Living in Berlin’s Dead Zone

Since I moved to Berlin, I’ve been constantly surprised at the number of undeveloped spaces right in the city center. You can walk past a row of bustling restaurants and cafes, only to bump into a block-sized patch of grass with a fence around it.

It’s a reminder of Berlin’s history, and gives you the impression that the city is basically too big for the number of people currently living in it.

I don’t live in a patch of grass, obviously, but my new apartment is in the middle of a strangely underdeveloped stretch of cobblestone less than 1km from the border to the city center:

Isn’t this weird? There are cafes surrounding my immediate neighborhood like an invading army, but there’s none in it. That ‘A’ up there is the closest thing I’ve got, and it’s about a 10-minute walk door to door.

It’s not that I actually mind this. Living in a dead zone is sort of a metaphor for my social life anyway. I like being close to the cool stuff going on, but not so close that I’m actually participating. I’m always the guy hanging out in the kitchen at house parties, so I feel comfortable acting out the urban-life  equivalent.

But I’m genuinely curious as to why the cafe-ing of Berlin seems to have skipped the wedge of land I live on. My neighborhood is just as densely populated as the neighborhoods to the north and east.  It’s not as wealthy as the area just south of me, but it’s doing better than the area north-west of me, and they have some dots. It’s not like there’s loud noises or a smell-factory artificially preventing people from coming here for recreation.

Anyway, I like living in a neighborhood that’s quiet even on Fris and Sats. The tranquility was one of the first things I noticed when I moved in, and a major reason I’m glad to be here. At first I thought it was quiet because all my neighbors work full-time, but now I know that it’s because they haven’t had coffee in decades. If they had any more energy, they would have left by now.

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