“Around the edges and beyond”

Imagine the TV Tower is in fact a ginormous hand on a clock. Now you’ve already seen all of modish Mitte, you followed the Zeitgeist to Neukölln and now you yearn to conquer new territories? Well then steer towards 12 o’clock up north to Pankow and Weißensee.

Once you arrive in Pankow with the U2, you are suddenly surrounded by village green, a church and vegetable stands, etc. Prenzlauer Berg’s family friendliness echoes out here in all directions so you’ll probably feel quite at home in this quaint residential area. What also stands out is that many “new-Berliners” come here for the down-to-earth vibe. For cultural buffs there’s Schloss Hohenschönhausen, for nature friends a big park and bicyclists will be delighted by the Panke-Radweg (bikeway) which courses through Karower Teiche and Schlosspark Buch. Catch up on some history at the Majakowskiring where the GDR’s political notables once resided.
In the northernmost part of Pankow, things start to get very interesting. At the Gläsernes Labor on the campus of Berlin-Buch, pupils can conduct their own experiments in modern laboratories.

Did we take you out too far? Then why don’t we shift directions to 1 o’clock – that’s Weißensee! The main attraction here is definitely the lake of its namesake and the commercial bathhouse, which is also a happening event location. Take a dip in the remarkably clear water and follow it up with a round of cocktails. Across the way, Milchhäuschen offers sheer nostalgia. The neighborhood around Pistoriousstraße has amazing architecture and at Antonplatz (Kino Toni) there’s vestiges of East Berliner “Kiez” life. The famous art college Weißensee reflects its international horizons and by the time you reach the Jüdischer Friedhof Weißensee, you know why the trip up north was worth your while. Europe’s largest Jewish cemetery – over 115,000 burial sites – is pushing for UNESCO world heritage status.

At approximately 3 o’clock lies the district of Lichtenberg, a name that’s always dropped in discussions about “the next up-and-coming” district in Berlin (translation: ripe for gentrification), yet they somehow haven’t managed to shake off that old (Nazi) label. Without the Theater an der Parkaue and the Stadtpark, this area would feel bleak and desolate. The Stasizentrale (Stasi Headquarters) and Memorial are nearby and the right streetcar (M8 or 21) will get you to the Dong Xuan Center. You will feel transported to the colorful continent of Asia. And when speaking of continents, they’re all represented by the animal world of Tierpark Friedrichsfelde with its expansive park grounds. Slightly further East, in Marzahn, the Gärten der Welt (Gardens of the World) shifts the focus to flora with a string of gorgeous, exotic gardens with various cultural roots. Don’t lose your way in that wily labyrinth! Near the Spree lies the village of Rummelsburg – an exclusive riverside community – which is well worth a visit for its Paul-und-Paula Ufer (embankment) and the former GDR detention center. Across the water, peninsular Stralau mirrors Rummelsburg with its display of luxurious estates. A lovely route for joggers, a village church and a scenic spot at the southern end complete the program.

Opposite from here, (at around 4 o’clock) Treptower Park resides. Most Berliners, and naturally even more visitors, are only familiar with the area surrounding the event location Arena in the northern part of Treptow, or they know Adlershof, a science haven located in the south. There are a number of popular locations by the water in the vicinity of the Arena: Arena Club, Badeschiff, Club der Visionäre, White Trash Fast Food, Freischwimmer and Chalet… In the summertime, the area is busy and bustling and there is a lot happening on this or that pasture. One shouldn’t miss out on visiting the Treptower Park with its port, the Soviet War Memorial and also the Archenhold Sternwarte (astronomical observatory, Germany’s oldest one). Die Insel and the Eierschale Zenner are two widely different rest stops to choose from. A little wanderlust takes you up the Spree river through Plänterwald (forest), here still lie the remains of a the GDR-amusement park VEB Kulturpark Berlin. At the ferry station Baumschulenweg, you can ferry across the river and walk through an area that is experiencing a surge of optimism comparable to the 90’s: Oberschöneweide. The Spree clubs of the last decade are all but gone and the only available space left along the Spree for creative endeavors and epic parties happens to be in Oberschöneweide – a disreputable area, until now. On the former industrial grounds (AEG, Kabelwerke) there’s an incredible resurgence. The Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft (College of Technology and Business) even has a new campus here, and it makes sense that there’s also a museum for industrial culture: Industriesalon Schöneweide. Such an exciting area, if only it were easier to get here from the city center. If you’re looking for more nature, just press onward towards Wuhlheide and walk through a so called “Gartenkolonie”, (community of hobby gardeners keeping tiny little green spots for summertime enjoyment) all the way FEZ (Freizeit und Erholungszentrum), a leisure and recreation center, another relic from the GDR-era. As opposed to the faded state, this institution seems to function very well, especially for youngsters. BMXers and skaters of all ages have already found nirvana, that is the Mellowpark. And for the old-schoolers amongst you, perhaps risk a foray to the Kindlbühne for the music and beer, or venture to perennial Bundesliga aspirant 1. FC Union and their Alte Försterei stadium.

Tempelhof at 6 o’clock: At its core is the Tempelhof Airport, or the area its 2008 phaseout left behind, formally referred to as the Tempelhofer Freiheit (freedom). Along its edges new building projects are sprouting from the ground, but hopefully the gigantic inner-city open space remains for as long as possible. The meadows are used for grilling and chilling; in Autumn the kites climb up to the clouds. The former runway can be utilized in manifold fashion: via inline skating, bicycling, segwaying, kite landboarding and even cross-country skiing in the Winter. By the way, Germany’s largest and most beautiful Mosque, the Sehitlik Mosque, can be found next door.
The westwards adjoining district Steglitz is regarded for its ample shopping possibilities. No other street in Berlin can boast the shoulder-to-shoulder shopping centers of Schloßstrasse. The Feuerbach is the go-to brunch address in these parts. The Spring and Summer are an especially inviting time for the Botanische Garten, but even during the snowy wintry months one can escape the beastly cold in their tropical greenhouse. Moving along to the more tranquil and posh district of Dahlem that features the Freie Universität. That old rambunctious spirit has long laid itself to rest, but they still excel with an elite science department and the outstanding Philologische Bibliothek. Dahlem’s academic history is best surveyed on a tour of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Further along, the Domäne Dahlem has a much earthier feel, quite literally in fact. It’s the perfect excursion for the agriculturally minded.

Now veer towards the Havel at 8 o’clock and you’ll approach Grunewald (green forest) with its Jagdschloss Grunewald. Grunewaldsee is a very popular destination for dog lovers as it has the biggest official dog beach around. Allergy sufferers and dog haters should steer clear. The district of Grunewald is synonymous with affluence. Even if you’re just passing through on the bus and get a glimpse of the pompous villas, it becomes obvious how well-to-do these folks are in reality. Speaking of bus, the M19 runs from the city to S-Bahnhof Grunewald where you can visit the Gleis 17, a gripping memorial for the deportation of the Jews in the Third Reich. If you crave a little boulevard, hop onto the M29 to Roseneck and have yourself a slice of cheesecake at the Wiener Café amongst their very dignified clientele. Admittedly it’s a congregation of fancy Wilmersdorfer widows, but occasionaly the likes of celebrity coiffeur Udo Walz, 85-year young playboy Rolf Eden and extravagant German fashion designer Glööckler will drop in here. The athletes among us might conquer the Teufelsberg to attain a spectacular view of the city with often resplendent sunsets. Berlin’s highest elevation is in truth manmade (its merely a heap of rubble from WWII). You can also see the vandalism caused by the American monitoring systems formerly stationed here.

Now its shortly before 9 o’clock and we can already make out the ICC in the distance. If it isn’t work related, we couldn’t care less about the Messegelände (trade fair grounds). Far more enticing is the Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium) including its auxiliary sports facilities. Its history (1936 Olympic Games) is put into context through a behind-the-scenes tour or simply with audio guide. Northwest of here is a quiet residential area. Off on the horizon, the “Ernst-Reuter” cogeneration plant resembles a cloud factory on a clear winter’s day. Just beyond lies Spandau. The main attraction here is definitely the gigantic Zitadelle Spandau with its impressive bat colony and summertime Citadel Music Festival. Spandau boasts a charming Altstadt (historic old town), with rustic pubs and cosy breweries… and a lot of remarkable excursion areas such as Johannesstift, Fort Hahneberg, Juliusturm (tower) and the popular swimming spot named Bürgerablage.

Another upscale area – the Westend – can be accessed with the 104 bus. The Siemensstadt is a relic of the worker housing ideal from the early 20th century. Close by, the Jungfernheide is the biggest patch of green the inner-city has in store, where everyone can find their own personal serenity. To the north, the huge district of Reinickendorf awaits: green, aqueous and contemplative like the Buddhistische Haus or the Humboldtschlößchen. Popular day trip destinations include the Greenwichpromenade (with river cruise port), the rustic Alt-Tegel (home of “Florida Eis” ice cream), the “Dicke Marie” (oldest tree in town) and the Borsighallen (shopping mall in a former railroad factory).

The permanent provisional airport Tegel will be heavily relied on for some time to come. In close proximity you’ll discover the Gedenkstätte Plötzensee, a memorial for the 3000 civilians executed in the space of 1933-1945. Also, the Gedenkkirche Maria Regina Martyrum, an architectural marvel of a church that pays homage to the martyrs of freedom of religion / thought.

The clock’s hand now points to 10 or 11, ergo we’re entering Moabit. These parts, which border the government district, are so unpretentious and Berliner-like it’s difficult to fathom how centrally located yet unspectacular it is. Many new-Berliners who can’t afford or stand the trendier neighborhoods are concocting something special here. Our tip is the Buchkantine, a Berliner amalgamation that could only work here. Or check out television personality Freddy Leck and his Waschsalon. The same can be said about the neighboring district of Wedding, which is currently conducting mutiny against starboard Prenzlauer Berg for captaincy of the party / art scenes. The Stattbad Wedding is a fantastic venue and especially endearing is the WG (Weine + Geflügel) , (Wine + Poultry). You won’t likely find a place in Berlin that is more bare-boned and glamour-less than Leopoldplatz and Müllerstraße.

Lastly, two excursions to an entirely different Berlin:

Köpenick is its own world, and is actually older than Berlin. The “Hauptmann (captain) from Köpenick” brought fame to this district and between Dahme, Spree and Katzengraben, you will find a small, well-preserved town which was spared demolition during the GDR-era, with a castle, a historical town hall and a central town square harboring Germany’s smallest brewery. The street “Kietz” illustrates perfectly Köpenick’s past, as it used to be a fishing village. A new and quite energetic art initiative is determined to give the Altstadt some new impulses.

If you are already there, then you must pay Berlin’s largest lake Müggelsee a visit. It is known to display a tempestuous behavior as soon as the wind blows a little stronger. Just drive to S-Bahnhof Friedrichshagen, a former artist colony at the city gates. Directly at the train station, there lies Cinema Union (open-air cinema in the Naturtheater during summer). Simply walk down the interesting Bölschestraße that has been so lovingly restored and after passing the brewery grounds you’ll arrive at a small park with a fancy restaurant and concrete beach bar. You continue your promenade through the brick-red village built at the beginning of the 20th century, that was actually once a water work and is partly a museum today. Behind it, you’ll find the natural bathing areas on the north-bank. A little further, you reach the Strandbad Müggelsee (beach), desperately needing a makeover but free of charge and open all year. Alternatively, it can be reached from the Bahnhof (train station) with tram 61.

Next door, you‘ll have the opportunity to satisfy your cravings for watersports at the surfing and sailing school Borkenbude am Borkenstrand. Even many Berliners are unaware that three summertime ferries (with BVG fare) can transport you to delightfully secluded places.
For instance, take the F23 from Rahnsdorf to Neu-Helgoland (only in the summer and not on Mondays). There are two traditional day trip establishments here. Finally you can go swimming in the Kleiner Müggelsee (lake) and walk along the south shore of the Großer Müggelsee via the tourist restaurant Rübezahl to Friedrichshagen.

Our last suggestion is to head out to Grünau S-Bahn station. In the farthest south-eastern part of the city, you’ll discover an excursion destination that combines history, swimming, nature, sports and plenty of room for reflection. From the S-Bahn station, just hop on the legendary Waldstraßenbahn 68 direction Schmöckwitz. Continue past the Regattastraße/Sportpromenade where people rowed already in the Kaiser days and also during the Olympic Games of 1936. Get off at the Strandbad, which you don’t need to pay for considering all the untouched bathing spots around here. To your right is the nature reserve Krumme Lanke and straight ahead you can skate and cycle on the auto-free Sportpromenade. A solid snack bar can be found at the Ruderclub Sportlerdenkmal, and a more comprehensive option is the Westernrestaurant Richtershorn. Both offer a splendid view of the Müggelberge and the regatta course.

If it’s summertime, you’ll want to take the lovely riverside tram 68 a couple stations and get off at “Zum Seeblick” station. From there the F21 takes you to Krampenburg. You’ll first find a camping site based on the legendary camping grounds “Kuhle Wampe”. If you take the path along Langer See to Wendenschloss, at about half way you’ll reach the rustic old country inn Schmetterlingshorst. With the F12 at Müggelbergallee get back to your starting-point. If you still have the strength and want to take on the highest natural peak in Berlin, go hiking up the Müggelberge hills and find the spot that marks the peak. Ascend even further up the Müggelturm (rather decrepit) for an outstanding panorama view; even the BER-International disaster looks pretty good from this vantage point. With the F12 at Müggelbergallee get back to your starting-point.

Perhaps equally notorious as Hauptmann von Köpenick is the “Badehose vom Wannsee”. In the 20’s, Berliners rode the new S-Bahn and on their way into the “Jrüne” (green) they would sing: “Bring your bathing suit along…“.

From S-Bahnhof Nikolassee, the Wannseebadweg leads to the famous Strandbad Wannsee. On the way, you’ll pass the Spinnerbrücke (bridge), an ideal motorbikers’ meeting point (there are sometimes so many bikes that you can’t see the street any more). As an alternative, you can also take the road to the crystal-clear Schlachtensee by going on the other side of the station. This lake is very popular with the Berliners. There, you’ll find rowing boats to rent with a lot of shaded areas, and on the other end of the lake is the popular though rather pricey Fischerhütte. Or you can take the previously mentioned bus 218 from the Wannseebadweg, taking you to the Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island). After a short trip – by ferry (!), this island not only features peacocks running freely, but also a palace to visit and a lot of opportunities to laze around and enjoy this little paradise. If you don’t take the ferry, then take the path going west, along the Havel riverbanks. Now you have reached the prominent church St. Peter and Paul and the Blockhaus Nikolskoe which serves a wonderful hearty cuisine. A little further, you’ll discover the historic guesthouse Moorlake with excellent cakes. With renewed energy, how about marching through Schlosspark Glienicke to Glienicker Brücke (bridge) and feast your eyes on a truly magnificent panoramic view of Potsdam, which you can learn more about in our next chapter.

The most popular ferry (F10) plies between Wannsee and Kladow starting at Wannsee Pier (Wannsee S-Bahn station) every hour on the hour. After a wonderful 20-minute trip, you land at the little marina of Alt-Kladow where the shore is crowded with restaurants. If you want to explore Kladow, walk along the Havel into Sacrow (Potsdam) where you can see a little jewel of a church, the Heilandskirche (Church of Our Savior) in Schlosspark Sacrow. Or would you rather go swimming? Take the 218 bus direction Theodor-Heuss Platz and at the Havelchaussee stop, you can almost plunge out of the bus into the water and then while away the day in one of the sandy bays. The Grunewaldturm (tower) is close by and sits above the tree tops with a great view and a beer garden. Although macabre, the Selbstmörderfriedhof (suicide cemetery) sits in an idyllic setting. Nico of the Velvet Underground has her final resting place here.