Excursions in Berlin
Fontane already went to explore Berlin – and not only Berlin. What was possible in the 19th century ought to be much more exciting today. Our advantage is that times are much more peaceful nowadays – at least in our corner of the world.
I dedicated an extra chapter to Spandau (“A tour of Spandau”), the reason being that I am a Spandauer myself and that most of my information are about this district. More chapters on other districts of Berlin will be forthcoming.
During Fontane’s first stay in Berlin between 1833, when he entered Friedrichswerder Trade School, and 1841, the number of the city’s inhabitants grew rapidly.
- 1830: 247,500 inhabitants
- 1840: 322,626 inhabitants
In 1848, when Fontane joined the street fighting in Berlin, the population was 400,000. In 1859 he returned to a city of 520,000. In 1861, when he finished the first volume of his “Wanderings”, Berlin counted 547,200 inhabitants. In 1871, when his book “ Prisoner of War, Experiences 1870” was published, the numbers had risen to 824,484. In 1881, when the last volume of the “Wanderings in the Brandenburg Marches” appeared, Berlin had a population of almost 1.2 million.
The districts of Berlin in the 19th century
Larger cities were subdivided into districts that had a certain autonomy in governing their civil affairs. The Prussian City Act caused major changes in the communal administration of Berlin. In the beginning, Berlin had 100 municipal districts. As a result of a rapid increase in the number of inhabitants, the number of districts grew and grew. Following an expansion of the city in 1861, Berlin had 271 districts. In 1884, the number had risen to 326 and after the establishment of Great Berlin in 1920 there were more than 450 municipal districts. To turn this chaos back into order, the municipal districts were merged into larger districts. To the ten original larger districts, more were added in the course of the nineteenth century. In 1884, Berlin consisted of 21 districts.