Almost five years after I moved to Berlin, there are so many places to see. I keep telling this myself while on the way to new destinations. It seems that the list is never ending. As in the last months of 2013 I spent a lot of time in the city, I decided to book more 'inland' trips. One of them was around a historical area: Köllnischer Park, in Mitte. Colln used to be the name of one of the two cities which came together to form Berlin. At the beginning of the city's history, this area used to be outside the city's borders.
I arrived at the Märkisches Museum U-Bahn station, in Mitte. When the city celebrated 750 years, the then-GDR authorities decorated the station, named for the museum dedicated to Berlin. On a usual weekly day in winter, there were not too many people around, and the Spree area seemed to wait to be brought to life by the spring.
If you want to know how and why I spent around 3 full hours discovering the buildings around the relatively small park, the answer is that there is a high concentration of things to see and learn about. Most buildings around are made of red bricks, the usual choice for official buildings in the 16-18th century. In the former gymnasium around the corner, the founder of the modern geology and a researcher of the polar area, Alfred Wegener, studied.
The weather was pleasant enough to take a tour of the park. Different types of status and decorations are adorning the area. Many tourists and also locals are coming here for the two bears - real ones - that can be spotted sometimes in their cage in the middle of the park. When I visited, despite several attempts, the bears were out of sight and I left the area with a sigh of regret.
Another architectural landmark of the area is the AOK building. The red bricked sample of Expressionist architecture was erected in 1931-1932 for a German health insurance company, still operating nowadays. During the GDR, it was used as an address of several political associations, but was returned to the company after the end of the separation. It's delicate presence brings a lot of elegance to the park.
Various styles and historical stages and artistic communication languages are meeting in the park. One of the most beautiful is a statue of Hercule fighting the Nemesian lion, very close from the Stadtmodelle, a section of the Berlin townhall in charge with the city development.
More than in many European city, the urban development is an interesting story to follow. The Stadtmodelle exhibition, that can be visited for free, offers diverse 3D representations of the city development, before, during and after the Cold War. It also has a computer database with different projects developed since 1990s. While looking at various corners of the city from different angles, I can't stop thinking how the city would have been without the Wall. Berlin is an interesting and dynamic city, but in terms of beauty and architectural coherence, it is many centuries behind, I dare to say.
I haven't been to the Märkisches Museum because I always assumed that I know a lot about the city. It is never enough, and more lessons are always welcomed. This time, I not only learned about the historical development of the city, but also about its natural beauties and its fauna, whose representatives - such as foxes, boars and wild rabbits - can be often seen not only in the forests around, but also sometimes waiting quietly the green lights. Berlin is the greenest capital city of Europe with the highest concentration of parks and green areas in general.
The permanent exhibitions present a lot of sequences of the daily life in different historical stages, such as one dedicated to fashion and especially hats. I loved especially a collection of old photographs, some of them updated with colours, presenting main events and gatherings in the city at the beginning of the 20th century. A special section is dedicated to the life of Jewish citizens of Berlin, a project of Hans and Louise Richter Foundation. The hall of mechanical musical instruments is a big attraction for the little visitors, as the collection of toys.
After checking once again to see if the bears were out - they weren't - I made another tour of the park. Some coloured pieces of the wall are a reminder of the many faces of the history of this city that despite its ups and downs and some corners of ugliness, still remains my home for now.