Ill be the first to admit it – Berlin isnt a beautiful city. At least not in a classical sense. Ive yet to hear someone describe Berlin in the same tone as Rome or Paris. Now while the residents of this city might cry out and proclaim their love for this weird place – the average tourist will got to Potsdam, or even Munich for picturesque photo ops. People come for the (commercialized and harmless) grittyness. “Its like New York in the 80s” – the only difference being that you can bring your kids with you and you wont get robbed in the subway. Wars, Capitalism and Socialism have all left their ugly scars over the years – yet pockets of beauty have survived through the ages.
For those seeking some architectural respite, one only needs to head down to the Schönhauser Allee – best known for its proximity to the Mauerpark. As so often in Berlin – the greatest treasures are hidden behind open doors. Or at least behind doors that will open one way or another. While the rumbling of the U2 U-Bahn and the Tram set the tone, a brief glance up the facade (which is currently covered in scaffolding) of the house on the Schönhauser Allee 88 reveals that there might be more to this building than meets the eye. Floral stucco decorate the balconies, and domed corner tower watches over the neighborhood. A gentle push opens the front door and beautifully tiled corridor and art deco lamps greet you. Not really something you would have expected from a house surrounded by spätis and döner shops. One doesn’t simply trespass into a strangers house to admire their hallway – no, the real treasure can be found behind yet another door.
As you step through the door leading into the “Hinterhof” (the ubiquitous Berliner courtyard), you’ll immediately realize that you’ve stumbled across something special. “Its round!” was my first thought, staring up into the blue opening. A beautiful glass art nouveau spine works itself up the floors – giving the spectator a pleasant view into the neighboring courtyard.
While Berlin has its fair share of beautiful courtyards, this quite possibly the most beautiful (and only round) one ive encountered so far. Yes, the walls are somewhat stained, and there aren’t many flowers (in fact there arent any at all). And yes you can look into the somewhat depressing kitchen of the bakery – but you came to Berlin looking for some alternative beauty didnt you? Well this hidden art nouveau gem does the trick.
Der Runde Hinterhof
Address: Schönhauser Allee 88
10439 Prenzlauer Berg – Berlin
Public Transport: You can either get off at the S-Bahn / U-Bahn Station Schönhauser Allee and walk a few minutes down the road, or you can take the Trams 12,50, M1, and M13 and get off at the Schönhauser Allee/Bornholmer Str Stop.
Berlin is not beautiful in the first place – but it has his very own charme. Its not always obvious and you have to look carefully for it. No surprise when you keep the history of the city with all the destroyed buildings in mind. Its sometimes surprising what survived. And its also very surprising how many signs of the war are still visible when know where to look.
Indeed – but I think the scars of the war suite the city well. Its amazing how much this city has to offer, and even after +4 years there still new things to be found.
I think I love Berlin, precisely because it’s *not* beautiful, by comparison, for example, to the natural environment which surrounds my hometown of Vancouver. But every time I’m in Berlin: I find examples of “urban beauty” everywhere, with very few exceptions. I think it’s about the multiple layers of architecture, culture, and countless human stories in the Hauptstadt. This is great stuff, G., but may I suggest that this post could be augmented by a short video, which shows the reader the courtyard – from the humble street-side entrance, to the atrium, into the Innenhof, and up into the sky through the “rounded column”.
Thanks Henry! Its a good suggestion – ive thought about doing videos before, but im notoriously lazy, plus I think a video would show too much. I like to leave just a little bit for people to discover for themselves. I cant wait to see what the building is going to look like when its renovated!
Hey, Georg. There are some really interesting exchanges on both sides of the Video vs Photo discussion. I like video to bring more of a personal touch to the reader (“real” person, a voice and face to connect with the name), but I find myself firmly on the Photo-side of things. I agree with you about leaving some “mystery,” thought and imagination to the reader to fill in their own blanks. Guess I’m really old school that way, too.
The door is now closed. But thanks for the
tip! The architecture here is beautiful!
Technically the Door is always closed – its a residential building, but if you ring the Doorbell most of them will open the door.