What is it like to live in modern-day Berlin as a descendant of the ‘guest worker’ generation of Turkish migrants who came to the capital during the Cold War to assist its reconstruction? What does it mean to be a faithful Muslim in Berlin today, and how does this diasporic community navigate its dual identity? Has the Berliner Turkish community – which boasts politicians, musicians, gastronomes, sports stars and other celebrities – assimilated willingly, or is this group still marginalised in modern-day Germany? In other words, do Turkish Germans feel themselves more Turkish… or German? And to which degree is the Berliner Turkish community affected by the ongoing gentrification of the city?
Well, these are questions which I can only answer as an outsider. That is why, on this tour, I work with (and translate for) my friend Mustafa Korkmaz, born in Germany and a renowned member of the Berlin Turkish community, who can give you a marvellous insight into Berlin’s largest migrant group, which can trace its roots back to the days of the Ottoman Empire. We will explore the bohemian neighbourhood of Kreuzberg, at the limits of West Berlin when the city was divided, and the area to which many migrants gravitated (or were pushed) during the Cold War.
Always a working-class, leftist quarter, Kreuzberg has recently become a hip borough in which Berlin’s recent demographic changes are more apparent than anywhere else in the city. We will explore how the Berliner Turkish community intersects with Kreuzberg’s growing LGBTIQ scene on the thoroughfare of Oranienstrasse, replete with street art (and street food!) We will visit the remarkable Treehouse built of scrap in 1983 by migrant Osman Kalim in a derelict space which was officially property of the East, but nevertheless lay just West of the Berlin Wall, and which still stands today, against the odds. We can step inside Berlin’s newest mosque, with its marble and stone imported from Turkey, and find ourselves in a truly unique part of the capital city.
Do note: this is a tour to take on an empty stomach! Certainly the meat-eaters can try a döner kebab in the borough where it was invented – the vegetarians, an ice cream döner (really!) or at the very least a tasty piece of baklava.