Twice around the Schäfersee, Berlin

A weekend morning at the Schäfersee, a small body of water just inside the Reinickendorf border, a few hundred metres from the local chapter of the Hell’s Angels, in the north of Berlin. It is only a few kilometres from our apartment, but apart from perhaps on the bus up to Tegel, this is a corner of the city I have barely touched in the ten years I have been living here. The buildings around a typical for the neighbourhood – old worker’s apartment blocks from before the war, when Wedding and Reinickendorf were centres of industry in the city, plus a few post-war blocks of flats that look more peeling and crumbling than their older neighbours. An then there are the open spaces, perhaps planned or where, maybe, stray bombs fell. During the Second World War a nearby flak tower shot down a Soviet plane which then landed in the lake and, as yet, it has never been recovered from the depths.

When I search for images on the internet the surroundings look green and pleasant, particularly thanks to the tradition of planting the “tree of the year” alongside the lake footpath, but in March we are still waiting for the return of the leaves. Indeed, the whole place feels distinctly out of season, with the minigolf course and the cafe all locked up, the path empty apart from two Nordic walkers and three mothers navigating pushchairs. It is too early for a game on the neighbouring football pitch, and there are no lights shining above the bookshelves of the library that sits on a slight incline, overlooking the water.

After completing a couple of loops around the shoreline, past all those previously honoured species of trees I step back out onto the main road that runs out from the centre of the city through Wedding and Reinickendorf towards the Brandenburg countryside. On the nearby square there is a couple of bars, a bakery, a discount supermarket and some of those hobby shops that you find on arterial roads beyond the city centre – in this case devoted to all things Viking and Middle Ages, with celtic-looking icons, replica swords and what appears to be a chain-mail jousting suit hanging behind the counter. It is all a bit grey and overcast, both in the sky and at street level, but there is enough around the lake to suggest further exploration and a return visit once the sun decides to shine.

Words & Pictures: Paul Scraton

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