A Hunting Ground that Keeps on Catching
Images are author's unless otherwise noted
Stepping off the train, through a small farmer's market, by the Fichte Bunker, and past a youth soccer match, I reached, not quite intentionally, a small path that led into a wooded area. On one side a small zoo, in front of me and to both sides endless paths through the woods, and before me a large open grass area. I had stumbled into Volkspark Hasenheide, a 116-acre park in Berlin's hip district Neukölln. The park boasts an open air theater, a mini-golf course, a dog run, a children's playground, a skate park, roller hockey and basketball courts, and large open spaces for soccer and relaxing. Small paths off the larger bike-filled ones quickly mask all sounds with those of birds and burrowing squirrels.
From left to right: An attempt to cross the park on a tight rope, a mural on the side of a cafe, the entrance to the children's park, one of the movies played at the open air theater.
The park's history dates back to the 1600s. As of 1678 the park was being used as a rabbit warren and a hunting grounds for the Great Elector. In 1811 Friedrich Ludwig Jahn began Prussia's first gymnastics program on the park's grounds. In 1936 the park was rebuilt for use during the Olympic Games. The park's highest point, 69 meters tall and called Rixdorfer Höhe, was built out of debris from the second world war and a memorial commemorates the rubble-clearing done primarily by women in the post-war days.
By inviting residents to leave concrete for grass and by providing a place for exercise and sport, the park ensures a healthier lifestyle and naturally a sustainable one. I certainly got my workout walking through the vast park and wondered at a future city where "nature" and "human" blend without distinction.