On our first day in Berlin we resolved to see as much of the City as we could, on foot, which is th only way to discover a City, in my book. We love parks and have walked many, in most of the major Cities of the World. It was therefore only natural that we should head for Berlin's major park, Tiergarten, which like many of its kind is to be found in the heart of Berlin.
We were staying in a hotel on Leipziger Strasse and headed westwards first, towards Potsdamer Platz, which is very close to the south-east corner of the park. It was March and the weather was less than agreeable.
We entered the park via Ben-Gurion Strasse to the largest section of the park. The park is divided up into five sections by major street which run through the park. Strasse des 17 Juni (which commemorates the 1953 civil uprising against the oppressive Russian-backed East German authorities) runs east-west across the park, terminating at the Brandenburg Gate and at the heart of the park is the Groser Stern roundabout at the centre of which is the gigantic Berlin Victory Monument, celebrating Prussia's victory in the Danish-Prussian War of 1864. The River Spree forms it's northern border.
Tiergarten is unlike the sort of parks we are used to in London: the park is mostly woodland with just a few open spaces. With the weather as it was on our visit, this was an advantage: you didn't have to get very far into the park before the trees sheltered you from the wind; in summer it would show similar benefits in sheltering you from the sun.
Many pathways wind their way through the park as do a number of waterways. Feeling that at this time of year the waterways would provide the most interest, we headed in the direction of those pathways that would run alongside them. We were not disappointed. At this time of year it was the rhododendrons which were mostly already out in blossom and many of these lined the waterways. To get the best views we often took advantage of the several footbridges which crossed the water, enabling us to take great photos. I almost got a shot of a heron, cruising the length of the waterways, undoubtedly looking for its next meal.
Throughout the park there are many statues of notable German personalities, especially the various royalty and nobility such as Friedrich and his family. What was notable was how many of these statues have been used for target practice, presumably by Russian troops, during WWII. Some have been repaired but many still show the pock-marks of bullets.
There is also an enormous but somewhat tatty monument to Bismark, that seems almost to be an embarrassment to Germany the way it seems not to have received the attention it might. It is quite close to the Groser Stern roundabout but we came upon it purely by chance. It is quite magnificent and deserves greater exposure than it gets.
At the Groser Stern, you can cross to the central refuge and visit the Berlin Victory Monument. There are underpasses to enable you to reach it across what is a busy junction. We didn't, mostly because of the weather and the amount we wanted to squeeze into the day. Instead we followed the directions for the Englischer Garten, close to which, it appeared, there was a cafe.
The Englischer Garten is in the northern sector of the park. When we got there, what we discovered was not that impressive. However, the adjacent cafe was very welcome. We didn't want a meal but drinks we did need. Despite the cold weather, I noticed that they were serving wheat beers and decided to have one. The one I tried was Maisels, which was exceptionally tasty and set me up for the next leg of our exploration.
Our return back through the park followed the pathway north of and parallel to Strasse des 17 Juni. Here we were heading back towards the Brandenburg Gate. Along the way we saw several strange birds: they looked like crows but had a dark grey chest. I later identified them as Hooded Crows, a bird I had not previously seen.
Eventually we exited the park onto Strasse des 17 Juni, to discover that here, just by the huge Russian War Memorial and with the Brandenburg Gate ahead, was the finishing line for a 15kms run that had been going on that day. Our walk had been taken at a much more leisurely pace and with more of an opportunity to see the sights of the park. I feel that our enjoyment was probably greater than theirs, despite the weather.