The German language is constantly fascinating, especially when words are mashed together to make one word that describes a whole process or activity. Take ‘Herbstspatziergang’ for example or ‘going out for an autumn walk’ in English. GREAT right! The beginning of autumn in Berlin was marked by easy warm days with crisp air, blue skies, sunshine and the gentle turning and floating of leaves in the street. Things have changed somewhat as the weather in Berlin is inclined to do, but be reassured that the next magical golden day is just around the corner. Autumn in Berlin can be a glorious thing and rain or shine, the best way to enjoy it is Herbstspatziergang in the parks! Here are just a few of our favourites.
Just a few kilometres from the hotel, Park am Gleisdrieck is a lovely green space on a site that was formerly wasteland. As the German name suggest, the park forms a triangle between train lines. Intersecting raised train platforms, division by the Berlin Wall and lack of nearby attractions made it a sparsely used area, until the Deutsches Technik Museum was constructed in the early 1980’s, drawing more people to the area that used to separate Kreuzberg from Schoenberg. It was another two decades however before the park would be created and the large urban meadow would be developed to not only open up the space but to revitalise the surrounding neighbourhoods – a task which has been achieved with great success. The park offers plenty of space to ‘take the sun’ as Germans love to do as well as a great selection of trees and bird life. Physical activity is abundant at Gleisdrieck park with built in trampolines, sports facilities, skateboard surfaces, dance spaces and bike and walking paths. Check out the great views of the park from above, on the U12 between Kurfürstenstrasse and Möckernbrücke. Film buffs will recognise the walkway beneath the U Gleisdrieck station from one of the more memorable scenes in the acclaimed Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire.
Though not officially one of Berlin’s parks, Babelsberg is part of the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage listed ‘Palaces and Parks of Potsdam & Berlin‘ and it is just 30 kilometres or so out of the city. Formerly a summer residence of Kaiser William I (back in the mid 1800’s when he was simply Prince William), his palace, the Kleines Schloss is just one feature of the park. Babelsberg’s grounds include sculptures, fountains, flowerbeds and ornately decorated terraces. Below the palace is the Golden Rose Garden, which elegantly connects down to the Pleasure Ground which in turn links to beautiful promenades offering tranquil views of the lakes and Potsdam. The steam powered pump house is an elegant site as you drift by on a boat tour towards the historic Glienicker Bridge that still retains its two shades of green indicating the division through the lake between East and West Germany. The Berlin Wall Trail today runs through this area, including Babelsberg Park. For more information see the official website.
This is one of Schöneberg’s best kept secrets and a great retreat from city life. It’s a delightful surprise to get off the train at U Rathaus Schöneberg and emerge into these elegant parklands. The central feature of Rudolph Wilde Park is the duck pond, and its border of leafy willow trees and shady paths make it quite the oasis of calm. Named after the first mayor of the region, the park covers seven hectares and stretches back from behind the Schöneberg town hall – the location where John F. Kennedy made his famous speech in June 1963. The park is a distinct asset to the upper class neighbourhood just nearby that was developed in the early 1900’s known as the Bavarian Quarter. Elegant townhouses with salons and large gracious reception rooms are a feature and in its day the area housed many prominent local doctors, lawyers and intellectual types. Today the park attracts students, elderly people taking some exercise and fresh air and people generally wanting a peaceful place to relax and enjoy a book under a tree by the pond.
In stiff competition with the Tiergarten for the title of Berlin’s most famous park, Tempelhofer Park is a mecca to hundreds of people every day no matter the weather. Rain, shine or snow they flock to the former airport for the vast open spaces and the freedom to run, jog, skate, fly or scream or just to sit and watch the spectacle. At one end of the park is the former Tempelhof airport terminal, still in use today for conferences, concerts and events. Tours are available covering the history of the airport which was a fundamental part of the Berlin Airlift during WWII and an old plane still sits abandoned near the terminal building. Old runways provide skate and bike paths and running tracks, and almost every imaginable type of moving vehicle can and has been seen on the runways of Tempelhof – from kite boards to solar powered cars, unicycles to, of course aeroplanes. There is a biergarten and a mini golf course, small hills for sledding when it snows and a dog run for inner city pets to run and feel the wind in their fur. An interesting community garden populates one end offering great insights into the passion of local gardeners and in summer the numerous designated ‘grillplätze’ or barbecue areas are filled to bursting with locals grilling lunch or dinner. If you want to a taste of typical Berlin, grab a couple of cold drinks from the local spätkauf, head to the bird sculptures at the Oderstrasse end of the park and enjoy the sunset at what is said to be the largest urban park in Europe.
The Tiergarten is without question Berlin’s most elegant and precious park. It covers 850 acres in the heart of the city and its origins date back to the 1500’s. Originally the king’s hunting ground, it was a natural habitat for wild animals, but the king also had additional game added to increase his enjoyment and hunting opportunities. As the city grew the king adapted it to become more of a leisure facility for the people, adding new sections, and connecting paths to improve mobility through the park and access to his various properties. Many memorials were placed throughout the park, the greatest being the Victory Avenue that is crowned today by the Victory Column with its sparkling golden angel on top. Numerous icons to Prussian culture were also immortalised and today one of the most prominent is the colossal Soviet Memorial which is so big it can be seen from the dome of the Reichstag. War had a dramatic affect on the parklands and the Tiergarten was almost totally destroyed during WWII, with trees used for firewood during the bitter winter and vegetables planted throughout it to feed the starving city. It is said that a million trees were planted to restore the park in the years following the war. Today the park is the stunning centrepiece of the city with magnificent statues and sculptures, leafy promenades and picturesque lakes and ponds. It is thoroughly enjoyable at any time of year and biergartens, cafes and restaurants inside the park offer the perfect dining options whatever the season. City bikes can be hired in the park just across the road from the Reichstag and this is by far the best way to see this huge expansive space right in the heart of Berlin.