Greenery and such

Of all the cities I’ve been to, I’d be hard-pressed to think of one with better outdoor spaces than Berlin. Aside from the hundreds of cafes and bars that line the city’s sidewalks, the river “beaches,” and the two lakes, there are quite a few public parks. And some of them are simply massive. Unfortunately, there are only really four months or so out of the year during which they’re usable, and it’s probably raining most of that time anyway, leaving us with something like 40 days (and a dozen weekend days) — in a good year.

Thankfully, today was one of those days, and so I visited two of the massive parks. In the morning, I went for a run through the Volkspark Friedrichshain, the city’s oldest public park, conveniently located a few blocks from my apartment. It’s got two mountainlets with jogging paths winding gently around them, in addition to loads of fountains, streams, fields, and about a dozen mammoth bronze Communist-era monuments. It’s a damn good place to get hopelessly lost — I made sure to test it out for this purpose.

In the afternoon, I biked across a large swath of the city to the Tempelhofer Park, the city’s largest park. Until 2008, it was one of the city’s two airports, with an illustrious history: It was once one of Europe’s three busiest airports (whose main building was among the tallest buildings in the world), and it was the site of the Berlin airlifts during the Cold War. In 2010, two years after its closure, it reopened as a park. It still very much looks like an airport, with all the runways still intact. It’s a paradise for joggers and bikers, and especially for kite-fliers, dozens of whom take advantage of its treelessness every warm day. Here’s a glance at a tiny fraction of it:

A relatively new addition to the park is a large community garden (there’s certainly enough space for it). But since the law dictates that no permanent structures be built on the park, all the plants are grown in above-ground wood planters:

Anyway, the reason that I went down there was that one of my fellow Fulbrighters, a budding poet, and some friends had organized an open mic in one corner of the park. It was a pleasant affair, with lots of poetry and a bit of song. Though it left one young parkgoer bemused:

Let me close with a promise of sorts: So far, this blog has consisted almost entirely of observations of things that happen to be in front of my face. Once I’m settled in and comfortably absorbed by my work, they’ll get a bit more insightful. At least that’s the idea. Hold me to it.

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