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July 26th, 2007

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Man, there’s a lot going on in Berlin’s Tiergarten. I want to give you a list to start….but that won’t do justice to its colors, the fields, its aquarium & zoo, walking through paradise, the bike lanes and forests. I wandered around Tiergarten for three days and this is my statement: Ich bin ein Berliner!

Berlin tiergarten_5There is no first thing I could say you should do at Tiergarten. It has a great feel from whichever way you enter. The first time I came into the park was from outside the S-Bahn “Tiergarten” stop. This is a busy city spot, with trains buzzing overhead, the boulevard teeming with cars, and concrete all around you. The trees at the mouth of the Tiergarten path seemed to reach out and pull me into its sanctuary.

I think I actually ran into the park. I came to a waterway, the Landwehrkanal, lighted by a slashing sun between storm clouds. Two men fished along its banks. Some rain swept through and then sun again. Displayed along two intersecting paths are a dozen or so vintage gas lamps collected from European cities, including Brussels, Dublin, London, and Berlin. I took a trail into the dense forest and got a lessen in how the Brothers Grimm came up with their frightening tales “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” Yeah, it’s these surprises and feelings that make European city parks such great chill-out spots and travel destinations.

The Tiergarten—or Animal Garden from its history as a game reserve—covers 630 acres (255 hectares) from Brandenburg Gate on the east to Kurfurstendamm and the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial on the west. That’s more than two kilometers. The Reichtag/Bundestag anchors its northeast corner, overlooking the Spree River. At Tiergarten’s widest point, towards the west, you’ll walk more than a kilometer from top to bottom—through forests, formal gardens, around a lake, over a canal, and into the Berlin Zoo. You need more than one day to explore all of Tiergarten’s beauty.

berlin tiergarten_4I counted twenty parks just with a quick survey across the map of metropolitan Berlin. It seems like a city built around parks, not a city that stuck a park here and there as an afterthought. That’s wunderbar for Berliners. And the Tiergarten is Berlin’s most central and largest park, near to the city’s major tourist attractions, its business center, and historical monuments to empire, war, and modern justice.

I’ll use the metaphor islands in humanity’s stream to describe Tiergarten because several major roads divide the park. June 17 Strasse is the big burn through its center on an east-west axis. Three other streets meet with it at the Victoria Column traffic circle. The modern landscape designers have used these islands to great effect. Some have broad grassy boulevards with bicycle lanes that create long sightlines through the forests. The smaller parts of the park are left dense, almost wild, where you suddenly come upon a break in the trees to find a children’s park or monument surrounded by a leafy amphitheater.

Wide plains gather footballers for pick-up games. Yes, this is a heavy-duty recreation park wrapped in beauty. Heavy wood picnic benches and barbecue pits sit beneath trees along the sidelines. Nearby you’ll find table tennis tables. The Tiergarten park is large enough that you’ll find Europe’s modern version of the Asian rickshaw—pedal power taxis for a grand tour. You’ll also find formal gardens in Tiergarten: an English garden in the northwest section under the shadow of Victoria Column hosts evening concerts through the summer season; across the park, an island garden almost hides behind tall trees near the Philharmonic Hall along the south perimeter.

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Family Activities in Tiergarten Park
There are all kinds of entertainment for kids in Tiergarten Park. Easily the most popular is the Zoological Garden that takes up the southwest section of Teirgarten. It’s just two blocks from Berlin’s “Zoo” train station, a huge hub of public transportation routes. Opened in 1844, the Berlin Zoo became world famous for its study of animal behavior. Today that tradition continues within a park welcoming to visitors. You walk along tree-lined paths while watching hundreds of animals roam—not in cages—but in protected settings as close to their natural habitats as is possible.

Several playgrounds are scattered around Tiergarten, usually in high-traffic areas near major walkway avenues. Sometimes, though, you’ll come across a playground placed in the middle of a forested section, such as you’ll find near the Philharmnic Hall.

(read more about Tiergarten’s highlights here)

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