After two and three years living in Moabit, respectively, we were pretty confident that we'd seen and learnt a lot about this slice of Berlin. But oh, the wonders you'll discover when perusing the Internet.
A free website we found called Lialo.com seemingly exclusively offers maps of walks around different parts of Germany. Not only that, but every walk comes with little quizzes, photos, and historical or purely amusing tidbits for each stop on the walk. It looks like anyone can post a walk/map if they're familiar with the place. Pretty neat.
After enthusiastically typing "Moabit" into the search box - much to our surprise and delight - there were four walks dedicated to our wee island! It didn't take us long to choose one of the Moabit tours, and off we went with Chris' camera at-the-ready.
One little pointer to make here: This website is only in German, so make sure to bring a friend who can translate, otherwise you'll drive yourself nuts by Google translating every sentence.
We chose the "Insel Moabit? Yo!" tour. It has 14 stops and 12 quizzes, starts at the top of Moabit on the Putlitzbrücke next to Westhafen S-Bahn station and ends by the Arminiusmarkthalle, and took us roughly two hours to complete at a leisurely pace.
We won't take you step by step here, because what's the point of that when you can enjoy the walk yourself? But to whet your appetite, we will share with you some of the details and the coolest facts we learnt about Moabit.
One of the first stops on the tour is the Hedwig-Dohm-Schule, a school. The building was built between 1892 and 1894, and wasn't much damaged during the wars. It's the oldest school in Moabit, and interestingly, was originally located in a different part of the neighbourhood.
Fun fact: The school swapped names with the Heinrich-von-Stephan-Oberschule, another school in Moabit in 2009. The latter is now located on the Neuer Ufer in the southern part of Moabit. So before 2009, the striking red-bricked building on Stephanplatz was, in fact, the Heinrich-von-Stephan-Oberschule.
The woman the school is named after, Hedwig Dohm, was a born and raised Berliner who was known for her women's right activism - unfortunately, some of her demands for women's emancipation are still not realised today.
That's not the only interesting historical fact about Stephantrasse, where the school is located. Further down the road at number 60 Stephanstrasse you'll find the last flat of Kommune 1, a left wing politically motivated commune in West Germany in the late sixties.
Fun fact: About 50 years ago, Moabit was a centre of the left wing and radical left scene in West Berlin.
It wouldn't be Berlin without some street art. It almost seems like having an entire wall of a five-story building covered with a mural is a rite of passage in this city. Moabit is no exception.
Right on the corner of the intersection between Birkenstrasse and where Stromstrasse starts is an eye-popping mural of young child holding an elephant with broken tusks in its arms, as though he was cradling a cat. The rarity of the mural is how the artists managed to sculpt the elephant's broken tusks to appear as though they're sticking out of the building. Go check it out, you can't miss it.
The somber mural was painted in 2018 during the Berlin Mural Festival by German artists Herakut, and Swiss artists Onur, and Wes21. It has a serious message behind it, which is "As long as you are standing, give a hand to those who have fallen."
There are a couple of other arty murals along this tour, notably some spooky ones just two or three stops further along. When you hear thud in the night, who you gonna call?
Next, you go into the quirky ZK/U's quarters, also known as the Center for Arts and Urbanistics, which is surrounded by a sweet public park that offers direct views of the imposing Behala building.
Fun Moabit fact: The Behala building is part of Westhafen, which is coincidentally the largest port in Berlin.
Our first port of call in the ZK/U is the SILO House.
The SILO House was an experimental mobile and vertical living concept that was built in 2013 in the Hague, in the Netherlands. Just a few months later, the repurposed old grain silo was moved to Moabit, and has been there ever since.
The tiny three-story vertical white house is only 13 square metres big, and the point of the project was to find a way of creating a low-cost, energy-saving, and small footprint living space. Basically everything is upcycled, and you'd be surprised to find out how much can fit into such a compact space. There was enough space for a father and his young daughter to comfortably live in the SILO House!
It's pretty neat, there's a climbing wall instead of stairs, there's even a regular oven for heating, an underground library, a full-sized bed, and much more. Might this be our answer to Berlin's housing crisis?
A trip to Moabit would be incomplete without a visit to the iconic Arminiusmarkthalle. Beloved by Moabiters and visitors alike, the market hall has been standing since it was built in 1891.
In normal times, during the day the market hall is filled with stalls selling anything from seafood to cheese, and in the evenings, you'd be able to eat to your heart's content and drink with merriment at the different international stalls, bars, and restaurants. Think: Spanish tapas, Peruvian empanadas, Canadian poutine, Austrian schnitzel, French wine, Caribbean cocktails, and much more.
Back in its hayday, the market hall housed 425 merchant stalls across 10 aisles. Yes, that's right, 425. The central aisle was built specifically wide enough for horse-drawn carts or hand carts to directly deliver the produce indoors. As it stands today, one of the hall's longest current tenants is the florist Karl-Heinz Fechner, who's been selling his sweet petals there since the 1980s.
We don't want to give it all away, so these are just some of the fun facts you'll learn about this corner of Moabit. This tour highlighted just how much is hidden around this sleepy Kiez, if you're willing to look.
So, grab your German-speaking friend (yes, they do exist in Berlin), pop your walking shoes on, and go have some fun!