Tiptoe through Treptow

Tiptoe through Treptow

When the weather is damp and depressing, nothing beats a good walk to fight the blues. The legendary Berliner Luft never disappoints – even in the drizzle. It must be something to do with all the forests and lakes that encircle the city and breathe into the atmosphere.  With these positive thoughts in mind a couple of Sundays ago, we donned our waterproofs and ventured forth to Treptow, a district of south-east Berlin traditionally associated with boat trips, picnics by the Spree and general merriment.  In autumn the scene was all mists and mellow fruitfulness. The trees in Treptow Park were a riot of colour and the waters were dead calm. No crowds, of course, just a few walkers and Sunday morning joggers to puncture the stillness. (more…)

If you go down in the woods today…

If you go down in the woods today…

This week’s blog was originally written in German by Dorothea Lehmann and was inspired by a recent visit to the Grunewaldsee, a beautiful forest lake and one of my favourite places to go walking in Berlin. I have given my version of her text in English, but also included the German original. Anyone visiting Berlin for more than a couple of days should try and get to one of its many lakes and the Grunewaldsee is so accessible – just jump on the M29 bus along the Ku’damm to Roseneck or take the S7 to Grunewald station.  In either case the forest is on your doorstep and you can walk all around the lake in about an hour. It’s fabulous at any time of the year and a great place to cool off in the summer. There’s a café in the courtyard of the Jagdschloss or for something more substantial you could book a table in the imposing Forsthaus Paulsborn. (more…)

Berliners escape to their colonies

Berliners escape to their colonies

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon in a Berlin ‘colony garden’. It was the perfect escape from the concrete and heat of the city centre – and almost on the doorstep.

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Most Berliners live in apartment blocks and many of them have neither balconies nor outside space. There are plenty of wonderful parks of course – especially the Tiergarten right in front of the Brandenburg Gate – and within half an hour of the centre Berlin is surrounded by thick forests. You only have to look out of a plane on a clear day to see what a verdant city it is. You might also spot what look like mini-housing estates; conglomerations of individual gardens each with a wooden hut on them. These are ‘Gartenkolonien’ also known as ‘Schrebergärten’, named after the ‘Schreber movement’. This was a public initiative started in Leipzig in 1864 which decided to lease areas within the city for children to play in. Later on, these areas included actual gardens for children, but soon adults tended to take over and cultivate these gardens and the movement spread to other cities in Germany. Some of the Berlin plots are magnificent allotments and the pride and joy of their owners. But others are simple country retreats. Places to hang out and chill. Although in the Grunewald it is important to keep the wild pigs out …

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Walking with Angels

Walking with Angels

Ever since Wim Wenders’ 1987 film, ‘Himmel über Berlin’ (‘Wings of Desire’) I have been looking for angels in the Berlin sky. Some actually appeared sitting on top of buildings for the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Wall. You can also try communing with them in Berlins’ pretty cemeteries. I first intended to write this blog about an enchanting little cemetery called ‘Friedhof Grunewald’ in Halensee, tucked away between rail tracks and motorway and only accessible across a footbridge. But then I got carried away and decided to recall a few more of my favourite  Berlin cemeteries. (more…)

Freedom Field

Freedom Field

Last Sunday wasn’t just European Election day in Berlin – Berliners were also voting in a referendum about proposed housing development on the site of the former Tempelhof airport (which ceased operations in 2008). 65% of voters decided to keep the ‘Tempelhofer Freiheit’ (Tempelhof Freedom) as a public park and on Monday the bright sunshine and blue sky saw jubilant celebrations on this vast expanse of grass, trees and scrub. Although the huge grey Nazi-built terminal building makes its presence felt, the old airfield has the atmosphere of an enormous country meadow in the middle of a capital city. Berliners have come to love this precious space. I have seen it used it for cycling, inline skating, kite-flying, football, badminton, picknicking and just jogging, walking or chilling out.

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In ‘Berlin Unwrapped’ (in the chapter on Hitler’s Berlin) I reported that the Tempelhofer Feld was to undergo ‘a four year 60 million euro facelift’ to turn it into Berlin’s equivalent of New York’s Central Park. But things have changed in the meantime and the Berlin Senate put forward plans to build new housing on the edge of the site. Now they will have to live with defeat in the referendum and find room for housing development elsewhere. Perhaps Berliners will still get their Central Park after all. They have always treasured their green space and know how to enjoy it.

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If you are in Berlin for more than a couple of days, it’s definitely worth taking a look at the massive Tempelhof building and its former airfield. U-Bahn line 6 gets you to Platz der Luftbrücke – named after the Berlin Airlift (1948/49) when American and British pilots flew supplies into West Berlin during the Soviet blockade. Outside Tempelhof airport stands a huge memorial to the Airlift – appropriately nicknamed the ‘Hungerharke’ (Hunger Rake) by the ever-humorous and freedom-loving Berliners.

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Photo taken of Tempelhof at an American Forces Open Day in 1984