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Thoughts on Berlin, Part II

**a diary excerpt**


Our second day in Berlin we toured the African Quarter. The tour guide was named Henning. He grew up in the outskirts of Hamburg and came to Berlin before the fall of the wall. Henning fell in love with the city because of the people's passion for politics and art. He found the various saloon-like spaces where ideas were exchanged to be a welcomed change from the village where he was raised. Berlin became his oasis.

Henning settled in Wedding, Berlin. It is casually called the Afrikanisches Viertel (the African Quarter), because a lot of the streets in the area were named after places in Africa and/or various German architects of African colonization. More recently it as become a place where African immigrants chose to live. Many of those residents take pride in the streets named after their homelands (like Ghanastraße, Guineastraße, Kameruner Straße, and Kongostraße), but they are working to see changes on places that were named for colonizers (like Petersallee and Nachtigalplatz).

The African Quarter has a beautiful variety of shops, restaurants, and public spaces. It feels different from the central part of the city. The residential buildings looked larger, with countless more apartments. Apparently some of the buildings were constructed under the reign of Hitler. They were a part of his (unsuccessful) plan for Berlin's expansion after Germany's victory in World War II. To offset the large complex-styled units, ample gardens were also created. Residents in Berlin apply for their own free garden lot, which also includes a tiny cottage. Henning took us to his and treated us to some snacks. Our tour ended with an amazing meal at a West African restaurant, called Afro Royal Garden.

Our tour began with Henning explaining that most people who take the tour fit into three categories:

  • Local (white) Germans who want to learn about the community

  • International visitors

  • People who are considering moving into the area

Our guide was very passionate about wanting to open the eyes of locals to the harms Germany caused during colonization. There is a kind of invisibility around this history for locals. I witnessed this problem at the Charlottenburg Palace (click for my post on that tour), and had a better understanding of what Henning meant.

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