Berlin’s best-loved urban garden has a royal name and a noble mission…
Prinzessinnengarten, or Princess Garden, is the romantic name of a not-very-romantic urban street in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, hidden away in an alternative enclave of Turkish culture and noisy traffic near the Moritzplatz roundabout.
In the center of this largely unused and cluttered space, two ambitious guys—Robert Shaw and Marco Clausen—began an urban gardening project. Robert, one of the two founders of Prinzessinnengarten had lived in Cuba for a while. While there, he learned about need-driven urban farming.
Robert was thrilled by the idea of starting an urban community garden in Berlin and attaching all sorts of social activities to it. In July last year the contracts for renting the wasteland beside Moritzplatz (2,000 square metres) were signed and Prinzessinengärten was born.
The first call for volunteers to clear the place from rubbish was answered by around 150 people. Nowadays, every Thursday afternoon is a ‘garden day’—open to anyone that feels like lending a hand. Now and again extra work needs doing and emails are distributed requesting help; back in mid-April, for example, everything needed to be prepared for the new gardening year ahead.
Prinzessinnengarten was founded not only to turn a wasteland into something thriving and beautiful but to impact the poor neighbourhood. The organisers are partners with a couple of schools as well as a society for immigrants. Elderly women who hardly speak German have a separate plot, where they can grow vegetables familiar to them. They can then reap and cook together, and sell the food at the bistro.
One beautiful, sunny day recently, myself and many others enjoyed folding sacks for potato plants, pushing wheelbarrows and giving tiny seedlings a new home in earth-filled basket-patches. All are welcome at Prinzessinnengarten: those who want to be an active part of the project, as well as those who want to take some time out from their busy schedules, noisy neighbourhoods and the like. It’s a lovely place to chill.
It’s a great place for kids too—they learn the value and joy of growing and eating healthy food. And for people like myself, it’s just great to meet lovely people from all over the place (Mitte, Eberswalde, San Francisco) and get my hands dirty for a great cause.
Since this article was written, Princessinnengarten has expanded to include another project in Neukölln. You can find out more about both places here.