Green spaces and traces of the Berlin Wall on a family-friendly walk to the charming village of Alt Lübars…
This relaxed walk, one of twenty created by Berlin’s Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, extends around 12km from Pankow to the little village of Alt-Lübars, just before the city limits. Not only is it agreeably flat, but the route has been carefully planned to pass through as much green space as possible; history buffs may also be happy to know it passes along parts of the Mauerweg too.
A range of starting points are possible, but since the Berlin Wall Trail is a consistent of the walk (Alt-Lübars has a connection to it too), the historic Platz des 9 November next to the Bösebrücke makes an apt beginning. It was here, in front of the official border crossing, that the first breaches occurred in 1989, with people gathering at this spot within an hour of Schabowski’s gaffe.
Within three hours, so many people were demanding to be let through that the vastly outnumbered border guards had no choice but to open the gates. At least 20,000 East Berliners passed through and the photographic exhibition that marks the spot today clearly shows the compelling range of expressions on people’s faces as they streamed through: grim determination, jubilation, fear and confusion (people didn’t know at that point if they would be let back in), astonishment.
From the Platz des 9 November, the route follows the Mauerweg north, below the pretty rows of cherry trees (there’s a story behind these too) and alongside the small garden colony to the right curving left under the S Bahn bridge and then doubling back along Steegerstrasse to reach S Bahn Wollankstrasse—another station directly affected by the Wall.
The station’s striking yellow-brick architecture harks back to its original construction in 1877, when it was called Bahnhof Prinzenallee and formed part of the Nordbahn (Berlin-Stralsund Northern railway) to Neubrandenburg; hardly anyone used the trains then though, whose top speed was a leisurely 30 km per hour.
From 1961 the Berlin Wall was built on the station’s eastern side, whose entrance was sealed off—only passengers from West Berlin could use the station from that point on, as it remained part of the West Berlin S-Bahn system. But not only was the station staffed and controlled by East German railway officials, trains passing between Wollankstraße station and Friedrichstraße station were driven by an East German State railway driver who returned home to East Berlin every day.
The route passes to the right of the station, through a small park area dotted with more cherry trees and lined with houses to the right; the path in front of the houses is the former patrol road of the Wall. Soon you’ll reach the mighty Panke river, and a splendid corner of Pankow’s scenic Bürgerpark with a large playground on the right hand side, and the Pinke Panke Kinderbauenhof on the left—both great stops for small kids if you happen to have some with you.
Continue along Am Burgerpark until you reach Schützenstrasse. Make a small left, then the first right along Buddenstrasse, crossing Provinzstrasse and heading through the Netto car park to the next green stretch, whose footpaths are lined with birch trees and feature a very small BMX area—ideal if you’re with kids on bikes.
Take a right onto Vereinssteg if you want to make a detour to the impressive Schönholzer Heide Soviet Memorial, where over 13,000 Red Army soldiers are buried. Otherwise keep going along the wide asphalt Mauerweg towards S Bahnhof Wilhelmsruh, making sure to note the handsome red-brick electrical substation to the right on Kopenhagenerstr, which was built by Hans Heinrich Müller in the 1920s.
At Kopenhagenerstrasse (no, not the Prenzlauer Berg one!), make a small turn to the left and follow the first path to the right, which cuts past S Bahnhof Wilhelmsruh and through a collection of revamped brick industrial buildings that once formed the Bergmann-Borsig works—something of an industrial powerhouse before the war, and again afterwards, when it was revived as a GDR factory complex that manufactured power plant components. Nowadays some of the buildings contain cultural institutions, artist spaces and businesses, including a Rammstein shop.
There wasn’t enough space here to build a large Wall zone, so the authorities built a dog run to prevent escapes. In 1962, before they were introduced though, three young employees (aged between 18 and 20) managed to dig a tunnel from one of the factory buildings in the direction of the S-Bahn embankment, and flee through it. You can find out more about that here.
Follow the road through the buildings until you find a small gate that leads into a narrow, secluded pathway that runs alongside the S-Bahn tracks. Follow this until you reach a small bridge on the left, then make a right to follow the small canal (Nordgraben). An asphalt path leads from here, through a housing estate, up to Wilhelmsruher Damm; there are some benches around here if you want to take a break.
Crossing Wilhelmsruher Damm, continue along the path in the same direction, where you’ll find the photogenic train tracks for the Heidekrautbahn, community gardens, and the Mauerweg again. At some point after this, the whole area suddenly opens up, offering pleasant views of meadows and fields, and a real sense of rural Berlin. Follow the road up to the Blankenfelder Chaussee, turning left to reach the cobbled streets and charming houses of Alt-Lübars.
The village was founded in the early 13th century and incorporated into the city of Berlin in 1920. It doesn’t take long to walk around its few key landmarks, which include a village church that dates back to the 1790s, a school from 1906, and the cute fire station. There are also several farmhouses and stable (horse riding and breeding is popular here, and rentals and lessons are possible), and a welcoming spot for sustenance: the Alter Dorfkrug, which also dates back to 1896, and serves hearty, classic German cuisine.
Completing the Mauerweg theme, and undermining the somewhat tranquil nature of the scenery here, is the story of the local farmer who burst through the Wall on Blankenfelder Chaussee with his tractor on the 16th June 1990. Although the Wall had been opened, the street connecting Blankenfelde and Lübars had remained closed; the spot is marked with a plaque and has been named Checkpoint Qualitz after the farmer in question.
On the other side of the village is the Alte Fasanerie, a working farm with domestic animals on display, and a pleasant café and restaurant. Across the street is the Freizeitpark Lübars, a green space with a fairly steep hill where on windier days you can also sometimes catch hang-glider aficionados (and kite-flyers) practicing their flying skills.
From here you can get the bus back to the S Bahn from the village centre (next to Alter Dorfkrug, or continue walking along one of the numerous marked routes out of the village, exploring nearby areas like the Tegeler Fliess, Eichwerder Moorwiesen or the Botanischer Volkspark Blankenfelde.
The walk takes around two and a half hours at a moderate pace, and can also be done by bicycle. All images by Paul Sullivan.