You didn’t have to live in Russia or the U.S. to be impacted by the Cold War–or the Berlin Wall, one of the most visual reminders to the whole world of the great divide. However, it wasn’t until I got lost on a Berlin city walk that I even thought about how people on the West side of the wall, who were more or less trapped on a fortified island, dealt with it.
What did they do?
They nurtured green spaces, something modern city planners have learned is fundamental to human and environmental health. In fact, between green spaces and water, nearly half of Berlin is occupied by Mother Nature rather than concrete.
Berliners, though, it seems have always had a love affair with the great outdoors and valued their people’s parks and allotment gardens, which grew up during industrialization. The gardens, in particular, provided those who’d left the countryside to move to cities for work, to grow some of their own food.
But back to getting lost, or more accurately, not having much success at using Google Maps on my smartphone to find my way, and eventually getting a taxi. In looking back, it was a good thing as it lead me through Großer Tiergarten, or Tiergarten, Berlin’s most popular inner city park.
Joggers, dads and moms pushing baby carriages, couples walking their dogs, young people laughing and sharing an afternoon, all appeared then quickly disappeared on the paths into the forest. The city sights and sounds faded away and I was enjoying Berlin as millions have done since the early 1500s when Tiergarten was preserved as the hunting area for the Elector of Brandenburg. Elector Friedrich III officially made it a pleasure park for the people in the 17th century.
When the trees thinned, I discovered the Soviet War Memorial–a large statue of a Soviet soldier. It had been erected by the Soviet Union in 1945, shortly after the capture of Berlin, to honor the soldiers who had died during this final major battle of World War II. The Park, like much of Europe, had been destroyed by bombs and stripped of what timber could be cut for people to keep warm.
Today, Tiergarten has returned to its natural beauty and provides a tranquil place to consider its centuries of history.
Infographic of Berlin City Walks
This infographic provides a visual walking map of Berlin with a path that takes you through some of the most important walking trails. Click here for the full-size image.