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Neukolln

N intro 2

 

Apologies for the late post – without warning, winter returned to Berlin last week, and with it, bucket loads of rain.

In between the thundery downpours we managed to get out long enough to have a nose around various bits of Neukölln, a borough just south of last week’s Friedrichshain. 

I say ‘bits’ because unlike Friedrichshain, Neukölln is enormous. So I chose two neighbourhoods to focus on – the northernmost tip, also called Neukölln (and where our apartment happens to be), and one in the south, Gropiusstadt.

As I quickly discovered they are very different worlds and too much for one post. So I’ve split them into two, starting in the north with this post and then heading south with a post in a few days time (two in one week? can you cope?)

Same facts about the borough in general. Located in the former west, but only just – it has one of the longest sections of border with the former East Berlin. Name comes from Berlin’s former twin settlement of Cölln. Almost half the population are from immigrant backgrounds, mainly Turkish, Arab and Kurdish. One of the poorest boroughs, with unemployment, drug and ‘social issues’. Popular with students, artists and travellers.

Okay, starting with North Neukölln, let’s wander.

 

Part 1: Different stories

Admittedly I’ve only been in Berlin for five minutes but as far as I understand it, North Neukölln has come into its own in the last few years primarily because neighbouring Kreuzberg – where the apartment blocks are just that much nicer – got too expensive. 

Various peoples, from Turkish immigrants to artists, students and travellers, couldn’t afford Kreuzberg anymore so they moved south to Neukölln. And now North Neukölln is just like Kreuzberg (hence its nickname, Kreuzkölln) but cooler.

Well, that’s what some people told me. Others said it was too rough and druggy.

In fact, in the last week I’ve heard all sorts of things about North Neukölln; it’s such a mix of cultures and characters that depending who you speak to, you get a different story. It’s cool, not cool. A wonderful melting pot, a failed melting pot. It’s thriving because of travellers. It’s being ruined by travellers.

At the end of it all the only thing I knew for certain? The olives are much cheaper at the Turkish Market than in the shops.

 

the (organic) corner shop

the (organic) corner shop

 

 

 

 

a constant stream of travellers - Raquel, from Portugal, works as a Brazilian tour guide

a constant stream of travellers - Raquel, from Portugal, works as a Brazilian tour guide

 

 

 

 

Lou and Lulu, from France

Lou and Lulu, from France

 

 

 

 

Lou likes Neukolln for its colourful mix

Lou likes Neukolln for its colourful mix

 

 

 

I can’t comment on the night life in North Neukölln – I’m such an old fart – but apparently it’s where ‘real’ Berliners head after dark. While the international techno crowd make merry in the massive clubs across the river in Friedrichshain, locals party here in former brothels and smaller bars.

 

 

eagle rock - Italian RocknRoll, lives in Wedding, in Neukolln for a drink

eagle rock - Italian RocknRoll, lives in Wedding, in Neukolln for a drink

 

 

 

 

rough diamond - he says he's a jeweller, do we believe him?

rough diamond - he says he's a jeweller, do we believe him?

 

 

 

As in other poorer Berlin neighbourhoods that are rapidly changing, the anti-gentrification movement is in full swing here. I read one flyer from ‘AntiGen Neukölln’ warning “students, artists and travelers” about evil landlords and real estate investors pushing up rental prices – “As these prices are still cheap compared to the rental prices in their hometowns.. everything seems to be fine, but, not for all… Slowly but surely, the poorest and most vulnerable people are forced to leave behind the life that they have built… their friendships, their places, their communities, their memories…Whatever you do, don’t pay too much rent!”

So what exactly are rents like here? Someone I know pays $150 per week for a 55m2 one bedroom apartment – and that includes heating. Seems incredibly cheap to me but then I come from crazy-prices-Sydney.

 

North Neukolln is getting yuppier by the day

North Neukolln is getting yuppier by the day

 

 

 

 

heartfelt hatred

heartfelt hatred

 

 

 

 

Part 2: The Turkish market

The Turks were invited in after WWII as ‘temporary workers’ – and never left.

Apparently Berlin today has the second largest Turkish population after Istanbul. Whether that’s accurate or not I don’t know. But it’s definitely true that there’s a huge Turkish population here – many of whom call Kreuzberg and North Neukölln home.

While the whole immigration issue is highly controversial, I didn’t meet anyone who had a problem with the Turkish market that happens every Tuesday and Friday down by the canal.

Fresh food, free entertainment and, like I said, cheap olives.

And definitely the place to come if you like a crowd – most of the time Berlin feels so empty to me, but at the Turkish market it’s wall to wall.

 

where is everyone? at the Turkish Market

where is everyone? at the Turkish Market

 

 

 

 

sunshine - Wafaa from Sudan

sunshine - Wafaa from Sudan

 

 

 

 

By now Duaa, below, will be a married woman. But when we met her she had five days to go. Her eyes lit up when she talked about the impending nuptials. Born in Lebanon, she moved to Berlin when she was just five months old.

 

I love you, will you marry me - Duaa

I love you, will you marry me - Duaa

 

 

 

We met Hoda walking along with her boyfriend. She was born here but comes from a Palestinian background. I asked her how she felt about Berlin. “Too crowded”. Then she thought again. “But when I like people, I love it.”

 

Hoda

Hoda

 

 

 

After you’ve filled your bag with fresh bread, cheese, fruit and veg – and cheap olives – there’s free entertainment.

 

that's entertainment - hanging out by the canal

that's entertainment - hanging out by the canal

 

 

 

 

all ages welcome

all ages welcome

 

 

 

 

the canal, Maybachufer

the canal, Maybachufer

 

 

 

 

Part 3: The Turkish Mosque

Given how large the Turkish and Arab population is in Berlin, and the fact there are about 300,000 Muslims in the city, I imagined I’d see quite a few mosques around the place. But it turns out that although there are about 80 mosques and/or prayer rooms, most of them are hidden away in apartment blocks.

There are, however, two ‘proper’ mosques – the largest of which happens to be in Neukölln.

Şehitlik Moschee is fairly new – finished in 2005 – but it’s designed in the ancient Ottoman style and was built alongside a Turkish cemetery dating from 1863.

While it’s kind of out of the way, on a major road with lots of green around, I still got quite a shock to see this little piece of Istanbul with its shining white minarets piercing the sky in grungy-gritty-graffitied Neukölln.

 

culture shock

culture shock

 

 

 

 

little Istanbul

like walking into Turkey

 

 

 

 

Berlin to Istanbul

Berlin to Istanbul

 

 

 

 

The first time we visited the mosque we just had a quick look around and left. As we were leaving we met husband and wife, Yunus and Sukrau. They explained they both had Turkish parents but had been born in Berlin. I asked them a question they must get all the time but were gracious enough to answer: did they feel German or Turkish? Yunus replied, “In my heart I am Turkish, but in my head, German.”

 

my heart is Turkish, my head, Germanv

my heart is Turkish, my head, German

 

 

 

The next time we visited happened to be on the first day of Ramadan (my lack of research never ceases to amaze me). Coco seemed quite concerned – no food or drink during the day for an entire month? – until she found out kids didn’t have to participate until they became teens.

 

'Welcome Ramadan 2012'

'Welcome Ramadan 2012'

 

 

 

 

an age old ritual - Friday prayer on the first day of Ramadan

an age old ritual - Friday prayer on the first day of Ramadan

 

 

 

We met 30 year old Pinar and her five month old son, Baturkagan, standing in the courtyard just before prayer. She and her husband are heavily involved in the running of the mosque, particularly on the education side of things. Like Yunus and Sukrau, Pinar was born in Berlin – but just from the way she was dressed you could tell she felt more Turkish than German. She explained that her parents had always encouraged integration but that she loved the Turkish culture; she and her husband visit Istanbul once a year and dream of living there.

 

Pinar and five month old Baturkagan

Pinar and five month old Baturkagan

 

 

 

I asked Pinar about the whole multicultural-Muslim question. In her opinion Muslim people are neither accepted nor understood by the majority of German people who still ask the same questions about terrorism at the mosque’s information days.

Pinar talked about being a minority – yet at some schools in Neukölln, it’s the ethnic German kids who are in the minority. Neukölln is still living down an incident in 2006 where teachers at a local school with a hugely migrant student population spat the dummy, demanding the school be shut down due to the out of control violence.

I left the mosque that day with Angela Merkel’s words from 2010 ringing in my ears – “The approach to build a multicultural society and to live side by side and to enjoy each other…has failed, utterly failed.”

 

culture clash

culture clash :: 1

 

 

 

 

culture clash :: 2

culture clash :: 2

 

 

 

 

Part 4: Airport turned park

Most – okay, nearly all – of Tempelhofer Park isn’t in the borough of Neukölln. But it’s a stone’s throw from Şehitlik Mosque and when I studied my map, I noticed that a very slim slice of the park, the easternmost bit, also appears to be inside the boundary line.

Good enough for me. I love this park so much I’d use any excuse to include it.

So Tempelhofer Park was once an airport – Flughafen Berlin-Tempelhof. Designed and built by the Nazis in the 1930s, British architect Sir Norman Foster called it “the mother of all airports”.

The semi-oval building is huge, Europe’s largest stand-alone structure. But just as impressive is its history; when the Soviets tried to starve West Berlin in 1948-1949, the airport saved the city by enabling planes to deliver supplies.

The Berlin Airlift endeared the airport to every Berliner – so much so, when there was talk of closing it down in 2008, there was a huge outcry. It failed to keep the airport open but thankfully the city didn’t redevelop the site or mothball it. Instead in 2010 it opened the entire area to the public, aside from the buildings, and said, go play. Cycle, rollerblade, run. Play soccer, fly a kite, whatever, it’s yours.

Looming on the horizon, however, like a small dot of a plane that will inevitably reveal itself, is a question mark over the park’s future. They say it’s going to be turned into an ‘urban park landscape’. But what’s so cool about it now is it’s an old airport with real runways that you can roam around on. Why mess with that?

 

stormy past, uncertain future :: 1

stormy past, uncertain future :: 1

 

 

 

 

stormy past, uncertain future :: 2

stormy past, uncertain future :: 2

 

 

 

 

stormy past, uncertain future :: 3

stormy past, uncertain future :: 3

 

 

 

 

transporting provisions not people - the Berlin Airlift

transporting provisions not people - the Berlin Airlift

 

 

 

 

ready for take-off

ready for take-off

 

 

 

 

airport turned meadow - Iris and daughter Marie, picking flowers for oma - grandma

airport turned meadow - Iris and daughter Marie, picking flowers for oma - grandma

 

 

 

 

ta da

ta da

 

 

 

 

off to deliver the flowers

off to deliver the flowers

 

 

 

 

an afternoon game of fußball

an afternoon game of fußball

 

 

 

 

fun in whatever weather

fun in whatever weather

 

 

 

 

Berlin 2012 vs Berlin 1930s

Berlin 2012 vs Berlin 1930s

 

 

 

 

Part 5: Watch out where you walk

Stolpersteine are all over Berlin but I saw my first ones in North Neukölln. I’d heard about these mini monuments which commemorate Holocaust victims but because they’re small and on the ground, they’re not easy to spot. Translated as ‘stumbling blocks’, the small brass blocks record the name of an individual, the date they were deported and the name of the concentration camp they were ermordet – murdered. They’re positioned outside the last known home of the individual, laid flush with the pavement.

I found them incredibly moving in the way they quietly announce the terrifying fate of an individual.

 

stolpersteine -The Wolf family

stolpersteine -The Wolf family

 

 

 

 

you can't erase these memories

you can't erase these memories

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

I read somewhere that Neukölln was once called the “Bronx” of Berlin, and still today you can read all sorts of scary statistics about the place – it’s the poorest, the most crime ridden, the place immigrants like the Romanians are flocking to in order to take advantage of Germany’s social welfare, etc etc.

Yet in the three weeks we’ve been living here, in an apartment in North Neukölln’s Hermannplatz, I’ve grown to like it more and more – precisely because of the mix of people. But the kids who live across the road are on the streets until midnight. And the men who hang on the corner, in the half shadows, what’s their story?

Still, the olives are cheap.

 

Coco at Tempelhof

Coco at Tempelhof

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Coco may be all smiles in the image above but there have been tears too this week. Another traumatic episode of home schooling where I just couldn’t get her to understand a fairly simple maths concept. She ended up sobbing on the bed as I went into some kind of shock, petrified that a part of her brain had stopped developing due to the lack of regular schooling.

In my downward spiral I questioned whether or not I should pull the pin on this project. Am I ruining my daughter? was all I could think. I am just so sick of worrying about her – not only the lack of a maths brain – but the fact she’s a single child with a single mum, playing on her own as I spend endless hours on the computer, processing images and working up these posts. And yes, travelling around the world should be an amazing experience but when people ask her if she’s enjoying it, she usually replies, yeah, but I don’t like the tagging along with mum ‘blogging bit’.

It doesn’t help that Berlin is an exhausting city to explore – fascinating but exhausting – and comes after six months of constant travel and work. We are both tired, the sort of tired that can’t be helped by a good night’s sleep; I’ve caught myself fantasising about the project ending so I can sit still for a week, a month.

And I’m suddenly homesick, really homesick. I’ve never felt more Australian in my life, never loved my country more.

But I can deal with me; this project is relentless and exhausting but ultimately incredibly satisfying and rewarding. It’s when my daughter starts showing signs of wear and tear that I start to wobble.

And then. Just as I was thinking through the repercussions of calling it a day. She utters these words: “I really like blogging now”. And then, “I realise how lucky I am.”

In the nick of time, Coco. In the nick of time.

 —

This suburb has been brought to you by Alison Reeve

 —

I’ll post the second Neukölln installment in a few days time. And then it’ll be back to regular programming – I hope.

 

  1. TRENT COLLINS says:

    Another amazing post.

    Makes mw think back to the time that you were considering pulling the plug on the original 52 Suburbs project (I think it was something around the 20′s).

    Keep your head up – both of you.

    The reassurance that you are doing something so inspiring should do the trick, as well as the fact that you put smiles on so many peoples faces.

    Nothink like coming into work on a Monday and going through another one of your posts.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Mitch says:

    Hey Lou! Another great post. Although we may not comment on every post, rest assured there are hundreds of us out here who love the adventure of each and every new one you tirelessly craft. Particularly moved by the “stolpersteine / erase” image. I had never heard of these before today. Re: Coco – one day she will look back and realize what an amazing education you have gifted her through travel. Our three global nomad kids (one who also survived an ugly period of home schooling without any lasting scars!) are just now coming to appreciate the opportunities and learning they have gained, through simply travelling around the world. You go girl! Cheers, Mitch & the McManus Family (Boston USA)

  3. Peter McConnochie says:

    Wow – awesome post!

    Stick with it, the experience your giving Coco will be an education she will never match at school! She will catch up fast!

    As a teacher and father I know I’d do exactly what your doing given half a chance!!!

    Having read your post/blog today I’m really pleased I woke up at 1am unable to sleep :)

  4. Peter Gibson says:

    I hope you have the patience and energy to keep going. Coco’s ‘education’ is an experience very few people will ever have the opportunity to enjoy, I am sure she will cherish it in the future as much as we love your photos now.

  5. Tim says:

    Hi Louise,
    again, lovely to get an update on how Berlin has developed. “In my days” Neukoelln didn’t have any hipness to it, not even in the Northern tip.

  6. Kristin says:

    Hi Louise, Kopf hoch – keep your head up! What are you doing is so inspirational. However I can understand your and your daughther’s exhaustion after 6 month, wish I could help you.Well, for once, I’ll always be your groupie:-)

  7. Jackie Nolan says:

    Loiuse,your work is so spectacular in imagery and
    facts. What a delight to ‘travel’ with you and learn
    about places that are way across the world. It is
    truly an educational adventure. Dear little Coco
    will absorb so much that is worthwhile for her in
    life. Can understand the dilemmas though when
    stretched and yearning to be at home. It is inky
    but the rewards are bright. J

  8. Jenni says:

    My eyes welled up with tears on reading the paragraph about your homesickness. I’ve felt that too in past travels. Hang in there.

  9. indiana says:

    i find it’s worst if you accidentally stumble into the scent of eucalyptus…but hey this is a splendid project, hang in there. i had a year away from school when i was ten…did an hour of math and an hour of english each day and i look back on it as one of the best years of my childhood.

  10. Bron E says:

    Louise, You are doing such a wonderful job. Of course there will always be ups and downs and you are getting double of both – courtesy Coco as your shadow. What you are sharing with us is truly marvelllous but Coco’s share is a pricelesss education in itself.

  11. Marc@Shutterbug says:

    Wow! Been following your posts with envy. So great to see a talented photographer with a great idea blossom into conquering the world. You make it look so easy. A gift when it rarely is. Inspiring for us all. Will you be our guest again when you come home…please?? lol! I wish Shutterbug had the money to sponsor you for Amsterdam. (my old home town) Keep up the amazing work….

  12. Ann says:

    You’re giving Coco the best education she could get, she just doesn’t realise it yet. Really enjoying your posts.

  13. Tatyana says:

    Louise, you’re pure inspiration to me. But I’m sure everyone would agree: we stand for you (and with you) in whatever you choose – doing your amazing work or having your well-deserved rest. Being homesick is such a natural thing, it helps you to see what’s really important for you and defines all the next steps you take. Have a safe journey!
    P.S. beautiful post.

  14. John Ellis says:

    Am enjoying it all.

  15. Louise says:

    Trent – You’re right! Must be the half way blues. It helps knowing gorgeous souls like you are enjoying the adventure so thanks Trent!
    Mitch – The stolpersteine are incredible aren’t they? And thanks Mitch, good to know other kids have survived their parents’ dreams!
    Peter M – I love that you read this at 1am! But I hope it didn’t make you sleepy!
    Peter G – I hope so too. As I said, she’s already starting to get it.
    Tim – Apparently Neukolln is THE hipster hang. Along with the Roma people, Turks etc. An interesting mix!
    Kristin – Danke! So lovely to know I have groupies!
    Jackie – ‘Inky’ indeed. I like that. Thanks so much for the lovely words.
    Jenni – I knew I had it bad when Coco started singing the Australian national anthem as part of her school work – I had a lump in my throat immediately.
    The more you travel of course, the more you appreciate things about your own country.
    Indiana – Oh that’s good to hear! And thanks, so happy you’re enjoying the project.
    Bron E – Thanks Bron! Coco sure is my shadow. It will be so strange next year when we spend more than five minutes apart.
    Marc – I don’t know about ‘conquering the world’. The more I discover, the more I realise how much I have to learn. But it’s a great way to learn. And thanks for the lovely words, they help!
    Ann – Many thanks – it will be interesting in the years to come to see what Coco absorbed on this adventure. Not maths but other stuff you can’t learn in a classroom – but what exactly that is I’m not sure!
    Tatyana – Oh, thank you! On all counts. If I inspire a single person I’ve done okay I reckon.

    To all – you’re wonderful to put fingers to keyboards and send me these beautiful messages of encouragement and support. Just knowing how much you appreciate the project is enough to keep me going. Many many thanks!

  16. Pip says:

    Louise I liked these very much. And the fact that Istanbul has been part of this project made these photos resonate even more for this viewer, and no doubt for you too. Stay strong. Pipx

    • Louise says:

      Pip – That’s very true – that little courtyard with the old graves and the Ottoman styled mosque is a little Turkish corner of Berlin. It felt like we had travelled back in time to March, when we stuck our heads into countless mosques in Istanbul. But actually speaking to the ‘Turkish’ people there broke the spell – hearing them talk in German, or in English but with German accents.

  17. Terese says:

    Make the maths part of the travel long – accounting, foreign exchange, airport taxes, budgeting, etc don’t go for pure maths problems on the road play chess and talk to business men and women about economics. Work out distance speed travel time differences. There is a lot of real world maths out there switch onto this Coco and you will be fine.

    • Louise says:

      Terese – You’re absolutely right, I need to make more of an effort to do that. Although the one thing I have drummed into Coco is the whole concept of a budget – she knows not to ask me to buy something for her because we’re on a “very tight budget”!

  18. lynn says:

    Again, you have given us great images to reflect on.

    Thank you so much !

  19. Donna says:

    Coco will talking about this trip for years to come…like all of us she just longs for home and the familiar…we are loving your journey Louise…love to you both :)

    • Louise says:

      Donna – Many thanks!

  20. Tim says:

    Wow…. even grotty Neukölln is getting hip now. And Kreuzberg has come back from decades of being a bit passé. If you make it up to Wedding you will see where your Italian Rock’n'Roller picks up his Western gear from. Keep you chin up and keep at it – all worth it, and we’re all reading! T

    • Louise says:

      Tim – Yeah, but don’t worry, ‘grotty Neukölln’ is still pretty grotty! Except for right up along the canal that is. There it’s verging on clean.

  21. Teena says:

    Hey Louise & Coco! Hope you two little Vegemites are feeling a bit better (can you sing the Happy Little Vegemites song for me?) :-)

    I came across your blog this month when I was in Paris for 6 weeks (staying just off rue St Denis and next to Faubourg St Denis – loved that post – spot on!!), and I loved the pictures and word pictures you lovingly presented which showed the heart and soul of a district as seen through your eyes. Thank you sooooo much!

    I got home to Melbourne 2 days ago and loved starting to read this post this morning. The images on the footpath grabbed my heart in both hands – a reminder for us all to treasure each moment of every day.

    My heart goes out to Coco and to you, worrying so much you’re doing something ‘wrong’, but as mentioned by so many before me, she’ll realise the incredible adventure she’s been on but maybe not quite today :-)

    I just had a thought that it would be faaabulous to see Coco’s blog (if she had one – or a paragraph at the end of your posts perhaps) – just a few words and a photo or two (which she’d written and taken) to share just a wee bit what she ‘sees’ in each of the districts.

    Even if it was just photos of the kids or dogs and cats she meets, or something which tickles her fancy, that’d be fantastic. Would her Aussie school friends be allowed to post comments, I wonder? If she’s allowed to share her ‘voice’ about places she visits, it might just give her a little incentive to make it seem like more fun (and she start looking for things to write about) … and you might see a budding writier and photojournalist appear from the chrysalis.

    In regard to the homesickness, I went through that my first time I went overseas. I flew home to Sydney, saw everyone I wanted to, tasted all the food I’d missed, did all I’d dreamed about, in a 2 day period. So satisfying. And then I thought, “Now what?”. I then took off for 6 weeks … and came back to Sydney 7 years later after living on several continents and having more adventures that I ever imagined. I’ve never had homesickness since :-)

    These days with Skype it’s so easy to stay in touch and see faces and familiar things, maybe Coco might enjoy having regular chats with family or friends and sharing what’s she’s seen or done. (You might already do this, but I’m not sure.) About the maths – if you were back in Oz, and Coco was at school, she might have exactly the same result when trying to learn maths — so it’s not because you’re travelling, it might just be that it’s a concept she won’t grasp quite yet – no matter where you are. So, let that maths concept rest for a while, and try another. It’s great that she understands being on a budget. Does Coco get spending money? If so, you might be able to show her how to keep track of it on paper (like a mini list with ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ so she can see how it works each time she spends something, and what happens to the numbers when you give her more spending money, even if it’s only a dollar or so. Maybe she could tell us what she can buy for $1 (or $5 or $10) in each place you visit … or something similar.

    Sorry for rambling so long, I really feel for you both and although I only came across your blog in the past 2 weeks, I’m loving what you’re doing and what you’re sharing with all of us, and applaud your adventurous spirit!! Wish we had’ve been in Paris at the same time :-) I’ve shared your blog with friends around the world, and you’re admired by so many who are living and travelling vicariously through your words. What a wonderful offering – thanks so so much! Looking forward to hearing from you both again soon – but maybe after you take a wee break and treat yourselves to some fun for a bit. We all understand that you need to take a break sometimes and regroup. Ciao for now! Teena

    • Louise says:

      Teena – Wow, thanks for penning such a long comment! Your idea about Coco contributing to the blog or even having a blog of her own? Well, I have tried – but as much as she says she wants to do something, she never quite does it. And to be honest, I don’t have the energy to push her. But I could ask her for a few words each week – good idea – I’ll try it. And yes, we skype family and friends – it’s an amazing way to stay in touch. It helps for sure but still… You’re exactly right about the maths – I’ve said as much to Coco, that she would be finding it just as tough at school – the difference is she’d have real teachers who are much better than I at explaining it. The only advantage with home schooling obviously is that it’s one on one – but that can be too intense at times. Anyway, many thanks for the advice and hope you can keep following – see how it all turns out!

  22. Sarah says:

    Oh no, don’t ever feel like you’re not good enough for Coco… This is such a wonderful chance to show her so much! And not only that, everyone needs to learn to amuse themselves, and consider that others might have their own things to do – and Coco will be fantastic at that (unlike kids who get used a constant companion). There is no right or wrong way, there are just different ways, and each with positives and less than positives!

    You really opened my eyes (again, weekly!) to their old airport, that really IS amazing! I have read and heard a lot about their Turkish population, and remember studying a little about different Euro countries and their approaches to immigration and nationality. It’s a little hazy now, but I do remember that Germany (in 2005) was the ‘easiest’ place to become ‘European’ which may start to explain some of their migrant population. That being said, there are migrants all over the world…

    • Louise says:

      Sarah – Coco is actually pretty good at entertaining herself – always has been – it’s just me worrying about her really. She adores her friends at home and I can’t help feel guilty at extracting her from them. When she met up with her friend, Elyse, for a few days in Madrid I loved seeing her nattering away for hours on end. But look in the end, these are first world problems and I know, Coco’s an extraordinarily lucky child. (There’s a whole other layer of guilt I feel of course when I see the struggles of the immigrants here and elsewhere – and then I feel appalled that I could worry about my child… Gawd.)

  23. Innes Welbourne says:

    Just wanted to say that since discovering your blog from comments someone made regarding my blog — hope that makes sense — I’ve become an avid follower. Your photography and writing are such a pleasure to linger on, very involving, as is your journey with Coco which has rolled into the lives of those with those you’re interacting with — it makes me sorry I never bumped into you when you were here in Istanbul.

    BTW: I still can’t quite bring myself to explore your photos of my adopted hometown, as I’m sufficiently envious of your talent with the camera. I will one day soon, when I’m feeling a little more sure-footed.

    Anyway, this is my verbose way of saying this is a fantastic project. Being so dislocated it’s easy to question the consequences for your daughter, but I’m guessing that the connection you’ll feel once the project is complete will make her realize home is not so much a place, but a bond with special people you can find in the strangest of places, under the most trying of circumstances.

    Anyway, that’s the long-winded opinion of this Anglo-Canadian with a half-Turkish daughter, Sofia Elif. The self-sufficiency Coco is learning is something no school can teach. More importantly, she’ll have something she can look back on, both with your work and deep in her memory, that few people can ever hope to share.

    • Louise says:

      Innes – Wish we’d met in Istanbul too! I like your reflection on the concept of home – although being homesick to me feels like a deep need to smell your own city again, listen to its accents, see its light. And yet, what do they say, familiarity breeds contempt – I know, having been away from home many times, that as soon as you’re back, it’s easy to feel complacent about ‘home’ and quest, yet again, to roam far. Distant fields and all that.

  24. JENNY M says:

    I especially enjoyed reading this story from Berlin although I have never been there it remains an intriguing city. So much is written of the Turkish migrant population so to be in the mix would be fascinating for a time. Your descriptons and photos all help to visualise life in this unique part of Berlin. Many thanks.

  25. Richard Ure says:

    I spent a week in Berlin last year and was captivated by it. Some of its social housing has been granted world heritage listing. http://goo.gl/oVM9G. Don’t miss the photo gallery.

    For a rich source of pictures and other information about the city’s recent history go to http://goo.gl/2avSH

  26. Lucy says:

    Hi Lou
    Wonderful wonderful blog! My daughter lives in Freidrichshain and hangs out in Neuköln-she’s an artist and loves it there. I spent 5 great days there last year, and after the beauty and sophistication of Paris, London, Nice and Milan, Berlin was such a shock! Still, it gets under your skin, doesn’t it?
    As for Coco, I too travelled for a year when I was 10 and came back to Sydney with a better education than any other 5th-grader. And I have homeschooled this same daughter for her yr 5, and there were many tears over maths too. In Perth. So no need worry about Coco. My daughter figured it out in the end, and yours will too.
    All the best,
    Lu

    • Louise says:

      Lucy – Danke! So good to hear that your survived and thrived as a result of your year away. Gives me hope!

  27. Toni Mostyn says:

    This is another great post. I am finding out so much about all these wonderful places through your eyes. Please hang in there. Coco will be getting the best experience of her life and really such an education. I am sure that her maths issues will sort themselves out with time. Great photos, and wonderful to see another city embracing the bicycle.Cheers, Toni

    • Louise says:

      Toni – Thanks for the support. I also think Coco will get a lot out of this – but sometimes I just get really worried about her (school, lack of friends etc). She, on the other hand, isn’t fazed by much (except maths!) and is consistently happy – she misses her mates but it never gets in the way of her enjoyment of a day. She’s one of those inherently happy people. So… here’s to not worrying about her!

  28. Katie says:

    Sorry for taking a while to check in – I’ve missed out on so much! Louise, Berlin looks so extraordinarily different. I’m not sure what I would make of it, if I were in your shoes.
    My heart goes out to Coco – maths sucks! She’ll do us all proud though, I know it. It’s tiring to learn without having your schoolmates to commiserate, but she might be surprised about how much has sunk in when she returns home.
    And our beautiful home is always waiting for you :)
    Katie x

    • Louise says:

      Katie – I wondered if you’d got lost in Paris somewhere! So lovely to see your name pop up. You must be heading back home soon though? And yes, maths does suck – but don’t tell Coco that! And we miss our favourite home-schooling-child-minder!

  29. Rikke says:

    I am in love with this post. I have missed Neukölln so much, since I had to move back to Denmark where I come from. This brings up great memories. So lovely. Going back to Berlin and Neukölln und friday. Can’t wait. Thank you for this lovely post.

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