By Katrin Schönig:
A month or so ago, I spent a week on the island of Rügen. During my stay I took a walk in the Natur Reservat Prora and its treetop trail. Indeed, it was the idea of walking amongst the treetops that drew me there.
The Prora Nature Reserve is located between the Jasmunder inland sea – the Bodden – and Baltic bay known as the Prora Wiek, therefore bringing together different ecosystems. To protect these ecosystems, but at the same allowing people to experience the area, the park was closed off and you can only walk through it on a guided tour. The idea is that the Urwald (primeval forest) should be able to form itself again without human interaction. For example, dead wood is not taken away, and no new plants are planted. Yet, to still be able to enjoy this beauty of nature, the Naturerbe Zentrum of Rügen built a big wooden trail through the treetops.
My friends at Slow Travel Berlin have just released the second print run of their most excellent 100 Favourite Places book… it is a collection of, well, a hundred of the Slow Travel Berlin writers favourite places in the city, from museums and bars to shops, parks, architecture… and more. Everyone I know who owns a copy – including Berliners such as Katrin – are impressed by the choices, the writing and the photography, so if you are coming to Berlin at any time soon it is the only guide you need.
I asked the founder of Slow Travel Berlin, Paul Sullivan, to select an extract from the book that he thought would suit Under a Grey Sky, and he choose one of his own favourite places, the Britzer Garten in Neukölln:
Given its reputation for industry, war and high-rise buildings, visitors are often surprised at how pleasantly green Berlin is. With almost a fifth of the city covered in trees, it’s quite possible to be diverted regularly from the city’s turbulent past by at least one of the city’s 2,500 parks and gardens. One of the loveliest is the Britzer Garten, which laps at the southern fringes of Neukölln.
Built in 1985 for the Federal Garden Show, the garden was originally designed to provide a green escape for local residents whose excursions into the countryside were, at the time, impeded by the Berlin Wall.
This morning I woke up, caught the S-Bahn to the end of the line, and ran home again. The route I chose was to follow the Panke river from Bernau for 25 kilometres until it arrived just a couple of footsteps away from our front door. It is a journey I have wanted to make for a while, passing through the north of the city alongside the river. As it happened, for the first third of the journey the Panke kept itself fairly well hidden. It was little more than a ditch when I began, running through an allotment colony just south of Bernau station, and then it swung away into some fields, only to appear periodically until I reached Buch, the Berlin city limits, and the overgrowth of the Schlosspark.
“Amongst the auxiliaries which art has contributed to give interest to Holyhead, the most picturesque and not the least important is the lighthouse, erected upon the South Stack. This singular Pharos stands upon a rocky island, the surface of which is elevated one hundred and twenty feet above the sea. It is separated from the mainland by a deep chasm, across which a chain suspension foot-bridge is thrown, from the mural cliff on the land side to the island. The descent from the top of the cliff to the bridge is effected by many flights of steps, cut in the front of the rock. The transit of the bridge is rather a nervous ceremony, and the fine craggs of serpentine rock, which overhand the gulf, are unequalled in the mineral kingdom, for variety of pattern and brilliancy of colouring …
It is just over half a year since our last visit to Waren, the town that sits at the head of the Müritz lake, and the experience couldn’t be more different. Last time around we could barely see the other side of the bay as the lake was shrouded in mist, our boat tour was halved by the captain as it was nearly impossible to see anything, and many of the restaurants, cafes and bars that surround the harbour were closed for the winter. Now the harbour is alive. From the balcony of our apartment we can look across the marina, filled with boats of many sizes, and we can hear the general chatter of the drinkers and diners who occupy the waterside terraces seemingly from breakfast until late in the evening. The pleasure cruisers fill up quickly, exiting the harbour for the lake with a blast on their horn, the top decks packed with passengers. You get a sense, on this bank holiday weekend, that most of northern Germany has descended on this lakeside town, to walk and swim, explore the nearby Müritz National Park, rent bikes and canoes, or simply stroll between the cobbled market square and the harbour, where they can feast on locally-caught fish stuffed in crusty bread rolls, or Italian ice cream.
At the site of old mineral spring – the Gesundbrunnen that gives our district it’s the name – the Panke river flows between the red-bricked halls of a former vault-factory and the clumpy grass of an underappreciated park, complete with a football court that local legend has it started the careers of at least one of the three Boeteng brothers. Their faces look down upon the nearby Badstraße from a Nike-sponsored mural. The sports company also dressed up the football court and invited the brothers along to launch an advertising campaign in the gritty urban decay that is our ‘hood. The sign that hung over the gate to the concrete pitch was stolen within days.
We arrived in Rhoscolyn at around midnight, the headlights of our hire car jumping with each rut of the gravel track as we made our way to Cerrig-yr-Adar. Otherwise we were surrounded by darkness. At the bottom of Holy Island, in the north western corner of Wales there are very few streetlights, and though the stars can give you some spectacular illumination, on this occasion they were hidden behind the clouds. But of course it did not matter that we could not see the view in front of us as we crested the small hill just before we finally got there, for we know it so well, as regular readers of Under a Grey Sky will know. This is a place that I spent most of the summers of my childhood, a place that is close to the hearts of so many of my friends and family that if they were all to descend on Outdoor Alternative at the same time we would fill all the beds and probably most of the campsite for good measure. So it did not matter that we could not see across the bay to the beacon, or to the coastguard lookout on top of the hill, or across to the bay windows of the White Eagle pub, as we knew it was all there, in place, waiting for us as it ever does.