A lot of posts lately have featured photos taken in my local park. That park is called Mauerpark (Wall park). With a name like that, it won’t surprise you to know that it’s a park where the Berlin Wall used to be. It’s probably the place I know the best in Berlin, as it’s where I take Billy for a walk two or three times a day. Billy’s at the seaside this week with my ex-girlfriend’s parents; and apart from missing him, I kinda miss going to Mauerpark.
Map borrowed from BVG.de
As you can see on the map, Mauerpark butts up against another smaller park and big sporty complex with an indoor arena used for basketball and concerts, football stadium, tennis courts, other football pitches, and a running track. The whole area is pretty good. I’ve played softball at the sport complex, I’ve seen a women’s football match there (Germany v Netherlands), and I’ve been to a couple of concerts in the Max-Schmeling-Halle (Madonna and Shakira).
Aerial photo borrowed from Google Earth
The smaller park is called Falkplatz. Billy and I tend not to play there too much in the summer. Dogs aren’t supposed to go into that park off the leash, and there’s too many people having barbecues, anyway. I suppose Billy’s not supposed to be off the leash in Mauerpark, either; but it’s so rare that there are policemen enforcing the rule, that most owners let their dogs off anyway. People who don’t like dogs must be a tad annoyed with us dog owners using Mauerpark, as there’s a specific Hundewiese (dog meadow; a fenced-off place where dogs can run around together) right next door; but that place is kinda stressful, always having to watch that Billy doesn’t get into a fight with a dog that could rip his poor little spaniely throat out.
As I said, Mauerpark used to be the no-man’s land/death strip between the inner and outer walls that separated East and West Berlin. According to this site, after the Wall came down, locals started using the area as a park before it properly became one.
It still looks crappy, it probably hasn’t changed that much since 1989. When you close your eyes and think of the word “park” you wouldn’t think of this one. The grass is patchy, there’s graffiti everywhere, there seems to be a bare minimum of trees. It’s pretty ugly.
This is what it looked like before the Wall came down:
Photo from Leben mit der Mauer (Living with the Wall) by Matthias Hoffmann. Click photo to see large version
That book says that whenever Dynamo Berlin (the Stasi’s darling team that, coincidentally, won the most championships in the old East German league) played at the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark (you can see the floodlights in the photo), only police and security folk were allowed in the stand that backed up right against the Wall, and movement around the rest of the stadium was monitored quite thoroughly.
I’m not 100% sure that it’s the exact same wall, but the one that backs up against the stadium is now some sort of graffiti zone. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this weblog, I’m no fan of graffiti, but I don’t mind this so much; it seems to be somewhere where those who want to spray big letters can do so without pissing too many people off.
There are things about the park that piss me off, of course. Every summer, I feel a tinge of sadness when the sun comes out, knowing that the park, instead of being empty save for some dogs and joggers, is gonna be full of children, frisbees, crusty punky types with their barky German Shepherds, discarded rubbish, broken bottles, and damn fucking bongo players. Urgh, the bongos… I’m surely not the only one who’s park-enjoyment is diminished by those fuckers.
But, really, that’s the joy of Mauerpark, too. It isn’t pretty, but it’s a real park that people use all the time; not some “Keep Off The Grass”-type park. I suppose one could say the same thing about Berlin as a city, too.
What is – for me anyway – interesting, is that this seems to be the newest park I’ve ever seen. I can’t remember seeing a park being built anywhere that I’ve lived in my lifetime. Every scrap of wasteland is given over to people wanting to make money, not given over to enhancing the enjoyment of the people who live in the neighbourhood. And were it not for the locals of the districts of Wedding and Prenzlauer Berg colonising this strip of land before it officially became a park, it would probably have become soulless office or apartment buildings, too.
And on that note, I think I might take a wander down there and lie on the grass with a coffee, some cigarettes, and a book. A perfect Friday afternoon. If, that is, you discount the possibility of having a Friday afternoon which includes having sex with Alicia Witt in the Yankee Stadium toilets after a victory over the Red Sox…