… that it’s a socially deprived district, where the skyline of grey industrialized buildings blurs with an equally grey sky – well, that’s just a petty, petty atrocity story. I want to tell you another story about this East Berlin district, a story of a Marzahn childhood.
Well, I grew up in Marzahn. It’s where my parents rooted for my first attempts on a bike – and I rode it right into the thorn bush. It’s where my friends and I sat in the branches of the plum tree, philosophising about football, cartoons and girls, nibbling one plum at a time. It’s where I excitedly found the GameBoy-cartridge for Street Fighter in the bushes, claimed in childish handwriting by some “Rocco Streh.” (wherever you are, Rocco, you can still have it back). It’s where we sneakily entered abandoned buildings and had the police get us out. In short: Marzahn was the backdrop for an ordinary childhood, being merely different from what we all shared.
But after all, Marzahn isn’t like Kreuzberg or Neukölln or most other boroughs of Berlin. Notorious for its vast amount of Plattenbauten, where by all accounts the socially weak live, it never had a good reputation. I wouldn’t blame you, if this was also your perception. But chances are, you’ve not been there so far. Let me give you some facts about this concrete jungle: In 1734, Marzahn was a small village of only 357 inhabitants. Until 1975, the somewhat waste area grew to house up to 6.149 people. From then on, everything changed for Marzahn, since it was chosen to become the site of the GDR’s prestige building project for a mass housing estate, conceived to make room for 35.000 apartments. Today, it houses 103.000 people, the connected districts of Biesdorf, Hellersdorf, Kaulsdorf and Mahlsdorf not included. Over the last two decades most of the buildings were renovated and now offer a high living standard for the masses.
But Marzahn is more than only a huge concrete jungle. Actually, there are so many parks and green areas that they constituted Marzahn’s coat of arms’ green colour – in fact, one particular park, Erholungspark Marzahn, received numerous prizes. However, no one would be surprised to see hares, foxes or hawks in Marzahn. It’s historic village center is still retained and includes a little farm with livestock breed you probably only know from the zoo. Hell, there’s even a working and producing windmill. Picture me as a kid grinding the grains of wheat amidst metropolis (I actually did that). Picture me also bareback riding to school on a majestic Arabian horse (I wish I actually did that).
However, Marzahn wasn’t always like that. There are still plenty traces from former GDR times: the socialist-realistic art in public space, the ever-so popular and now abandoned cinema “Sojus” or the still working concrete lanterns from the very first days. The people didn’t change that much and there is still a broad mixture of residents from every social and income class. But you’d still say that a significant amount of people struggles for its existence if not already lost. It’s true and it’s a nagging pain in every Marzahner’s heart. But times are changing.
Some might find the constant mocking of comedians such as “Cindy aus Marzahn” hilarious, but we don’t: They’re simply wrong. Marzahn surely isn’t rich Grunewald or posh Mitte. We like to have it modest. Because we know that one can easily lead a good life in Marzahn. Just ask the kids, they don’t miss anything. Neither did I and so am I still returning back to the place of my childhood with rich and joyous memories. Check out the photos and decide for yourself.