Category Archives: Parks & Gardens

Bearpit Karaoke – Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark

Sean from Poland sings at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

Sean from Poland sings House of the Rising Sun at Bearpit Karaoke

Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark or Bearpit Karaoke as it is commonly known has grown from an innovative busking idea into an internationally known regular entertainment event and Berlin guidebook staple.

Joe Hatchiban at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

Joe Hatchiban at Bearpit Karaoke

It all started in 2009 when Joe Hatchiban (real name Gareth Lennon) rode around Berlin with some friends and a Karaoke machine.  One of the places they stopped was Mauerpark and the Bearpit Karaoke was born.

Rest assured the name Bearpit Karaoake isn’t a reference to the ferocity of the crowd but rather the stone amphitheatre in the former death strip at Mauerpark that hosts it.  In fact the crowd will always find some reason, whether it is a note perfect performance or an enthusiastic but tone deaf rendition, or maybe the singer’s obvious enthusiasm or shyness, to give very vocal support to those with the balls to perform.

For the thousands of people, tourists and Berliners alike, drawn to the regular Sunday flea market, Flohmarkt am Mauerpark, across the park, the Karaoke provides entertainment and a respite from the haggling hordes.

The crowd at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

If you’re lucky enough to find a spot on the steps of a sunny Sunday, you can rest your feet and enjoy a cold beer, whilst a parade of plucky would-be entertainers takes to the stage to belt out their favourite songs.

Irena from Italy sings at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

Irena from Italy sings at Bearpit Karaoke

A singer at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

A singer performs Wish You Were Here at Bearpit Karaoke

Diana from Chicago sings at Bearpit Karaoke

Diana from Chicago sings at Bearpit Karaoke

On an unseasonably warm and sunny Sunday in the last weekend in September Steffi and I joined the gathered crowd and spent an hour or two enjoying the show.

Berlin Bearpit Karaoke – Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark

This being Berlin, sooner or later one of the local nut jobs gets on the stage looking for some attention, not wanting to sing but rather to detract from those people who have been patiently waiting their turn.

Joe, though, has seen it all before and finds a way to bring the attention back to the singers.  In fact, his rapport with those who put themselves out there is one of the charms of the event. Each, is introduced by name with a little info about where they’re from and what they are doing in Berlin.

The Sonntags Karaoke in Mauerpark is funded by donations and so Joe walks around the crowd from time to time with a tin collecting money.  There have been some difficulties in the past due to the availability of permits and increasing costs so it’s important that you give a little something if you enjoy the show and want it to continue.

There are a few enterprising individuals who have spotted the opportunity to make a few Euros from such a captive audience.  A couple of guys walk around the Bearpit selling beer – all I can say is that they must have ridiculously strong arms to carry the crates around for hours like they do.

Another set of enterprising Berliners collect the empty bottles to cash in for the Pfand – for those not familiar with the German system an 8c deposit is paid on each beer bottle to encourage recycling.

The added bonus of this is that one of the council’s potential issues with the continuation of the Karaoke is a perceived rubbish problem.  This along with Joe’s constant encouragement to the crowd to take any other items away with them ensures the area is kept relatively tidy.

A performer at Bearpit Karaoke (Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark)

Weather and permits allowing, Joe Hatchiban is at the Mauerpark with his Karaoke machine Sundays from 15:00 but best to check the Sonntags Karaoke im Mauerpark Facebook page to avoid a wasted trip.  Bearpit Karaoke really is a uniquely Berlin thing (as far as I’m aware) so whether you’re visiting the city for a weekend or are a permanent resident it is something you should experience at least once – whether you should sing or not, well that is something you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Plötzensee – an inner city Berlin lake

The view along the lake from North West shore of Plötzensee in Wedding, Berlin

I have Cihan to thank for suggesting I visit Plötzensee, a small glacial lake in the residential area of Wedding in Berlin, for a wonderful afternoon and early evening spent there last week.

Smaller than many of Berlin’s more famous lakes Plötzensee is just a short stroll from the end stop of the M13 tram at Virchow-Klinikum and named after the roach (Plötze) that were abundant in its waters.

A number of information points around the lake tell its history and detail the wildlife to be found there.

Information about the fish at Plötzensee - a lake in Wedding, Berlin

There is also a Strandbad (a man-made beach) with the obligatory Strandkörbe (beach baskets) and a Biergarten on the south west shore.

The Strandbad (a man-made beach) at Plötzensee - a lake in Wedding, Berlin

As I took pictures of the Strandbad, a nearby sunbather pointed out a family of swans moving along the lake.

A family of swans at Plötzensee - a lake in Wedding, Berlin

I followed the swans to the north west shore (where I took the first image in this post) where they stopped to feed.

One of the adults watched me carefully until he or she realised that I was no threat.

A swan at Plötzensee - a lake in Wedding, Berlin

I was able to take lots of photographs of the cygnets before a helicopter flying overhead frightened them off.

A group of cygnets at Plötzensee - a lake in Wedding, Berlin

A Pair of Cygnets at Plötzensee - a lake in Wedding, Berlin

A Cygnet at Plötzensee - a lake in Wedding, Berlin

Prinzessinnengarten – An Urban Garden in Berlin

Prinzessinnengarten - Urban Garden in Berlin (screenshot from Prizessinnengarten - Berlin, Germany by Joseph Redwood-Martinez on Vimeo)

The Prinzessinnengarten (Princess Garden) is an urban garden on the side of a busy roundabout a few steps from the U-Bahn station at Moritzplatz in Berlin Kreuzberg.

In 2009, Nomadisch Grün (Nomadic Green), the brainchild of Robert Shaw and Marco Clausen, leased a patch of wasteland in order to realise their vision of a green space in the heart of the community.  The idea was born out of a trip Robert made to Cuba, where he saw similar spaces where people would gather to work, learn and relax.

In 2012 the Prinzessinnengarten faced the threat of closure.  The Berlin Property Fund was tasked by the Berlin Senate to find a buyer for the city-owned plot of land where the garden is based.

Nomadisch Grün sought to engage with the Berlin Senate to discuss the future of the project and collected 30,000 signatures on a petition to keep the Prinzessinnengarten open.

Thankfully, in this instance the Senate saw sense.  On 14 December 2012, The Berlin Property Fund agreed to return the land to the borough and the threat of closure was averted.

The Prinzessinnengarten still needs your help though.  The initiative does not receive any government backing and is funded by donations and sales of its produce.  The Let It Grow! campaign was launched to secure the funding needed to continue the good work and to provide more workshops and assist with community projects.

A crowdfunding page has been set up on startnext and so far €6,790 of the €22,000 target has been pledged.  The nature of startnext means that if the full target amount is not pledged by the closing date of 18 February 2013 all amounts will be returned to the donors.

Startnext Crowdfunding page – English

Startnext Crowdfunding page – Deutsch

In the following interview from the upcoming documentary Promises of Urban Agriculture, filmed at a time when the Prizessinnengarten was under threat, Marco Clausen, a co-founder of the garden talks about how the project got started and his visions for its future.

Prizessinengarten – Berlin, Germany

The Prinzessinengarten is currently on its Winter break but during the gardening season (from April 2013) a café and bar on the site sells food and drink made from the garden’s produce from 12:00 to 22:00.  On a summer’s evening it is a great place to sit with friends in a relaxed but buzzing atmosphere.

Schloss Charlottenburg – Part 1: The Palace Gardens and Grounds

Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin was built as a summer palace for Sophie Charlotte, by her husband, the Elector Friedrich III.

At the time of its construction the palace was in the village of Lietzow and was named Lietzenburg but both the palace and area were renamed Charlottenburg after Sophie Charlotte’s death in 1705.

The Schloss

Sophie Charlotte was a devoted patron of the arts and sciences and her palace was beautifully decorated and appointed.

The ornate gates and cupola of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin seen from the fountain in The Palace Gardens

The Cupola at Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin seen from The Palace Gardens

The inside of the palace is so breathtaking that it deserves a post of its own.

The Gardens

The Palace Gardens at Schloss Charlottenburg are in keeping with the grandeur of the palace itself.

It costs €12 to enter the Old Palce but access to the gardens is free so if you are limited by budget or time it’s worth the trip to Charlottenburg just to stroll here.

The Palace Gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin seen from the far side of the Carp lake in The Palace Gardens

The Palace Gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

The rear view of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin seen from The Palace Gardens

The Mausoleum

The Mausoleum, designed by Heinrich Gentz, with further additions by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, was built to house the remains of the Hohenzollern family.

The Mausoleum in The Palace Gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

For €2 you can enter the Hall of Remembrance in the Mausoleum to see the four marble grave statues of Queen Luise (Königin Luise), King Frederick William III (König Friedrich Wilhelm III), Kaiser William I (Kaiser Wilhelm I) and Queen Augusta (Kaiserin Augusta).

Grave Statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I in The Mausoleum in The Palace Gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

Grave Statues of Koenig Friedrich Wilhelm III and Koenigin Luise in The Mausoleum in The Palace Gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

Marble Eagle in The Mausoleum in The Palace Gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

The Altar in The Mausoleum in The Palace Gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

The Belvedere

The Belvedere houses the Berlin Porcelain Museum – a collection of more than 700 exhibits.  Originally built in 1788 to plans by Karl Gotthard Langhans to serve as a tea house it was rebuilt in 1971, having been destroyed in World War II.

The Belvedere, which houses the Berlin Porcelain Museum, seen through trees in the Palace Gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

The Belvedere, which houses the Berlin Porcelain Museum, in the Palace Gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

A gold statue atop The Belvedere in the Palace Gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

The Statues

The grounds and gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg are dotted with statues of varying styles.

A statue of a child carrying a lamb in The Palace Gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

A statue in the grounds of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

An Angel Statue in the grounds of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

A statue of Friedrich der Grosse (Friedrich II) in the grounds of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin

A trip to Schloss Charlottenburg would be on my must see list for anyone who is spending more than a couple of days in Berlin.  My visit here featured in my Almost 1 Year in Berlin post, a list of my highlights from my first twelve months in the city.

Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände

Disused rail tracks at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

An abundance of green space, the proliferation of graffiti and street art and the wealth of old industrial buildings are just some of the reasons why I love Berlin and Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände is the embodiment of all three.

The most prominent feature of the park, visible as you enter, is the 50m tall water tower.

A water tower through trees at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

Water Tower at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

Previously a railway marshalling yard, 18 hectares of land near S-Bahnhof Priesterweg in the Tempelhof area of Berlin has been turned over to nature.

Trees grow between the disused rail tracks and here and there are reminders of the site’s former life.

An old steam train at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

A metal box at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

A train Turning Circle at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

Vehicle at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

Nature has been slowly reclaiming the area since the train yard and depot closed in 1952 and the Nature Park was officially opened in 1999.

Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

A section of the park has been set aside for the legal spraying of graffiti under a set of rules:

Spraying is not allowed except at the walls of the “Tälchenweg” Monday through Saturday after 3pm;

Sundays and public holidays are completely “out”.

Within this: enjoy yourself.

But…

  1. We do not want to see any graffiti on buildings, the water tower, the “yellow wall”, on trees and artwork.
  2. Tags are not permitted on park benches, trees, litter bins or elsewhere.
  3. Please be sure to take all your belongings incl. cans, buckets, bottles and other litter with you; they are harmful to the natural environment.
  4. Please do keep to these simple straightforward rules.  Anyone ignoring them will be reported to the police.

But above all: have fun!

The legal graffiti spraying area in a tunnel at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

A face at the legal graffiti spraying area in a tunnel at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

Graffiti at the legal spraying area in a tunnel at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

The legal graffiti spraying area in a tunnel at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

It’s sad that despite these rules being displayed in both German and English, there are trees, walls and other objects outside the designated area that have been painted.

A tunnel at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

A tunnel and train tracks at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

It isn’t the most obvious of Berlin’s parks – the Tiergarten, Volkspark Friedrichshain and Treptower Park are all far more popular – but Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände is a great place for a relaxing walk.  The remnants of the park’s industrial past poking through the trees and the graffiti area make for an interesting backdrop and it’s well worth a visit, particularly on a sunny day.

Dappled sunlight through cobwebs at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

Autumn colours at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

The sun shines through the trees at Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände in Berlin

To visit Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände follow the signs from the platform at S-Bahnhof Priesterweg on the S2.  Admission is €1.

Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem

The Italian Garden and Main Greenhouse at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

With September providing a couple of unexpectedly sunny and warm days it seems appropriate to look back on my trip to the Botanischer Garten (Botanical Garden) in Berlin or Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem to use its full title.

It seems like a lifetime ago but actually it has only been a month.

The Botanischer Garten was pointed out to me from the train after my trip to Zur Bratpfanne for my favourite Currywurst in Berlin so far.  A visit was immediately added to my to-do list.

I entered the Botanischer Garten through the entrance on Unter den Eichen having caught the S-Bahn to Botanischer Garten station.

The history of the botanical garden dates back to reign of Friedrich Wilhelm in 1679, though it has only been in its present location since 1910.

A house at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

Having admired a rather grand building in the grounds and the beautiful gardens in front of it, I turned to look out on a large Lily pond.

A Lily Pond at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

Next I chose to walk through the Arboretum and Plant Geography sections of the gardens.  Whilst I was impressed by the well-maintained gardens and enjoyed looking at the plants, flowers and statues I have to admit to being a little underwhelmed at this point.

Meadow flowers at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

A statue at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

Crocosmia at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

After this I went to the Botanical Museum contained within the grounds.  As the descriptions of the exhibits and any audio or video were in German and the sun was shining outside I chose not to spend much time here.  I did, however, enjoy the dioramas of various landscapes and there were some impressive items.

A diorama on display at the Botanical Museum (Botanisches Museum) in Berlin

Fungi on display at the Botanical Museum (Botanisches Museum) in Berlin

A sculpture of the head of a Botanist on display at the Botanical Museum (Botanisches Museum) in Berlin

It was when I reached the Greenhouse Complex (Die Gewächshäuser) that the Botanischer Garten came into its own and I became really enthusiastic about my visit.

A cluster of 16 (mainly interconnected) greenhouses is open to the public and houses an impressive collection of tropical plants and flowers.

The main greenhouse (Das Große Tropenhaus) is one of the largest in the world and measures 60m x 30m and stands 23m tall.

Many of the plants and flowers here are grouped by geographical region or species.  One of my highlights, and recommended by friends before my visit, was the Cacti collection.

Cacti in the greenhouses at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

Cacti in the greenhouses at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

Cacti in the greenhouses at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

It was as well that I had been told about the Cacti collection as I found the greenhouses a little difficult to navigate and searching for them made me persevere and discover many more houses.

A mini waterfall in the greenhouses at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

Koi Carp in the greenhouses at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

A Rhododendron in the greenhouses at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

Coming out of the main greenhouse I walked through Café Anthurium and took the opportunity for some refreshment in the shape of a cold Berliner Kindl, which I took out onto the terrace overlooking the Italian Garden.

Cafe Anthurium, the main greenhouse and a pond at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

A statue at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

Completing my circuit of the park, and approaching the house I saw on entering, I walked past a beautiful collection of Dahlias.

Dahlias at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

Dahlias at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

Dahlias at the Botanical Garden (Botanischer Garten) in Berlin

For a selection of stunning macro photos of the plants and flowers at the Botanischer Garten I recommend this post on annenieannenou film.

Having only visited once on a bright, sunny summer’s day, I’m looking forward to seeing the effects of the changing seasons on the gardens.  If I stay in Berlin more permanently I’m sure I will visit the Botanischer Garten often and would probably buy a Multiple Ticket (which gives 4 visits for the price of 3 and is valid for 1 year) or possibly even an Annual Ticket.

I would also like to see one of the classical music performances that I’m told take place at 6pm on Friday evenings during the summer.

With about 22,000 different species of plants covering an area of 126 acres the Botanischer Garten is the kind of place that could take days to examine closely but is a great place to spend a few hours or even a day.

I spent about 4 hours there and would have stayed longer if I hadn’t been meeting friends for dinner at The Bird that evening.

If you’re visiting Berlin and looking to do something out of the centre I would certainly recommend a visit to the Botanischer Garten in the summer (I will hopefully be able to endorse it year-round once I’ve visited more myself) and do yourself a favour and get Currywurst from Zur Bratpfanne on your way home.

The Tiergarten

A close up of Das Deutsche Volklied, a statue in the Tiergarten in BerlinBerlin’s largest park, the Tiergarten, seemed like the perfect place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.  So yesterday, with Berlin enjoying some much needed sunshine, that’s exactly where I went.

And I wasn’t the only one.

Some people chose a spot on the banks of the canal and were absorbed in a book, others lay in the grass in one of the many open spaces, entwined in the arms of a lover, but everyone was enjoying the relative peace in the heart of the city.

But the Tiergarten is such a large park that even on a hot summer’s day when everyone has the same idea and people flock here it doesn’t feel overcrowded.

The name Tiergarten (Animal Park) comes from the park’s previous life as the hunting ground of the electors of Brandenburg when it was fenced off and stocked with deer and other animals.  It was Friedrich II (Friedrich der Grosse) who decided to turn the park over to the people of Berlin.

Some of the statues in the park hint at its history.

A hunting statue in the Tiergarten in Berlin

A close up of a hunting statue in the Tiergarten in Berlin

And there are many more statues in the Tiergarten – likenesses of poets, philosophers, composers and politicians and a memorial to Karl Liebknecht who was murdered there.

Das Deutsche Volklied, a statue in the Tiergarten in Berlin

A statue of Richard Wagner in the Tiergarten in Berlin

A statue of Prussian Field Marsall, Helmult Graf Von Molke, in the Tiergarten in Berlin

The Karl Liebknecht Memorial in the Tiergarten in Berlin

I was so taken by the Bismarck Memorial that I think I will devote a whole post to it soon.

The Bismarck Memorial in the Tiergarten in Berlin

It is hard to believe walking along the park’s leafy paths or enjoying its shady spots that almost all of the trees here were chopped down to be used as firewood in the aftermath of World War II.

One of many paths in the Tiergarten in Berlin

The Tiergarten is home to some of Berlin’s most famous landmarks: The Siegessäule, Schloss Berllevue, the Zoo and one of Berlin’s Soviet memorials.

There’s no shortage of water in the park either.  The Landwehrkanal and the River Spree  both run through it and those eager to get out on the water can row a boat on the Neuer See.

Rowing on the Neuer See in the Tiergarten in Berlin

As the park is so vast, walking here in hot weather generates a thirst but the Tiergarten is home to two of my favourite Berlin Biergartens but more of them here.

This is one of those places that has something for everyone.

A relaxing spot in the Tiergarten in Berlin

A tranquil spot in the Tiergarten in Berlin

A beautiful garden in the Tiergarten in Berlin

There’s even a section for devotees of Freikörperkultur (free body culture to those in the know – or getting naked to the rest of us), which you can read more about on Travels of Adam.

And as with everywhere in Berlin, the Tiergarten is full of surprises, such as this tree, into which, the lyrics of Ben E King’s Stand By Me have been carved.

The lyrics to Ben E King's Stand By Me carved into the trunk of a tree in the Tiergarten in Berlin

Tempelhof Airport

The Tempelhof Airport building in Berlin from the apronA tour of the disused Tempelhof Airport in Berlin offers a fascinating insight into the city’s history, an example of public space being put to good use, if only temporarily, and leaves unanswered questions about the area’s future.

During Berlin Fashion Week I was lucky enough to get the chance to go to the Bread & Butter Summer 2012 event at Tempelhof Airport.  Not only that, I got to write a post about the experience for one of my favourite Berlin blogs, überlin.

As if that wasn’t enough, during the Bread & Butter show it was possible to take a free Historic Tempelhof Airport Tour. An experience I was determined not to miss.

You only have to look at the scale and splendour of the facades of the airport to recognise the hand of Albert SpeerHitler’s architect for his Welthauptstadt Germania designed many colossal buildings according to his Führer’s wishes and a testing stone for some of his plans is described in my Hitler’s Folly – Schwerbelastungskörper post.

It was Speer who insisted on changes to the original designs of Ernst Sagebiel to make the building more monumental but Tempelhof Airport, like so many of Hitler’s plans, was a victim of his lust for war and Speer’s vision was never fully realised.

For instance, the intention was that the full 1.2km span of the airport roof would be terraced (a section can be seen in the photo below) so that the airport itself became part of a spectacular stadium for the air shows that would take place on the airfield below.

The terracing on the roof of Tempelhof Airport in Berlin that was to be part of a huge stadium for spectators to watch air shows

The view along the roof to a radar dome at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin

The far reaches of the airfield away from the terminal buildings were also to be banked and the whole stadium would have had capacity for 1,000,000 spectators.

The airfield from the roof of the Tempelhof Airport in Berlin

During the war, parts of the basement in the airport were used as air shelters for those working in the building and some of the local residents.  During the tour you can see the artwork on the walls, common to shelters in Germany at this time.

Petrine und Pauline artwork on the wall of an air raid shelter in the basement of Tempelhof Airport in Berlin

Another example of the changed vision is that when the Americans took control of the airport in 1945 they elected to create runways running East-West across the airfield contrary to the original North-South plans.

The original plans had water running from the cascades at the Kreuzberg Monument all the way to the terminal buildings and the runways continuing past them along the same line.

Evidence of the American’s use of the airport as an Air Force base can be seen in the basketball court at the top of the building.

The logo of the Berlin Braves in the centre of the basketball court at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin

Tempelhof’s most valuable contribution to the people of West Germany was the part it played in the Berlin Airlift.

In 1948 the Soviets blockaded the rail and road supply routes to West Berlin and cut off gas and electricity supplies in an attempt to create a stranglehold and force the Allied Forces out of the city.   For 11 months, essential supplies were flown into Berlin by the Allies to sustain the people.  By the time the blockade was lifted more than 2.3 million tonnes of goods and fuel had been flown in by almost 278,000 flights.

Even its present day incarnation, the main hall of the airport housing the check in desks is breathtakingly huge.

The Main Hall and Check In area at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin during Bread & Butter Summer 2012

But when you find out that the ceiling height was lowered and see the vast space above that was originally part of it, you begin to appreciate just how incredible this building once was.

The extra ceiling height taken form the Main Hall at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin

There is also evidence in the signage and fixtures of the airport of updates to the interior design in later decades.

A sign for the toilets at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin

A Fire Extinguisher sign in the hangar space at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin

A clock on the wall of the Main Hall at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin

For now, public use of the terminal buildings is restricted to events like Bread & Butter or music events like the Berlin Festival but the airfield, the Tempelhofer Freiheit, has been open to the public as a park since May 2010.

It is a popular recreational area with the runways used for cycling, rollerblading and kite-surfing and families and groups of friends grilling on the grass.  There is also a section that has been taken over for urban gardening and Berliners are always finding new ways to enjoy themselves here – on 4 August 2012 the Tempelhofer Freiheit will host the Slowlympics, an event organised by Slow Travel Berlin.

The current plans for the airfield include some pockets of new housing with much of the space remaining as a public park but our guide was unsure how these plans might be altered following the recent cancellation of the International Horticultural Exposition of 2017 on the site.

There are also plans to open part of the airport building to the public, housing a café and restaurant/bar and giving access to sections of the roof, affording wonderful views over the airfield and beyond.

I would recommend a tour of Tempelhof Airport to anyone with an interest in Nazi-era architecture or Berlin history but if this isn’t your idea of fun you should at least visit the park – a unique public space in the heart of the city.

Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park

The statue of a Soviet soldier carrying a German child and crushing a Swastika beneath his boot with the sun behind it at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park in BerlinOne thing I learned from visiting the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin’s Treptower Park is that the Soviets knew how to remember their dead.

After a recent visit to the Soviet War Memorial on Strasse des 17 Juni, I was determined to see this grander version, which I had read about in my guidebooks before my first trip to Berlin but had still not seen until last week.  And now I’ve already been twice.

When I got my first glimpse of the manicured lawns, the symmetrical beauty of the landscaping and marvellous sculptures, my immediate thought was ‘this is now one of my favourite places in Berlin’.

The mass graves and the statue at the Soviet War Memorial in Teptower Park in Berlin

My first visit was on Monday morning, with the sun behind the monumental statue of the Soviet soldier carrying a rescued German child as he crushes a Swastika beneath his boot.  It was difficult to capture the features of this statue facing into such strong sunlight so I returned on Wednesday evening when the sun had swung round so that it was behind the statue of Mother Russia at the other end of the memorial.

The statue of Mother Russia at the Soviet War Memorial in Teptower Park in Berlin

I entered the memorial from the north so it was only after I had reached this statue and turned to my left that I was able to see the scale of what had been built here.

The red granite and a statue of a kneeling soldier at the Soviet War Memorial in Teptower Park in Berlin

A close up from below of a statue of a kneeling soldier at the Soviet War Memorial in Teptower Park in Berlin

I then walked along the paved slope up to the two red granite blocks and kneeling soldiers that seem to form a gateway to the next section leading to the statue, which is said to represent Sergeant of the Guards Nikolai Masalov.

I walked past the five lawns with their bronze wreaths, marking the mass graves of Soviet soldiers and flanked by sixteen stone sarcophagi and climbed the steps to the mausoleum crowned by the impressive statue.

The statue of a Soviet soldier carrying a German child and crushing a Swastika beneath his boot at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park in Berlin

The statue of a Soviet soldier carrying a German child and crushing a Swastika beneath his boot from the steps at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park in Berlin

A close up of the statue of a Soviet soldier carrying a German child and crushing a Swastika beneath his boot at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park in Berlin

It was after admiring the mosaic tiling of the mausoleum and as I rounded the statue that I felt what I thought was a scratch on my calf and looked down to see a wasp stinging me as the pain intensified slightly.  I managed to strangle the swear word threatening to escape my lips as I remembered where I was just in time.  In the end what I mumbled was something like ‘You bssst’.

The view from the statue at the Soviet War Memorial in Teptower Park in Berlin back towards the red granite gateway

And being stung was probably the only thing that meant this wasn’t a perfect morning in Berlin, enjoying the sunshine and experiencing the awe of a first visit to the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park.

The detail on the base of the statue at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park in Berlin

A tourist takes a photo of the statue of a Soviet soldier carrying a German child and crushing a Swastika beneath his boot at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park in Berlin

The view from the statue at the Soviet War Memorial in Teptower Park in Berlin over the mass graves towards the red granite gateway

The red granite gateway and statues of kneeling soldiers at the Soviet War Memorial in Teptower Park in Berlin

A close up from below of a statue of a kneeling soldier at the Soviet War Memorial in Teptower Park in Berlin

Volkspark Friedrichshain

Monument to Polish Soldiers and German Anti-Fascists in Volkspark Friedrichshain in Berlin

The sun was shining on Berlin yesterday and despite a slight drop in the temperature I still thought it was a perfect day to explore one of Berlin’s many parks.

I have passed Volkspark Friedrichshain on the tram a number of times and spotted joggers making their way into, around or out of it but yesterday was my first visit.

The fist thing I noticed as I walked into the park from Danziger Strasse was the Slackline.  At first, I thought it was a Zip Wire and images of the assault course on the Krypton Factor (a UK TV programme) filled my head but as I got closer a figure leapt on to the wire and arms out wide for balance started to make steady progress along the line between two trees.

As I had seen before there were still plenty of people out for a run but there were also others relaxing on the grass enjoying a beer or Club-Mate, a couple strumming guitars, people using the climbing rock and a roller-blader circling the paths.

The two hills in the park the Grosse Bunkerberg and the Kleine Bunkerberg were formed of the rubble of two wartime bunkers.  Not that you’d know they weren’t natural features to look at them now.

Walking through the park I also saw a Beach Volleyball court, a duck pond, a Café and a whole host of statues.

I can imagine as spring turns to Summer, Volkspark Friedrichshain will be filled with Berliners soaking up the sun and making the most of this green space in the city.

Mutter Mit Kind (Mother With Child) Sculpture in Volkspark Friedrichshain in Berlin

A statue to Friedrich der Grosse (Frederick The Great) in Volkspark Friedrichshain in Berlin

The Spanish Civil War Monument in Volkspark Friedrichshain in Berlin

A close up of the Spanish Civil War Monument in Volkspark Friedrichshain in Berlin