Berlin’s Green Heart

Berlin’s Green Heart

The Tiergarten is a splendid park. Spread before the Brandenburg Gate, for Berliners it has long been synonymous with both pleasure and leisure. Its name, literally meaning ‘Animal Garden’, derives from its original 16th Century role as a hunting ground for the Elector of Brandenburg. In the 1740s, Frederick the Great, who did not appreciate the hunt as much as his royal antecedents, instructed his architect, Knobelsdorff, to turn the area into a baroque style public park. There were even ‘salons’ where people could meet and discuss, and tents selling refreshments.

Walking through the Tiergarten today

A century later, landscape designer Lenné drew up new plans for the park, modelling it on the English garden style with wide grass lawns and clusters of trees. He included many more footpaths and bridleways and featured small lakes with islands and streams crossed by bridges. By the end of the 19th Century, a host of nationalistic memorials had been constructed in the Tiergarten, especially on the Siegesallee (‘Victory Avenue’) and the Prachtboulevard (‘Magnificence Boulevard’). The park became covered in statues commemorating famous Prussian royals, as well as German cultural greats.

Beethoven Mozart Haydn Memorial

Statue of Queen Louise of Prussia

The original ‘Prachtallee’

When the Nazi Party came to power, Hitler and Speer planned the complete renovation of Berlin to become the Welthauptstadt Germania (World Capital Germania) and had grand visions for the Tiergarten. The road running through the middle of it (formerly Charlottenburger Chaussee, now Straβe des 17. Juni) was widened to form the east-west axis into the capital and the Siegessäule (Victory Column) was moved to the Grosser Stern (Great Star), the central point of the park, from its original site in front of the Reichstag.

Aerial view of Tiergarten, with the Victory Column at its centre

Then came the Second World War when Allied bombing caused terrible devastation to the Tiergarten. In its aftermath many of its surviving trees were felled for firewood and the empty ground was used for growing vegetables because of food shortages.

The devastated Tiergarten

In 1945, the Tiergarten was initially under the direct control of the British Occupying Forces, but four years later in 1949, when the two cities of East and West Berlin were officially established, the reforestation of the Tiergarten was started by the authorities in West Berlin. 250,000 young trees were flown in from West Germany and the Tiergarten was gradually transformed turned into a park landscape once more. There were fewer statues and formal features with the accent being on rest and relaxation for West Berliners, marooned from their homeland by the Berlin Wall.

Relaxing in the Tiergarten

Since re-unification, all Berliners have access to the Tiergarten and it has truly become the green heart of their city again, providing 520 acres of parkland perfect for walking, jogging, cycling, horseriding and boating. In summer the grass areas are popular for picnics, barbecues and sunbathing and in winter it is sometimes possible to ice-skate on the small lakes. There are two excellent eating establishments as well; the ‘Café am Neuen See’ was featured in my Berlin Unwrapped guidebook and remains a huge favourite.

By the lake at the Café am Neuen See

However, less well-known is the wonderful ‘Teehaus im Englischen Garten’ an enchanting reed-thatched ‘teahouse’ hidden away in the north-west corner of the Tiergarten. As its name suggests, it’s located in the ‘English Garden’ and even serves a typical English afternoon tea. The beer garden seats up to 500 people and has a wide menu of light meals, including German specialities. Sunday breakfast is popular all year round and I went there recently on a summer evening for dinner. We started with a cocktail outside on the terrace, then moved into the elegant interior, looking out on to the pretty gardens at dusk. It was a magical setting and a very good meal.

The Teehaus im Englischen Garten

Inside the Teehaus

Map showing location of the Teehaus in the Tiergarten