Berlin By Forest
Trails abound in the outskirts of Germany's vibrant capital city
Katrin Schultze running near the Teufelsberg with the former U.S. spy station in the background. Photo by Magdalena Lepka.
The history and culture, the nightlife, the energy of a once-divided and now rapidly changing city, even the currywurst, all ensure that Berlin bustles with tourists, hipsters, dogs, strollers and traveling musicians. But the city is also lush with green space. Forests comprise approximately 18 percent of Berlin’s territory (totaling 100 square miles inside the city borders) while bodies of water, parks and farmland make up another 23 percent. Before moving to Berlin last summer, I clung to these statistics as an indicator that I could get my trail-running fix in the city.
My first Berlin run was an urban adventure along a sometimes-sidewalk, sometimes-dirt path that follows the Landwehr Canal, which connects the Upper and Lower River Spree. A friend and I skirted around one of Berlin’s many outdoor markets, dodging a man hawking stolen bicycles and then a group of 20-somethings waving political pamphlets. Continuing along a wide gravel path that parallels the Spree, we ran past the Badeschiff, a river cargo container that has been converted into a floating public swimming pool. Here, graffiti adorns warehouses, which host an indoor market and artist studios.
Arriving at Treptower Park, the city’s second-largest public park, we hopped on singletrack to enter the denser wilds of a preserve called Plaenterwald. The city dropped away. We navigated a narrow birch-lined trail and the smell of damp earth grew stronger until a dilapidated metal dinosaur leered at us through a fence. This was Spreepark, a former East German amusement park that now stands abandoned.
“Isn’t this the most amazing run ever?” my friend said, gesturing at the river to our left and the overgrown carnival to our right.
I loved the run, but I was seeking something else.