Inner city retreats: Part 1

Berlin means different things to different people. For some it’s hanging out at Mauerpark markets , drinking a beer on the “in” side streets of Neukölln & Kreuz-Kölln or vernisages and new party places in Friedrichshain. For me finding something ordinary rather than extraordinary is what keeps me in a constant state of fascination and intrigue as to what else this city has to offer.
On the outer suburban district of Templehof-Schöneberg nestled between the old Schultheiss brewery and the Sbahn line Priesterweg has got to be one of the more unusual sites I have seen in a long time. An abandoned railway yard in use up to 1931 housing 69 locomotive trains and a work station has been transformed into a natural urban reserve through the help of conservationists, artists and the regeneration of wildlife and fauna.

The twisted railway tracks and abandoned buildings of these 18 hectare grounds have been revisited by some of the rarest plant, animal and bird life in the whole of Germany. This fusion of nature and man’s broken down civilization gives the visitor both a surreal feeling of the desolate and abandoned with the bliss and constant activity of forest life survival.

The Schöneberg urban nature park is currently home to two thirds of Germany’s 280 bird species including Owls, Peregrine Falcons ,Ospreys, Goshawks, Kestrel and Nightingales. There are bumblebees, 57 different spider species, endangered butterflies and Europe’s most northerly breeding colony of Praying mantis. 350 plant types, 49 giant mushroom varieties. 95 wildbienarten, 15 Heustreckenarten and 30 brutvogelarten. There are climbing towers to get a better view of the park an old steam train permanently parked at the entrance. A cafe and a 100 metre graffiti wall to paint on free of prosecution as long as you stick to painting the wall and not the trees poking up through the train tracks or the buildings scattered around the grounds.

Much of the depots material have been incorporated into the surroundings. Sculptures made from the metal track work , signposts from parts of the trains. The platforms and railway sleepers are lodged in the ground to provide walkways for visitors to prevent destruction of the pollen and recolonized wild flowers. This process of decay and renewal working in tandem is rather harmonious and beautiful. You get the sense that nature has come back to claim what is rightfully hers like tree stumps poking up through cement pavement.

In the distance I see the old Schultheis brewery puffing smoke into the sky next door to a giant IKEA superstore and this is makes standing in such tranquil spot in the inner city even more surprising. As cities strive to become cleaner and more responsible regarding waste management and pollution its seems wildlife is finding urban rather than rural areas more liveable than chemically treated farmlands and cleared forests. An interesting experiment this is and hopefully more places like this and particularly along the spree river are shown the same respect than what property developers have in mind. For summer 2014 Alternative Berlin tours launches our Green tour taking in this location and tranquil spots.

Opening times are Fridays, Saturdays from 1pm-7pm. Sundays 11am-7pm
Sbahn Priesterweg S2,S25 or bus 17

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