­ment garden area is rid of any green, thus resem­bling a moon­scape with aban­doned, even burnt down cot­tages scattered around, most of the prop­er­ties still look like they were left just a few weeks ago.

Stefan and I were curi­ous: What happened to the place? Which stor­ies would it tell, which memor­ies would it bear?

We fol­lowed the old, over­grown trails that still vis­ibly lead through the estate. Every once in a while, we’d turn left or right to see what would lie bey­ond the sprawl­ing hedges. Avoiding to break any­thing even more, leav­ing everything where it was, we care­fully explored the gar­dens and the cot­tages one at a time.

Neukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment gardensNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areas

The cot­tages were dev­ast­ated. The win­dows were broken, the doors smashed. Some­times even the wooden walls were torn down. Debris lay around. Demol­ished fur­niture, splintered lav­at­or­ies, soggy car­pets, single shoes, some­times even neatly put pairs of shoes, clothes, long over­due food, news­pa­pers, books and once in a while a framed pic­ture. Scattered around and smothered beneath a thick layer of dust lay the resident’s torn memories.

A hand­writ­ten sign read: “Grandpa Egon’s rag-fair – everything from A to Z”. More like a work­shop, it was tucked away behind one of the cot­tages in the fash­ion of how those DIY­ers tend to add a little addi­tion a time. The strangely and con­tortedly designed room was vacant. Sun­beams lit the nar­row space and its dusty air. Shelves and nails on the wall, where once the tools waited to be used, reminded of its long gone pur­pose. If there was one emo­tion if any, sad­ness would best describe the mood that eman­ated from Grandpa Egon’s rag-fair.

As in most of the cot­tages, signs of sub­sequent guest were present here, too. The iniv­etable graf­fiti, shattered beer and liquor bottles, emp­tied bags of crisps, tealights and all sorts of col­our­ful party equip­ment bore wit­ness to sub­sequent vis­it­ors. We even found con­doms (don’t even try to pic­ture the scene). In fact, the area is quite pop­u­lar today: We met curi­ous vis­it­ors, loot­ers, riot­ing teen­agers and people who came to har­vest flowers and fruits. Even the rave com­munity dis­covered the place and made itself at home in one of the gardens.

But as we passed through the prop­er­ties, mak­ing our way through the hedges and shrubs, we were aston­ished how nature has reclaimed the aban­doned allot­ment gar­dens. All sorts of col­our­ful flowers grew among the heav­ily sprawl­ing grass, ivy invaded through the shattered win­dows. There were apple trees lower­ing their branches through unroofed cot­tages, filling the floor with a big bas­ket worth of fruits. Butterflies: Red Admir­als, Adonis Blues, Brim­stones and, of course, Pea­cocks. We saw Pale Tus­socks and Euras­ian Jays – not to men­tion the many singing birds we heard only chirp­ing. We ate apples and pears from the trees. We found straw­ber­ries, black­ber­ries, grapes, plums – but either they were simply not ripe yet or we were just stuffed from the fruits we already had.

Neukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areas

The mood was both strangely beau­ti­ful and sad. Though we didn’t demol­ish any­thing even fur­ther, though we didn’t take any­thing with us, tak­ing pho­tos seemed just as wrong. We entered people’s houses, curi­ous about what we’d find or whom we’d meet. Appar­ently, home­less people slept on some of the beds that were still intact. By the end of the day, I felt like an intruder who came too late to make his for­tune with it. Is tres­passing other’s private spaces just as wrong when they’re long gone? It doesn’t quite feel right, though.

I wouldn’t judge any­one who went there for the sake of dis­cov­ery, even not the loot­ers and the party crowd. Yet I thought to myself: How would I react, if I saw my garden filled with cheer­ful, dan­cing people, which is home to some of my best memor­ies? Grow­ing sen­ti­mental the more I thought about this pecu­liar notion, I found myself in dis­cus­sion with Stefan, Sara, Mar­cus, Nico and other friends. In the end, as most remarked, we’re bene­fi­ciar­ies of this irre­voc­able situ­ation. We can respect and empath­ise with the res­id­ents and – excuse these last sol­emn words – tell their stor­ies with our pictures.

Neukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment gardensNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areasNeukölln's cleared and abandoned allotment garden areas

4 comments
  1. WONDERFUL, as always!

  2. Love IT!!!

  3. wie kommt die Couch auf´s Dach?

  4. great! I would like to join you!

    Melike Selin Durmaz

What others had to say about it

  1. […] Der eng­lischs­prac­hige Blog Find­ing Ber­lin machte eine Erkundung­s­tour durch die ger­äumten Kleingarten­an­la­gen in Neuk­ölln, die der A100 weichen sollen. Die Fotos der ver­lassenen Lauben könnt ihr euch hier ansehen. […]

  2. […] the demoli­tion site breathes a cer­tain des­ol­a­tion that dif­fers from how places like Neukölln’s aban­doned allot­ment gar­dens mor­bidly appeal. The end­less Grey and the sand’s filthy Brown give it a dis­mal tone. Yet […]

Write a comment