There is always something new to discover in Berlin, if you’re curious enough to look in all the wrong places. Hidden behind a giant Communist head in Prenzlauer Berg is one of the best parks in the city. You’d never know it from the outside!
Everyone knows the major parks in Berlin: Volkspark am Friedrichshain, Viktoria Park, Görlitzer Park, Mauer Park etc. The obvious sprawling stretches of green grass that play host to weekend markets, the rolling hills dotted with convenient grillplätze, the trodden paths saddled with runners, cyclists and rollerbladers. Summer in Berlin is centered around park culture. You can’t visit this city without taking notice of the sheer amount of green Berlin has managed to preserve. But there is much more than meets the eye.
For the majority of the rule of the DDR, the once blue-collar now trendy neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg was relatively ignored by the East German government. Buildings were left to further dilapidate, former breweries rusted over, and the old coal gas plant collapsed on itself. It was this latter event that turned DDR heads toward the abandoned plot of land in the center of Prenzlauer Berg. After the last gasometer was removed, East Berlin decided to create an inhabited park in honour of Berlin’s 750th Anniversary. The resulting residential park was, and still is, one of East Berlin’s finest natural and architectural accomplishments: Ernst Thälmann Park.
The park was named after the Communist party leader Ernst Thälmann. A giant statue of the park’s namesake marks one of the main entrances, located on Greifswalderstraße just north of its intersection with Danzigerstraße. The platz surrounding the statue is often used for meetings of different political groups and is popular among young skateboarders and graffiti artists. It is rare to see the statue of Ernst Thälmann without some sort of tag spray painted across the front. Large plattenbau rise up behind the statue and provide a stark image of Communist Germany guaranteed to inspire a sense of camaraderie within you.
Those very plattenbau leads one to believe there is nothing but residential area behind Ernst Thälmann, but a set of unassuming stairs on Danzigerstraße will lead you into the park itself. Entirely innovative at the time of its construction, the Ernst Thälmann Park stretches over three city blocks. Surrounded by thick trees and complete with large plots of green space, ponds, playgrounds, monuments, a planetarium, a public pool, several pubs, a school, a hospital, art galleries, a theatre and housing for 4,000 residents, this park was meant to showcase the grandeur of DDR living.
And showcase it does! Pack a picnic lunch, bring your swimsuit and spend the better part of a sunny day exploring the winding paths that lead you through one of the most unique and surprising destinations Berlin has to offer. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall: Ernst Thälmann Park has something for everyone all year round.
How to get there:
Tram M4/Tram M10 to Greifswalderstraße/Danzigerstraße
Tram M2 to Fröbelstraße
S-Bahn station Greifswalderstraße
S-Bahn station Prenzlauer Allee