We started the walk at Grünau S-Bahn station where the huge tiled mural on the wall reminds you that this is the very edge of Berlin and a land of villas, lakes and forests. On a Sunday morning Berlin is a quiet city, and Grünau especially so… the only signs of life came from the bakery open for bread rolls and weekend tabloids, and a malfunctioning pay-toilet whose doors were opening back and forth.
We walked down to the ferry, and waited for the short journey across the lake to Wendenschloß and its villa colony and out-of-season bathing beach. This stood at the end of the road, where the tarmac turned into a dirt track which led us along the lake past abandoned boat jetties and the foundations of lost buildings before we headed in and up, into the Müggelberg hills that (at around a hundred metres) are the highest natural elevation in Berlin.
At the top of a long line of stairs we reached the crumbling complex of the Müggelturm, a socialist-classicist tower that was finished in the year the Berlin Wall was built and a popular daytrip destination in the GDR. There had been a tower on this site since the 1880s, as as we climbed up through the damp stairwell peeling photographs told us the history of the complex. Now you can pay for access to the tower and a small kiosk selling hot drinks and lukewarm sausages, but the former restaurants and cafe areas are closed off, their structures unsafe.
From the top of the tower we could see across Berlin and Brandenburg and our route on, down through the forest, skirting the Devil’s Pool, and then to the Müggelsee itself and the long sweep around the shore to the tunnel under the Spree and Friedrichshagen. The former Berliner Bürgerbraü brewery was waiting for us, once the oldest in the city but closed since 2010, with production of the beer moved north to Schultheiss in Hohenschönhausen.
Each time I return to Friedrichshagen it seems like a shame, but at least the old pub at the bottom of Bölschestraße is still open, with its polished wooden tables, big slabs of cake, and the once-local beer still on tap. And that’s where we ended our walk, warming our cold bodies and leaving lumps of mud from our shoes beneath the table in the company of an entertainingly gruff Berlin waiter. By the time we emerged into the half-light of a winter’s afternoon to catch the S-Bahn back into the city the moon was already visible in the sky. As always, when we visit this corner of the city, we left making plans to return…
Words: Paul Scraton
Pictures: Katrin Schönig