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, philosophizing 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.
Marzahn was the backdrop for an ordinary childhood.
But Marzahn isn’t like Kreuzberg or Neukölln. Notorious for its vast amount of Plattenbauten, where by all accounts the socially weak live, this Berlin district never had a solid reputation. If your perception is: Marzahn is a racist, poor and Nazi village, I can’t blame you. But have you been there? Let me give you some facts about my 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. Its 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).
Some might find the constant mocking of comedians such as “Cindy aus Marzahn” hilarious, but we don’t: They’re simply wrong.
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 are a humble people. We don’t miss anything. Neither did I and so I still return to the place of my childhood with rich and joyous memories. Come visit sometime.