We went for a walk in the park, the snowfall of March calling us to the hills – or at least, such hills as we have here in Berlin. We decided to go to another one of those places in the city that I had never been to before. But unlike Hermsdorf, a week or so ago, this time it was somewhere that I may have never been to but I had seen many times, looking up at the tree-lined hills through trams windows on the journey between Mitte and Hohenschönhausen.
The Volkspark Prenzlauer Berg, as it is laid out today, was created by the tons and tons of rubble created by the bombing raids of World War II, the Red Army’s battle for the city, and the clearances of the area around Alexanderplatz to make way for the new socialist city centre that was to emerge from the wreckage in the heart of East Berlin. Berlin has a number of such rubble “mountains”, and I was surprised by the steepness and the height of the first that we climbed, trudging through the snow to a plateau at the top, where Katrin came with friends and a few bottles of wine to celebrate their Abitur (A Levels) around about the same time I was doing similar at a pub by the canal in Lathom.
What was impressive was the view, or at least the sense of elevation and the knowledge that, in different weather, there would be a view to be had. As it was the visibility was limited by the weather, although from even from the first handful of rooftops before the buildings disappeared into the white, winter haze, it was clear that this would be a place to rival that other great elevated spot I had been to recently; the top of the Flak Tower in Humboldthain, another man-made hill and viewpoint, and another place where the kids of Berlin go when it snows to cast themselves down the slopes atop a sledge.
Between the first hill and the second we came across a sculpture to sledging, itself obscured by snow until we brushed it away with our arms, and soon we were amongst the excited throng at the top, waiting for our turn. Not long later, after Lotte and I had ridden halfway down with a little too much enthusiasm, I was left to stumble the rest of the way gingerly on an ankle that would turn out to have a small fracture, much slower than I had climbed it in the opposite direction. Even man-made hills can punish the careless.
So the next few weeks will see fewer adventures beyond the front door, but I console myself with the thought that by the time the crutches are set to one side I will certainly have a greater understanding, and perhaps even mastered the art, of real, no-messing, slow travel…
Words: Paul Scraton
Pictures: Katrin Schönig