Wannsee, Germany
52° 25' N 13° 8' E
Jul 19, 2009 12:45
Distance 246km

Text written in: English

Playground of the royals

On our last Sunday in Berlin (mine before traveling on to Munich and Claudia's before moving to Duesseldorf), we decided to do a bit of sightseeing outside of town.  Wannsee is located SW of the city center of Berlin and butting up against the neighboring city of Potsdam.  Its a popular recreation area, with two lakes the Großer Wannsee (Greater Wannsee) and the Kleiner Wannsee (Little Wannsee) with long inland beaches and little islands full of parks and palaces which are World Heritage UNESCO protected.

We met in the morning at Steglitz train station near my house and caught the next train south to Wannsee.  After asking around, we gathered that there is a bus that comes every 20 mins or so or we could just walk the 1.5 km to the ferry that would take us to Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island) where we wanted to go.  We decided to walk, which was quite pretty, along a wooded path, with few cars and many cylists - although the bus ended up passing us - and found the ferry landing which would take us across to the tiny little island.  Unfortunately, they charged 2 Euros per person for a 30 second ride over the water... It took longer to get everyone onboard and take their money than to actually putter across.  Everyone joked that we could have swum faster.

Here's some info about Pfaueninsel:  In 1793, the then Prussian king Fredrick Wilhelm II acquired the island for the Hohenzollern dynasty and built a menagerie and a zoo there, in which peacocks were also housed. At the end of the 18th century he commissioned the building of the white 'castle' for his lover, Graefin Wilhelmine von Lichtenau.  In the post-war period the Pfaueninsel belonged to the western part of Berlin in the Zehlendorf district. The island had largely retained its intended character as an idyll of nature: in addition to several free-ranging peacocks, other native and exotic birds can be found in captivity, complemented by a rich variety of flora. The entire island is designated as a nature reserve and since 1990 has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Claudia and I found Pfaueninsel to be nice and green, but more than a bit run-down. The remaining buildings are faded and crumbling, the menagerie is overgrown and all the birds just seem to run free.  But, it was a lovely day to wander and even getting lost on the island's many little paths was enjoyable, since you never could go very far before discovering another interesting piece of history.  

After our ferry ride back across, we made our way to the nearby small but pretty, neoclassical Glienicke Palace, which was nice on the inside, but had even more enjoyable park-like gardens surrounding it.  We spent a good hour walking the grounds, with its random statues, fallen Greek columns, chapel ruins and beautiful views of the lake.  You could tell that the owners and head gardners over the years had really taken wonderful care of the place and it was truly a retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  We almost didn't want to leave.

At the end of the day, we took the train back into the city.  En route to a place for dinner, we walked by a cool, old graveyard called "Dreifaltigsfriedhof" and decided to peek in.  There was a map at the entrance, showing famous people who were buried there and we searched about half an hour trying to find the grave of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, the composer, but never did.  Saw some lovely resting places, though. I guess famous people get to stay in their spots for eternity, but Claudia told me that the average German only gets a gravesite for 25 years. "What happens after that?" I wondered... Well, it seems that if your remaining family members want to pay for another 25 years, they can, but when there is no more money or payments received then the headstone is removed and somebody else gets the spot!

We finally decided on a cute Turkish restaurant to have dinner at.  We sat outside to eat and were lucky they had a big awning because the sunshine soon turned to rain and everyone in the street had to run for cover.  The food was delish, we had nice waiters and friendly neighbors and even the rain couldn't dampen the great day.  We topped it off with some Turkish sweets, made plans to meet up one more time in the coming week and headed back to our respective ends of town (Claudia lived north of the city center, in Pankow).  It was a fun end to a great weekend!

Photos / videos of "Playground of the royals":

The tiny ferry and the few yards to the other side. No peacocks so far, just irritated swans... The "white" castle is no longer so white... it looks better if you sail by it from the water.  Up close, its a bit shabby... Peacocks! Another building which has seen better days.  Bet it was lovely way back when... Sailboats on the lake Random... This was part of a dairy Love this cute, little barn Tiiilllltiiiinng! At Glieneke Palace Inside, it was shoes for your shoes, so as to help them polish the floor. =D The one shot I got before they told me to put away the camera... Such pretty gardens... See, you didn't believe me about the fallen columns... There you have 'em In the Friedhof The is cute... 'Auf Wiedersehen!' or Until we meet again!