Monday, December 19, 2016

Naturpark Schöneberg - Berlin's best kept secret

After so many years of intensive Berlin life, when I assume I know about almost every single secret corner of the city, it is a big event to discover something new. However, instead of complaining about the long gray days and sparse light hours, I decided to surprise myself and try finding unique ways for some short baby walk and photographic opportunities. Thus, I stumbled upon Naturpark Schöneberg, apparently one of the best kept secret around.
The park can be reached by foot from Priesterweg S-Bahn station. A colourful yellow stone-arched entrance guarded by a metal tower makes the entrance into a huge natural space with industrial-designed items spread all over the view.
Pathways covered by leaves in the middle of naked trees take you deep into the heart of nature. Specific signs let you know that on your way you might encounter birds or some little animals. 
The ugly concrete walls of the entrance are creatively decorated with street art, a trademark of Berlin.
The current Naturpark used to be between 1889 and 1952 a rail yard, with its own train station, a stop on the train journey from Berlin to Dresden. Since the 1950s, the area was disaffected from industrial activities and slowly turned into a natural park. 
Inside a huge hall where souvenirs or some mulled wine can be tasted, remains of the older train active times are left, alongside train parts and old rails. 
In order to keep up with the original destination of the place, huge pieces of art made of industrial materials are exhibited in 'Il Giardino Segreto' - The Secret Garden. 
Vivid colours bring life to the monotony and industrial art creatively binding various metal parts, trying to defy gravitation and other usual rules of physics are an invitation to see the world differently, even when there is so much ugliness at the first sight.
Especially for a grown up children, this place can be a place of exploration and discovery. Some of the old trains are left in the middle of the young forest and can be touched. Special tours around the location are regularly organised in the weekends. 
As a solitary independent visitor, you just need to follow the old rail tracks and finding your way is not difficult. The park it is open as early as 9 o'clock and unless there are some cultural happenings or children events organised, the place is almost empty.
I particularly loved the co-existence found between nature and industry, with the vegetation spread among the rails and huge tunnels going nowhere left open for exploration.
Once in a while, there are some observation points from where one can overview the immensity of the place or hope to catch some sign of life of animals or birds nests. The overwhelming silence is regularly cut short by trains coming and going nearby.
Although biking is not allowed, you can easily go with a children pram and with some sport comfy shoes one can have an easy jogging or hiking around the area. 2-3 hours may be enough to see almost everything, but I bet that during the spring the view is more spectacular and full of colours.
The entrance fee for the park is 1 EUR, that in our case was collected by a guy with a mini cart who was driving around the alleys, stopping people and asking the price. 
At the end of the trail, there is another area dedicated to street art, with teenagers working hard to manipulate the spray tubes. Although at the entrance I've spotted some creative work of street art, in this part the predominant style are just tags and non-figurative works, with a few exceptions, not a very impressive record. 
As for now, the December gray is wrapping everything, and only the graffiti colours on the trees are challenging the weather narrative. I just need to be more patient and wait until the spring for a new adventure in Naturepark Schöneberg. I bet there are even more natural treasures hidden around. 

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