Stralau is a tiny peninsula between the Spree and the Rummelsburger Bucht. There are really few reasons to visit this little district, as most of the former “development area” has been transformed into gated communities (also known as “town houses” and condos). The beautiful Stralau cemetery is probably the only thing that triggers memories of a different past.
I’ve developed a thing for cemeteries lately. Unlike parks, cemeteries are never crowded, loud or trashed. They are holy sites, treated with respect and care. It’s very interesting to read the names of the dead on the stones, and to find out when and why they died. I’m fascinated by the rituals and cultures of human death; and the way some people tenderly treat the flower beds of their lost ones.
The Stralau cemetery lies directly at the banks of the Spree, from where you can easily watch the sunset over Treptower Park. It’s nice to change the perspective from one side to the other. It’s a beautiful place to spend a few minutes.
Further down towards the end of the island, there is more green space. There are equally few people, and it’s not much further than a bike ride to Treptower Park from Kreuzberg or Mitte.
There’s not much to discover on the half-island of Stralau. We rode our bikes back on the other side of the water – the Rummelsburger Bucht – an discovered that there is a private yacht marina, and a few people who were engaging in their leisurely activities at the water. We also discovered remnants of an industrial era – the Palmkernölspeicher, for example. While it was a nice ride, Stralau is a sanitized, oversaturated part of Berlin. In the 90s, its fate had already been decided: it became “the Grunewald of the East”. There’s no more space for development here, unless you want to build an expensive apartment complex.
Stralau was an Entwicklungsgebiet, a state-governed development project to promote more efficient building plans for new residential communities. Apparently the plans didn’t include lower-income classes. Or even a supermarket. Or a café. The Palmkernölspeicher was transformed into luxury lofts; the Alte Teppichfabrik is now an event-space. Stralau is basically a fortress with a remarkable lack of social interaction. Historical landmarks like the aforementioned industrial buildings are exclusive to the affluent.
An interesting tidbit: there are very few parking spaces in Stralau, because the developers wanted to make the area a minimal traffic zone. That’s why many of the buildings have underground car parks. Ironically, there are more cars on Stralau nowadays than the Berlin average.
The cemetery is still worth a visit – and I guess it speaks for itself that the most beautiful part of Stralau is the one dedicated to the dead.