Berlin can get unbearably hot during the summer months. With no sea breeze, few air conditioned restaurants and stifling conditions on public transport, the best respite from the heat is to head to one of the city’s many lakes. Of all of them, Müggelsee is the largest, and makes for a pleasant day trip. More like a beach-side resort than an inner-city lake, there’s a food shack where you can grab a beer and a bag of chips and a stretch of sand where you can play volleyball or simply sit back relax. But be careful where you choose your spot, as part of the beach is reserved for nudists. The body of water itself is huge (7.4km²) and despite appearances is very clean, undergoing rigorous checks every year by Berlin’s water works. If you have the energy, take a pedalo for a spin (€6/hour) and head down the Kleiner Müggelsee to the floating ice cream hut. How to get there: take the S-Bahn to Friedrichshagen, and then exit the station and make your way to the tram stop in front of the cinema. The No. 60 tram will take you through the forest and straight to Müggelsee.
Text by Lottie Laken
Potsdam: Park Sanssouci
Today’s capital of Brandenberg state, Potsdam remains to Berlin what Versailles is Paris – a two-pronged symbol of monarchy political reform. It was here that the Hohenzollern dynasty first set up royal residence in the 18th century, transforming the former fishing backwater into a garrison town and peppering its rolling landscapes with stately palaces and carefully manicured royal parks. However, there is more to Potsdam’s history than regal pomp and glamour. The city lost its royal status with the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918. Later it was devastated in WWII when an Allied bombing raid on April 14, 1945 left 4,000 people dead. Luckily, Germany’s reunification caused vast
reserves of money to pour in with the initiative to reconstruct some 80 per cent of Potsdam’s historic buildings. Today Park Sanssouci has earned UNESCO’s stamped approval, legitimising it as an excellent place for tourists to stroll san soucci (literally ‘without worries’) and drink in Potsdam’s cultural and architectural delights.
Park Sanssouci, 9694 200/spsg.de
This gracefully landscaped park is the largest and most famous of three royal parks established in Potsdam by Frederick the Great. If you can brave the weekend crowds, take a good few hours to wander along Sanssouci’s 2km tree-lined avenue. Schloss Sanssouci (April-Oct Tues-Sun 9:00-17:00, €8; Nov-March Tues-Sun 9:00-16:00, €12 entry). Frederick’s Baroque-style summer palace was designed by the artist Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff and built with the king’s comfort and ease in mind. Perched atop rows of vineyard terraces and sporting a façade decorated with ornate Bacchic sculptures, it hints at the aesthetic tastes of the culture-loving king. To this end, pop into the Bildergalerie next door to scope works by Rubens, Van Dyck and Caravaggio.
April-Oct Mon-Thurs, Sat-Sun 9:00-17:00, €6 with tour, €5 without; Nov-March, Mon-Thurs, Sat-Sun 9:00-16:00, €5 entry with tour An opulent riot of rococo-style design and architectural curiosities, the Neues Palais is a grand statement of the power and wealth of the Hohenzollern clan following the Seven Years’ War. A tour of the premises requires pre-booking but is worth every cent. Highlights include masterworks by the painter Adolph Mezel and the ‘Grotto Room’ adorned with 1,500 species of shells, fossils and precious stones.
mid-May to mid-Oct Tues-Sun 10:00-17:00, €3 entry
The striking palace of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, built to closely resemble a Renaissance era Italianate palazzo, features a viewing tower with picturesque views of the Neues Palais. The gallery inside – known as the Raphaselsaal – houses copies of paintings looted by Napoleon during the Seven Years’ War.
Take the S-Bahn out of town from one of Berlin’s central train stations (the journey from Berlin Hauptbanhof takes approx. 35mins) using either the direct S1 service or the S7 (and changing at Wannsee). On arrival at Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, you can take buses 695, 606 and X15 to Park Sansoucci.
Text by Alexandra Syzdlowska
Sachenhausen Concentration Camp
Built during the summer of 1936, the camp was designed to be the ‘archetypal’ model in which all camps afterwards were to be based on. It was intended to give an architectural expression to the Nazi world view and symbolize the subjugation of the prisoners to the absolute power of the SS. More than 200,000 people were imprisoned at the camp between 1939 and 1945. Most prisoners were political undesirables at first, but were later joined by those deemed racially and biologically inferior by the Nazi regime. Tens of thousands died at the camp of starvation, maltreatment, forced labour and disease or they were systematically murdered. On the 22nd and 23rd of April 1945 the camp was liberated by Soviet and Polish soldiers. Three months after the end of the war Sachenhausen was turned into a special camp by the Soviets. Using most of the same buildings as the Nazis with the exception of the crematorium and extermination facilities, the Soviets imprisoned minor Nazi functionaries and political undesirables. After 1948, Sachenhausen was the largest camp out of three in the Soviet occupied zone. The camp was closed in March 1950, 60,000 people had been imprisoned with around 12,000 having died there. Today Sachenhausen is a memorial centre to those that lost their lives at the Nazi concentration camp and the Soviet Special camp. Visitors can visit the camp and are guided through the memorial with a map and a personal audio guide, tour companies also go tour guide led visits as well.
Text by Chris Pomfret
Teufelsberg, S75 to Heerstrasse, walk down Teufellseestrasse 15 mins then enter 2nd car park on right and follow road untill arriving at the site S-Bahn Heerstrasse
The abandoned spy station at Teufelsberg is perhaps the most fascinating and original Cold War relic that Berlin has to offer. Literally built upon the rubble of the Second World War, the listening tower offers spectacular views of Berlin including nearby landmarks such as the Olympiastadion and Grunewald Forest to the iconic TV Tower in the centre. The area has a curious history; the original site housed a military-technical college designed by Nazi architect Albert Speer before unsuccessful attempts to blow this up lead to the area being covered by the remnants of Berlin’s buildings post-war and finally used as a listening post for US intelligence to garner information on their Soviet neighbours
during the Cold War. Today however the site is abandoned and scantly populated by squatters and a trickle of eager tourists. A 20 minute S-Bahn journey out of the centre and the uninviting landscape make this a trip which many will not make; the site is accessible only by a challenging trek and then a crudely fashioned hole in the mesh fence. Once inside the abandoned buildings are somewhat hazardous with pitchblack stairwells and no barriers at the summit; the journey is more suited to the thrill-seeking, adrenaline hungry visitor. It is perhaps these raw features which make Teufelsberg so appealing, it is not managed or over-populated and as such it feels real – something not easily achieved in one of Europe’s most visited cities. A fusion of the area’s history, the breathtaking views and the adventurous trek to the summit are what make Teufelsberg an excellent trip; its obstacles are surmountable for most and certainly offer an alternative to the more famous Checkpoint Charlie.
Text by Allan Edgar