Autumn is a good time to visit Berlin. Lets be honest, you’ll never hear me say there’s a bad time to visit. But Autumn being my favourite month and Berlin. being my favourite city…well the two together make for a winning combination. There are many things to love about Berlin. The creative, modern buzz. Its fascinating, many layered history. If you are fortunate enough to be visiting Berlin this Autumn and would like to see where creativity meets history in the great outdoors, just a short journey from the main tourist hubs lies Naturpark Schoneberger Suedgelande.
The Naturpark is a triumph of nature just a short distance from the centre of modern-day Berlin. Now a city park, this site was an industrial hub in its former life as a train yard. It operated throughout both world wars, but was gradually closed down following the end of the WW2. By 1952 it was completely closed and , left to get on with it, nature crept back in to reclaim the site. In the late 1990s, thanks to people power and some generous funding , the site was officially reopened as a public park.
Many of the original features have been retained, creating an interesting juxtaposition of heavy industry and natural beauty. The 50m water tower is one of the parks best known landmarks.
Around the bottom of the water tower stand former industrial buildings, many which have been repurposed as creative spaces for exhibition and performance. The vast train hall is now used as a cultural and creative venue. However, its past use is still very much in evidence. The space still holds that industrial, oily smell and various fittings and features have been left in situ. Including a huge bell that I , she who cannot just look with her eyes, couldn’t resist ringing with great enthusiasm. And encouraging the kids to do likewise. Until a grumpy looking chap emerged from the office, I think to tell me off. At which point the family deserted me and I shuffled off sheepishly.
The thread of creativity runs through the park. There are several sculptures, some of which are made from materials salvaged from the site. Berlin is a city that draws creative minds, and creativity needs an outlet. Here, this takes the form of the graffiti wall and tunnel, a stretch of park where spray painting is allowed. And although creativity may not have limits, it does have strict rules about where artists are permitted to spray.
Elevated walkways follow the path of the old railroad to take you on a 1km walk through the park. The biodiversity here is impressive. Numerous species of plants, trees, birds and animals thrive despite being just a short distance from the metropolis that is Berlin. The park was teeming with red squirrels when we visited, quite a treat to be able to observe them, especially when so many British city parks have been commandeered by their grey counterparts.
But of course a train yard isn’t much without trains and despite the fact the site has been reincarnated as a nature park and place of recreation, you will still find trains here. Small flat-bed wagons double up as a climbing opportunity for younger visitors…older ones too, if they are feeling limber. FYI, it’s very hard to clamber on and off those things with any poise or dignity. There is also a full-sized steam train that is sited so that the visitor rounds the corner and almost stumbles upon it. Seeing this relic now nestled in amongst the trees is quite something.
Berlin is a city of parks and gardens and this is not the biggest, nor the best known. It is one of the most charming and unique though. Its unique character doesn’t just stem from its past. This former rail yard is accessed via a modern-day, fully working station , Bahnhof Priesterweg, and working rail tracks skirt the edges of the site. It brings something to the experience that, as you walk the former railroads and stumble upon artefacts of the past, the background noise is that of the railways in action. This is a place that takes history, nature and creativity and blends them seamlessly. And that is just so Berlin.
Until Next Time,