Kotti for… natives

Our guide to four parallel universes around Berlin's most loved/hated square.

Image for Kotti for... natives
Südblock. Photo by Maria Runarsdottir
You rarely venture north of Oranienstraße, you wear leather under your leather and you still remember when the Berlin Wall was in your backyard. This is your Kiez, and all the Scheiß-Touris can clear off.
Image for Kotti for... natives
Illustration by Agate Sasiuk
It’s Tuesday morning, and you’re at Südblock (Admiralstr. 1-2) again. You were a bit suspicious when the glass-walled café-bar-venue opened up in 2010, but over time you became a regular – you even get your hair cut here, at the “Salon Salaam” sessions every second Monday. Today, though, you’re here for the “Hartzer Roller” free counselling, collecting a few tips on how to prolong your unemployment benefits. The future of your finances secured, you decide to treat yourself to a mid-morning snack at Padisah Baklava (Reichenberger Str. 177), passing a couple snooty-looking hotelier types who’re there to pick up bulk orders. To walk off the ensuing sugar high, you head to the lobby of the Friedrichschain-Kreuzberg Museum (Adalbertstr. 95a) for a neighbourhood meeting about – what else? – gentrification. You and everyone else agree that your beloved Kotti is overrun with disrespectful newcomers and something must be done, but no solutions present themselves. A petition is circulated to install more public toilets, and next thing you know, it’s lunchtime. Sadly, the tourists are mobbing Tadim (Adalbertstr.98), your favourite döner stand – no homemade durum bread for you today. Instead, you wolf down a Köfte meat patty sandwich at the crowded but speedy Konak Grill (Reichenberger Str. 10). You remember you’ve got some errands to run. Yesterday, you stepped on an abandoned needle in front of your Späti and ruined your favourite pair of boots. Fortunately, you go way back with Ibrahim at Abgelaufen (Adalbertstr. 97), who gives you a discount on a new sole. While you’re at it, you pick up a handmade leather belt from Ibrahim’s neighbour at the Lederreiz Änderungsschneiderei (Adalbertst. 88). He’s also an Urberliner, and you swap some anecdotes about the good old days. But you can’t stay long. It’s 6pm, and “happy hour” (which actually lasts all night) at Alibi Cafe (Oranienstr. 169) has just begun. You’ll need that €4.50 Caipirinha to work up the courage to finally ask out that cute dark-eyed waitress you’ve had your eye on for months. Wanting to seem cultured, you invite her to an indie film screening at Kiez favourite FSK FilmkunstKino (Segitzdamm 2). But she turns you down, so you go home and eat dinner: a fresh piece of salmon from the fish shop Öz Karadeniz Balikcisi (Adalbertstr. 95). You’d been planning to cook it for the two of you, if the date went well. Time to drown your sorrows. You’re buddies with the bartender at the 20-year-old Franken (Oranienstr. 19a), a smoky dive plastered with punk concert posters. But even his strongest Bloody Mary (€8 for friends) isn’t strong enough for you tonight, so you knock back a few beers at your Stammkneipe Zum Elefanten (Oranienstr. 12), which you’ve been frequenting since way before Sven Regener immortalised it in the cult Kreuzberg novel Herr Lehmann. At this point you’re suffering from Kotti nostalgia, so you swing by punk institution SO36 (Oranienstr. 190), where you used to go see Malaria! And Einstürzende Neubauten play back in the day. But all there is tonight is a “Kiez Bingo” tournament,and it’s already almost over. So you wind up where you always do: at Rote Rose (Adalbertstr. 90). In this hellish Eckkneipe where no light gets in and the jukebox plays the same 20 songs on repeat, you can enjoy your last beer and blend into a motley gallery of Kotti characters. Which might be exactly what you need at this point.