This huge airfield in the middle of the booming city has always been an oddity, and during the time of the Berlin Wall (1961-1989) even a symbol of the divided world. Thanks to the Airbridge, life wasn’t that miserable in the enclave of West Berlin. After reunification, Tempelhof allowed politicians to move swiftly between Bonn and Berlin, indulging in the joy of life rather than the discomfort of overland travel.
That era has ended, too, and the field is up for grabs, waiting for project developers to erect shopping malls. Luckily, things are moving slow and the field is still an oasis of emptiness, where you can skate, fly a kite, grill, do organic gardening, and chill out watching the sun set over the City.
Next to the Tempelhof Airfield, on the east side, is Neukölln, origin of Berlin and the next place to be hip, after Kreuzberg, Prenzlberg and Friedrichshain are losing some of their glory to hipsters growing up and pushing prams.
So we lived in Neukölln in a sublet flat on the 4th floor, overlooking the Tempelhof field, for one month in July 2011. It was a beautiful time. We did indeed go walk on the Airfield, we did organize a vegetarian BBQ party with Couchsurfing, made a lot of new friends, and – we were part of the locally deplored gentrification of the “Gegend”.
Life is good in this part of Berlin: the old slow atmosphere with the “Eckkneipen” remains intact while sparkling new street cafés are opening and offer good coffee and laid-back afternoons of newspaper reading and reflecting on life. As everywhere in Berlin, sourcing food is easy and cheap as a supermarket is never more than a few blocks away. We preferred the Turkish supermarkets with their flat breads that we used to scoop up various kinds of humus, tabouleh, and other mediterranian delicacies from our houselord’s blender. Neukölln has movie theatre’s, nice parks, canals, the bustling Karl Marx Strasse, the famed “Sonnenallee” (where I used to live between 2002 and 2006), and with the U6, U7 or U8 as well as a number of metrobuses at your doorstep it never takes long to travel to, say, the Museumsinsel, Berlin’s famous nightclubs, Ku’Damm, or to whereever you think you need to go that is outside of Neukölln.
“Neukölln – Don’t try to pronounce it, live it.”