Friday, 18 July 2014

Shoe Gardens and Football in Berlin

Hen weekend shenanigans aside, I didn't really do much sightseeing this time round in Berlin. It was my third trip, so I'd already seen the major monuments, and with temperatures up to about 30 degrees most days, enjoying the outdoors seemed like a better use of time.

My "hidden gem" discovery in Berlin was the gardens of the Schloß Schönhausen. The Schönhauser Allee is one of the main arteries of Berlin, so famous there was even a book written about it, but few people seem to know that if you continue north into Pankow, in an area slightly to the east of the main road that is mainly filled with block-like typical DDR apartment buildings, you will come across this little castle, set in verdant grounds. Admittedly, the "castle" itself is not that impressive (it's more of a stately home), but even on a sunny Sunday afternoon in July, its grounds were like a quiet little Eden where my friend and I were able to relax on the lawn (we may even have fallen asleep ... ) with almost nobody else to disturb us. And, unlike in the worn-out Mauerpark, the grass was actually green!

On another hot day, my friend took me to Tempelhoferfeld, which last time I went to Berlin was still a working airfield but has now been turned into a public park. Tempelhof airport was the site of the Berlin airlift, which took place in 1948 when the Soviet Union blocked access to Berlin from the west in an attempt to make the whole city dependent on Soviet supplies. The success of the western allies in delivering necessities by air via Tempelhof was one of the factors which resulted in the creation of the two separate German states. Nowadays, the airport building is used for conferences and exhibitions and you can run, cycle, rollerblade or even take a Sedgway around the old runways. One part of the park has been turned into what look like little and somewhat unofficial allotments, of which this was my favourite:

The other big event of my trip was watching the World Cup semi-finals. We went to Emils Biergarten on the Berliner Strasse, where bars have been set up in converted industrial buildings (actually, I don't think much converting really went on!) surrounding a pebbled yard where a big TV screen had been set up. After half-watching far too many dull games go on into extra time from our Parisian sofa, I can't say I was particularly looking forward to this one, but wow, what a match! I kept thinking we were watching replays, then realising that we weren't, as Germany scored goal after goal. And every time, the venue erupted with cheers, my friends and I high-fived and somebody not far off set off some fireworks. When it was over, we walked down to Ebenswalder Strasse, where lots of fans were celebrating in the street. At this point, I started feeling a bit out of things, as everyone was singing songs I didn't know ("sieben, eins" and "so schoen" came into it a lot!) and trying to do a thing where everybody was supposed to crouch down then stand up again at the same time, except that it never really worked. Although there was a fair amount of drinking going on, and everyone was banging on the tram windows as they tried to drive past, it was all being done in good spirits and I definitely felt I had had an exciting new cultural experience!


  1. I'm going to Berlin next June for a conference (my second time). I'll definitely check out that cute shoe garden!

  2. How awesome to be in Berlin to watch that Germany Brazil game - even here in Canada I was cheering Germany on! They really deserved the win this time round.

  3. That match was past my bedtime unfortunately. Must have been a great atmosphere in Berlin!