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  • Karin Gambaracci

Berlin's hidden Courtyards

It is often said that a trip to Berlin is not complete without visiting at least one of the city's many beautiful hidden courtyards. In many neighbourhoods, in fact, the buildings extend dozens of metres behind the entrance visible from the street and comprise two or three adjoining buildings on the same courtyard.

Originally, this type of construction was typical of the so-called proletarian 'rented barracks', large buildings that could accommodate up to 2,000 people and sprang up like mushrooms in the Berlin boom of the late 19th century. A boom so formidable that at the time beds were even rented 'by the hour'. When one got up in the morning to go to work, one would leave one's bed with a tenant who had perhaps just finished the night shift! 


The most famous courtyards in today's Berlin are certainly the Hackesche Höfe, decorated in splendid Art Nouveau style and with delightful little shops to discover. But they are certainly not the only ones worth a visit. A little further away, in fact, entering from Sophienstraße 21, you can visit the 'Sophie-Gips-Höfe'. These lovely courtyards are not only interesting because they exemplify the typical mix of flats and small factories in Berlin buildings (where a café now stands, a sewing machine factory once operated). But because they were bought by a couple of art collectors, they promise many surprises in the discovery of a restoration in which tradition and artistic verve meet in a totally unexpected way. 


Art lovers can visit Mrs Hoffmann's private house every Saturday morning by appointment ( Exceptional art collections are exhibited here, renewed every year, with works by the likes of Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter.


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