There are so many parks in Berlin. The oldest, largest and most famous is the Tiergarten, stretching two square miles from the Brandenburg Gate to Ernst-Reuter-Platz and providing the green lungs for the city centre. It’s a fabulous park, once a royal hunting ground, now a green paradise packed with tall trees, shrubs, wide lawns and interesting corners. You can find a brief history and description on page 44 of Berlin Unwrapped.
üAerial view of the Tiergarten, featuring the Victory Column
If you have already explored the Tiergarten and would like to discover another central Berlin park with plenty of surprises in store, head for the Fritz-Schloß-Park to the north of the Hauptbahnhof – it’s a revelation. Here you will find quiet forest paths and wide expanses of grass, plenty of recreational facilities, some unusual sport complexes and even a refugee camp for asylum seekers. It’s a truly multi-purpose, multi-cultural park.
Location of Fritz-Schloß-Park
The Fritz-Schloß-Park was originally a Prussian military training ground and in the 1920s part of the site was turned into the ‘Poststadion’, a large sports stadium with additional football pitches, tennis courts and swimming facilities. After the war the land which hadn’t been built on was used as one of the dumps for the rubble from the city’s ruins which was mainly cleared by the women of Berlin. Then in 1955 the whole area was turned into a park and named after Fritz Schloß (1895-1954), the first post-war Mayor of the district of Tiergarten.
A memorial in the park which thanks the ‘Trümmerfrauen (‘rubble women’)
We entered the park from Seydlitzstrasse and walked past a children’s play area and several interesting buildings dedicated to sport, including a large new indoor pool and a long-established indoor rowing training centre complete with water. A little further on, we reached the recently-renovated main sports stadium, now the impressive home ground for several Berlin football clubs including a Turkish team, and also used for American Football matches. We wandered in and watched a group of cheerleaders practising in front of the impressive grandstand. I tried to imagine the scene in 1930 when Germany played England in one of their earliest encounters and then during the 1936 Olympics when the stadium was used for football matches in the presence of Hitler.
The front of the Poststadion and cheerleaders practising on the track
The next surprise was an exclusive health club which we could just see behind the wire fencing and trees. I looked up the details later and found out that the ‘Vabali Spa’ was opened in 2014 at a cost of 20 million euros. It is designed on ‘Asian’ lines and guests are only allowed a bathing robe and a towel as items of clothing.
A private view of the exclusive Vabali Spa
Further on, the park becomes more like a forest, with tall trees providing welcome shade. The path here is part of the 1.1 kilometre exercise trail with stops every fifty metres with equipment to test your fitness. Nothing too strenuous though.
Peaceful wooded paths with fitness training on the side
If you feel like a rest, you can always make your way to the expanses of open grass and enjoy the woodland peace. In winter the grassy slopes are popular for tobogganing.
Plenty of space for just chilling
Another nostalgic sports arena in the park is the Schwarz-Weiß Tennis Club. Here the main clay court is set into a hollow with raised seating on four sides, rather like a mini-amphitheatre.
The perfect setting for a game of tennis
Only a few metres away around the corner in Kruppstrasse, there are outdoor atistic performances in a pretty shabby-chic garden area which opens its doors to visitors on some summer Sundays for readings and concerts.
Open-air culture at the Offener Garten
But perhaps the most interesting discovery in the Fritz-Schloß-Park was an area at the end of Kruppstrasse where tented accommodation has been put up on tennis courts to provide accommodation for some of the Syrian asylum seekers who have been welcomed into the German capital.
A view of the refugee camp from the perimeter fence