Like many others in Berlin, I am so consumed with life inside the ring that it is what I picture when I attempt to describe it to other people, or even when I picture it myself. There are 12 districts in Berlin but my “map of Berlin” is so narrowly defined by the districts in which I live (Kreuzberg), work (Mitte), and play (the aforementioned, plus Neukölln, Friedrichshain, and Prenzlauer Berg).
It has now been more than a year since I moved here and with my recent influx of summer visitors from the states, I have had a lot of questions and revelations, both while playing tour guide and while sharing my experiences in general, about what Berlin is really like. I show the Berlin that I know and love to my friends, and although every once in awhile I venture beyond it (to Potsdam, or Oranienburg), there are many parts of the city I don’t know very well, and a handful I’ve never even stepped foot in.
Marzahn is one such place. One of the boroughs furthest to the East, I had never even heard anything substantial about it until I read a blog post about Ian and Ebe’s trek into parts unknown. This generated some interest for me, and I mentioned it as an aside to M., noting that I would like to pay a visit to Gärten der Welt sometime.
So this past weekend, when we were visited by wonderful weather (sunny, clear skies, warm but not too warm), M. suggested we spend our Sunday paying a visit to this district. Although I would have loved to bike there, it was an hour-long trip from our flat in Kreuzberg (which means the bike ride would have been 45 minutes or so) and we had gotten a late start to our day, so we opted to take the train out.
After packing some snacks, water, and the camera, we dropped €7 on an AB weekly Fahrscheine from the guys who hang around at our station (because seriously, eff the BVG) and began the trek out there. The actual train ride itself from Warschauer Straße is only 15 minutes, but because of transferring and taking a bus, it ended up being a longer journey than that.
Interestingly enough, it was a Sunday, and there were plenty of old people dressed to the nines (churchgoers?) who boarded our same bus at the Marzahn station, getting off at Gärten der Welt and flashing their annual passes. Because apparently old people hang out in gardens… I am not even 30 and I am already well on my way.
As for the gardens themselves, this is where the history lesson begins. The park area was created in 1987, as a horticultural zone, when Marzahn was still part of the GDR. In the years since, various gardens have been added on, one by one, each created by workers from capital cities of the various countries (China, Korea, Japan, Bali…), with materials sent from those countries, and values and principles of the peoples and their beliefs integrated in.
Our entire time spent in the gardens lasted about three hours, and that was even missing the shrub garden. One could honestly easily spend a whole day wandering around, picnicking, reading, and more.
After looking at the map and opting to go about things in a counter-clockwise direction, we first headed to the Oriental Garden… which actually ended up being more Middle Eastern, boasting a blend of Arabic, and Islamic-type art and architecture.
The garden here was kind of unimpressive in my mind, at least when compared with the art and architecture. There is also a room that visitors need to walk through to access the walled-in garden, and that room is decked out in beautiful, delicate, carved wood along the pillars and walls and ceilings. Seriously amazing.
We continued on, making our way to the herb garden, seeing some birch trees, and enjoying the shade. Along the way, we encountered various flowers in every colour imaginable, many of them being visited as well by bugs and bees.
We also passed by little statues and fountains, a cafe with an eating area, open grassy spots with people hanging out in the sun, and a rose garden.
It was here that we came to the labyrinth, in front of which is a labyrinth in the stone on the ground. It reminded me a lot of Grace Cathedral, which has a labyrinth on its floors. Episcopalians sure do love them!
As for us, we opted for the “challenge” of the hedge labyrinth, and in very little time, M. expertly led us through to the center, where we climbed to the top of the tower overlooking the maze, in order to see how far we had come (and maybe retrace our steps so we could get back out).
Next up, and on the far edges of the property, was the Italian-style Renaissance Garden. Although there weren’t so many flowers, the architecture and feel of it were right up my alley.
We then headed toward the Chinese Garden, and it was at this point that I began to realize how, surprisingly, my allergies were on their best behavior. Of course I had taken my medication, but it is August, which means that not only is my “season” ending, but the plants weren’t in as full bloom as I imagine they would have been a few months prior, so I was able to get up close and personal with them.
We knew we were at the Chinese Garden when we came across the dragons guarding the entrance. They were fierce, but M. is fearless.
This garden is bigger than the others, so we took our time wandering through, along the paths and around the lake. I also found I enjoyed this garden quite a bit more than some of the other ones, namely because there weren’t so many people crowded into a small space.
When we reached the water, this was my favourite part, because we made a new friend. He was a red-eared slider, so we named him Raphael, because a certain famous quartet of turtles that perform martial arts and eat pizza are also red-eared sliders.
After sitting in the grass with our pal for a bit, we parted ways, meandering toward the Christian Garden. This one was also one of my favourites; although there weren’t many flowers, I loved both its conception and execution.
Before continuing on to the remaining gardens, we took a flight of stone steps up to a lookout point, where we saw the green, open, vastness of Marzahn, along with a fair share of Plattenbauten (for which the area is particularly famous).
The Japanese Garden came next, with my absolute favourite flowers of the day. I still don’t know the name, but they were absolutely magical in appearance.
After that, we sped through the Korean and Balinese gardens a bit, namely because we were tired (or at least my feet were) and because the latter was super humid inside.
Still, it was a successful visit, and worth a repeat.