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Broken Utopias: The Many Lives of Stalinallee

The first socialist avenue in Germany tells the stories of the struggles, hopes and dreams of East Berliners after WWII and shows how ideology shaped their lives. 

Duration:   2 h

Meeting Point:  by the Nextbike stand outside the Frankfurter Tor underground station at the corner of Warschauer Strasse and Karl-Marx-Allee. Look for the orange umbrella!

Price:            20 €


Tour in a nutshell

This street at the heart of eastern Berlin has had three names. Stalinallee, once the prestige boulevard of socialist East Berlin, was built up from the ashes of WWII in the 1950s. On this tour, we will discover how socialist ideology shaped life from architecture and surveillance to simple everyday activities. Beyond the bombastic facade, this street has been the stage for violent street fighting, demonstrations and funeral marches. We will ask the question what it meant to live well for those who built this street and the generations after. This tour doesn’t end with the collapse of the Berlin Wall but follows it into the 21st century and the stories of those Berliners still living there.

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The first socialist street in Germany is sure to impress – one cannot help but feel small walking past the grand housing blocks built in the so-called Stalinist ‘wedding-cake’ style. Intended as the main project of the East German national reconstruction programme after WWII, the street emerged from the ruins with the help of thousands of volunteers working day and night. But the building of the street almost cost the young East Germany its existence when in June 1953 disgruntled workers started a mass uprising that almost toppled the socialist government.

The history of the street stretches much further back than the majestic buildings from 1950s would suggest. Intentionally hidden away from passersby by fast-growing poplars, the modernist architecture from immediate post-WWII years reminds one of the utopian urbanist ideas that were born in the ashes of destroyed Berlin but rejected soon after by the new East German regime that had radically different ideas of what socialist living meant.

The street boasted the best East Berlin had to offer – cafes, restaurants and well-stocked shops, creating an image of idyllic life and affluence in socialism. Though, beyond the perfect facade the reality of the surveillance state remained well hidden – the wire taps in the flats and the listening stations in the attics used by the East German secret police were not meant to be seen.

Left in a state of disrepair and increasingly looking like an odd curiosity form the past, this street seemed to disappear into oblivion after the fall of the Wall. But nothing is constant in Berlin, and it did not take very long for this street to attract the attention of real estate agents in a city with a housing crisis. While no longer a boulevard for socialist parades, the former Stalinallee is now a stage for protests of the local community against gentrification and the rise in the living cost.

Meeting Point

Broken Utopias: The Many Lives of Stalinallee starts by the Nextbike stand outside the Frankfurter Tor underground station at the corner of Warschauer Strasse and Karl-Marx-Allee. Look for the orange umbrella!

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Absolutely great. Been living in this area for almost 15 years and learned so many new and interesting insights about that street and the DDR regime in general. Really worth it, the guide is so good and passionate!

We did the tour of Karl Marx Allee with Martina. Our tour guide offered a comprehensive, engaging, and entertaining verbal history of the street accompanied by various photos and architectural details. The tour is especially great for people visiting Berlin with niche architectural interests, or anyone living in the city wanting to learn about a small corner of its history. As we live in the city, we’re not so interested in fast-paced hop on/hop off tours, and this one certainly scratched our itch!

We had a really wonderful tour of a part of town we now know SO much more about—Karl-Marx-Allee. Our guide was really friendly, passionate, and knowledgeable, using the architecture and surroundings as a way of exploring the historical context of the street. They were able to answer a lot of our questions, were very engaging, and provided some fantastic recommendations. I felt a real buzz after participating in the tour, and would highly recommend the Karl Marx Allee tour for tourists and residents!

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