Hiking the Grunewald (Part II)

Part 2 of Lily Philipose’s guided tour through Berlin’s mighty Grunewald…

Und an deinen Ufern und an deinen Seen,/ Was, stille Havel, sahst all du geschehen?

Theodor Fontane, Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg.

In my last post on hiking in the Grunewald, I had left you at the Alte Liebe, the floating restaurant anchored on the Havel, at the meeting point of Postfenn and Havelchaussee. Picking up where we left off (from the bus stop Am Postfenn), you can set off again, finding more hiking trails through the Grunewald, and once again uncovering layers of its history: architectural, cultural and political.


Route 3: Havelchaussee – Friedhof der Namenlosen – S Bhf. Grunewald

From the bus stop Am Postfenn, continue the hike down the Havelchaussee, keeping the river on your right and the forest on your left. The stretch is particularly lovely in the late fall, when the path is strewn with leaves in various stages of colour change. Keep your eyes peeled for a wooden sign on the left, at the edge of the forest, which says “Försterei Saubucht”. Turn in here and follow the path to the forest cemetery (about 20 minutes).


The Friedhof Grunewald-Forst has an atmosphere unlike that of any other part of this forest. On the other side of the Havelchaussee, as you hike along the Haveluferweg, you get glimpses of slivers of sunlight on the water and you hear the faint splashes of oars or the fading call of a coxswain, but overall there is a velvety quiet. The only sound I heard was that of a woodpecker high up and a lone jogger crossing the path ahead was the only sign of human life I encountered.


The cemetery, which dates back to 1878/9, was originally the Friedhof der Namenlosen (Cemetery of the Nameless), and the oldest graves here are unmarked. In the nineteenth century, only those who had died by their own hand were buried here. In 1830, a church decree in Köln had stipulated that those who committed suicide could not be buried in a churchyard, and that the bodies were to be interred without ceremony and far away from souls who rested in peace.

Why were there so many burials here, on the eastern banks of the Havel? The Schildhorn bay had the geographical peculiarity of being a kind of “collection point” for objects floating in the water above it, so no matter where suicide deaths took place along the eastern banks, the bodies washed up here. Cemetery records suggest that many graves were those of young chambermaids made pregnant by their employers, owners of the nineteenth-century Grunewald waterfront villas that Christopher Isherwood had described so succinctly (see Part One of this article).


Later, in 1928-29, a stone wall was built around the cemetery (almost 5,000 square kilometers) to give it the feel of a protected area and, from this point on, the cemetery was no longer restricted to suicide deaths. The headstones have a rich variety of styles, from weeping Victorian stone angels to more contemporary depictions of mourning.

You can also reach the cemetery by taking Bus 128 in the direction Pfaueninsel up to the stop Havelweg. The turning into the forest on the path that leads to the cemetery is right opposite the stop. You can then continue hiking on this path to the S-Bahnhof Grunewald (about three kilometres).

Route 4: U Podbielskiallee – Messelpark – Brücke Museum – Jagdschloss Grunewald

This trail starts from residential Dahlem, weaves through two urban parks, cuts briefly through Clayallee, then enters the Grunewald by way of the Brücke Museum. You can start at U Podbielskiallee, hanging a left at the exit into the street called Im Dol, and entering the first of the two parks almost immediately. If you cut diagonally across the park at Im Dol, you will reach Pacelliallee. Cross the street and pick up the trail through the Messelpark. Stay on the trail till Pücklerstr., then turn left, cut across Clayallee, and take the first side street to the left (Fohlenweg), from where it is just 400 meters to the Brücke Museum.


The museum features the work of the German Expressionist painters known as the Brücke artists, whose work appeared between the beginning of the twentieth century and the end of the Weimar Republic in 1933. They called themselves Brücke (bridge), probably inspired by a line in Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche (a driving force behind their philosophy), which describes mankind as a bridge between the mortal condition and a higher ideal.

The museum, first opened in 1967, lies at the end of the Bussardsteig, a small quiet side street, off Pücklerstrasse. Its location, at the edge of the Grunewald, had been carefully chosen a few years earlier by the director of the state museums, together with one of the founding members of the Brücke movement, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, who wanted the museum and its paintings to be embedded in a natural environment.

In fact, a striking feature of the museum’s exterior architecture is the way in which the white-grey walls and horizontal lines of this low single-level building offset the height of the pines and birches surrounding it. The interior architecture encourages visitors to shift their gaze at intervals from the paintings to the trees and woods visible through the long window panels.


Before leaving the neighbourhood, I suggest walking over to the parallel street to see the Kunsthaus Dahlem (Käuzchensteig 8), which showcases mainly the plastic between 1945 and the building of the Wall in 1961, but also has regular temporary exhibitions of painting, photography, graphic design and more.

As of now, all you will see, bordering the Grunewald, is a massive brick building with iron transom windows, in front of which there is a hive of activity, with trucks rolling up with loads of cement blocks. In fact, you are actually looking at perhaps the only existing artist studio from the Nazi era (except perhaps for the Haus Josef Thoraks in Munich, which is not open to the public).

On this site, Hitler razed the forest to make room for a planned 20-building ensemble of state-supported studios for those artists—sculptors, painters and architects—who were loyal to the regime. These artists were chosen to aid Albert Speer in transforming Berlin into the Third Reich capital Germania. Only the studio for the sculptor Arno Breker was actually completed.

But soon after, as the war years advanced, bombs ripped apart the studio’s magnificent glass roof, and Breker decided he would use the Schloss Jäckelsbruch in Oderburg (a present from Hitler) as his studio instead. Hitler had planned to build an artist’s villa for Breker as well but this, too, never saw the light of day. On its foundations, though, was built the Brücke Museum.

The edge of the Grunewald is a stone’s throw from the entrance to the Kunsthaus, and the Pücklerteich lies directly in the path of your view from there. Head west of the lake through the forest and a trail should bring you directly to the Jagdschloss Grunewald. If you lose orientation, simply head back to Pücklerstr. and follow the signs to the Jagdschloss (about 30 minutes from the corner of Fohlenweg and Pücklerstr.).

The Jagdschloss is Berlin’s only remaining Renaissance castle. Dating back to 1542, it provided lodgings for royal hunting parties, serving the Hohenzollerns till the early twentieth century. Originally named Zum grünen Wald (Into the Green Woods) by Elector Joachim II, the castle provided the name for the forest.

In the eighteenth century, Friedrich I transformed the somewhat grim-looking castle surrounded by a moat into the much friendlier-looking one we see today, with its whitewashed façade and mansard roof. The moat disappeared, so that the castle now stands against the backdrop of the Grunewaldsee. It has been used as a museum since 1932. I usually skip the exhibition on the ground floor—paintings on the courtly hunting theme—and head straight for the magnificent Cranach paintings on the floor above.

Route 5: Jagdschloss Grunewald – Krumme Lanke – Schlachtensee – U Krumme Lanke

There are many more trails to explore. I can give you only a quick final suggestion if you wish to continue on from the Jagdschloss. From here you can find a hiking trail that leads to Onkel-Toms-Straße. Crossing the street, you re-enter the forest and the trail leads, without any diversions, to Krumme Lanke. At the southern end of the lake, a stairway brings you to the Fischerhüttenstraße, on the other side of which lies the Schlachtensee.

If you are ready to return, head down the Fischerhüttenstraße to U Krumme Lanke. If, on the other hand, you feel you deserve a reward after all that hiking, stop at the popular Fischerhütte am Schlachtensee restaurant with a terrace overlooking the lake—crowded in summer, but beautiful (although colder) right around now, in a late-autumnal November.

 You can find Part 1 of “Walking the Grunewald” here

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