Until a few years ago I lived in Treptow within shouting distance of the Landwehr Canal. Wrangelkiez – the part of Kreuzberg across the canal from me – felt like my neighborhood. I especially spent a lot of time on Falckensteinstraße, the street that runs from the Oberbaumbrücke to Görlitzer Park. My main interests on this street were the bookstore, the good-by-Berlin-standards Pakistani restaurant, the slices of pizza and the ice cream place across the street from the pizza place that is run by the same people. At the time I believed the ice cream place, Aldemir Eisdiele, to serve the best ice cream in Berlin.
In the intervening years I have not only moved away to the opposite end of Kreuzberg but also chatted once with a food policy specialist who told me that most commercial ice cream is pumped full of air and guar gum as a filler to make it cheaper, and that the way you can tell whether you are eating real ice cream or filler cream is to notice whether it foams on your tongue or just plain melts. If it foams, it’s full of guar gum. I’m aware that guar gum is pretty innocuous as far as food additives go (though apparently involved in fracking?), but I’d still rather my ice cream were made out of ice and cream. “Some of the most popular ice cream places in Berlin use a lot of guar gum,” the food policy person said. “Including the one on Falckensteinstraße.”
On Friday afternoon, by way of Görlitzer Park, my son and I were back in the old neighborhood and went to Falckensteinstraße for some ice cream. Speaking of Görlitzer Park, that 80-police-officer Großrazzia at the end of July seems to have been effective, because the number of drug dealers in the park was noticeably lower – for the first time in years I *could* have thrown a rock without hitting one. When we arrived on Falckensteinstraße, I began to wonder if the crackdown on the Görlitzer Park drug dealers had been inspired by pressure from the forces of gentrification: the street was aflame in anti-gentrification sentiment. Posters and signs about rising rents seemed to coat every surface. Pictured above is the ice-cream-eating area in front of Aldemir; the sign in the background announces an anti-gentrification protest to be held there the next day. Most poignantly, a Kinderladen (preschool/daycare) that has been in the neighborhood since 1978 announced it was being driven out by rising rents:
As for the ice cream at Aldemir, it not only foamed unmistakably but also cost way more than it used to – €1.20 a scoop. I remember it as costing €0.80 a scoop (and people complaining about the price bump from €0.70 a scoop), and I only moved away three years ago. It was the same price per scoop as the excellent non-guar-gum ice cream at Vanille & Marille in my supposedly more bourgeois new neighborhood. Ice cream prices seem like a good analogy to Berlin rents – still much lower than in many cities, but rising far more rapidly.
I’m fascinated by the New York Pizza Connection – the phenomenon that the price of a subway ticket and the price of a slice of pizza have always risen in tandem in New York City since about 1960 – and I was curious if you could come up with a similar index for ice cream and rents in Berlin. Does the price of a scoop of ice cream in a given neighborhood correspond to the average cost of rent per square meter? In the case of the Falckensteinstraße Kinderladen, yes and no: In recent years, according to a taz article about its closure and the gentrification issues surrounding it, the Kinderladen‘s rent had gone up from about 8 euros per square meter to about 12, which would perfectly fit my ice cream index. But the reason they had to close is that the landlord then suddenly jacked the rent up to an astronomical 35 euros per square meter. Be on the lookout for €3.50-a-scoop ice cream.