Paul Sullivan explores the gentle charms of East Berlin’s Erpe valley…
Located to the east of Mahlsdorf—part of Marzahn-Hellersdorf—the Erpetal or Erpe Valley area is a post-glacial drainage channel created during the last Ice Age, around 20,000 years ago.
The eleven-kilometer Erpe Hiking Trail, which forms a very tiny part of the European E11 trail, follows the river Erpe (officially the Neuenhagener Mühlenfließ) right through the valley, from Friedrichshagen to the Hoppegarten racecourse, meandering gently through forests, meadows and small residential villages.
These days the valley has a use as a natural backwater area for floods, and has been under nature protection since 1949. In 1995, it officially became a conservation site and is home to wild boars, sheep, horses, and a decent bird population that includes mallards, grey herons, warblers, and even the occasional kingfisher.
The walk starts at the attractive, heritage-listed S Bahn Friedrichshagen, which dates back to 1842. To reach the river, pass through the small Kurpark area next to the station; this scruffy, neglected area is a modern-day remnant of the nineteenth century attempt to develop Friedrichshagen into a health resort, and once boasted a natural theatre, medical pavilion, bubbling spring and tennis courts.
Head past the modern Freiluft Kino—built to replace a 1930 open-air theatre—and a smattering of residential homes to find yourself in a forested area, which leads to a spacious, open meadow and the eponymous river. Follow the Erpe for a kilometer or so through this meadow and it will bring you to the village of Waldesruh and the Heidemühle, a mill building that dates back to 1891, built on a previous mill that was first documented in 1434.
A nearby information board gives some local history—apparently up to six mills operated here at one point—and offers a 3.5 kilometre circular trail covering twelve nature and history stations, including another 15th century mill (Ravenstein), info on some of the native tree species, and an ‘insect hotel’.
From here the route passes through more forest and meadow (if you avoid the Friedrichshagener Chaussee), and brings you, via Rudolf-Breitscheid-Strasse, to the pretty village of Dahlwitz, A German farming settlement probably founded around the thirteenth century (but first mentioned in a document in 1370). There’s not much here, just a Protestant church, an old village school, and a few tell-tale remnants of life under the GDR (check the street lights).
The main sight is the former manor house of the Tresckow family, who acquired the bulk of the surrounding land back in the 1800s—interestingly, one of the later family members, Henning von Tresckow, became a general and an anti-Nazi activist, and was one of the principal protagonists behind the 10 July Plot to kill Adolf Hitler.
Built in late classicist style and designed by architect Friedrich Hitzig, it was completed in 1856 and various members of the von Tresckows lived here until 1945. The house is also set in a park, designed by none other than Peter Joseph Lenné in 1821. Up until the nineties, the former manor house served as a kindergarten and care centre for the local school. Since 2004, both the house and the park have been owned by Brandenburgische Schlösser GmbH, which is restoring the property.
Further on lies the local Dahlwitz cemetery, where Heinrich von Tresckow, his wife Marianne, his parents-in-law (the von Knoblauchs) and his two sons are buried alongside many graves of popular local personalities (including many jockeys) connected with the nearby Hoppegarten racecourse, which can be found just beyond the cemetery in the direction of the S-Bahn Hoppegarten railway station.
The racing ground was founded in 1867 on the grounds of the Hoppegarten estate, which Heinrich von Tresckow had sold for this purpose; the first official race day was held on 17 May 1868 in the presence of none other than Kaiser Wilhelm I and chancellor Otto von Bismarck. After a break during World War Twos (when the grandstand was converted into a munitions plant and it was bombed), the racing returned during the GDR and continues today—in fact Hoppegarten is Germany’s largest equestrian race track.
From here it’s a short ‘hop’ to the Hoppegarten railway station and back to the city, though keen walkers will be happy to know you can continue from here along the E11 to S Bahn Neuenhagen (13 km), Altlandsberg (20 km), and beyond…
Further info & links