In June 2022, I was at Berlin again, for five weeks. Berlin is my mother town. I explored some corners off the beaten tracks. In my previous blog, we were at the Rüdesheimer Platz, now it is the Fichtenberg (literally “pine tree mountain”).
Yes, you find mountains at Berlin, and the Fichtenberg at Steglitz is one of them.
The Fichtenberg IS a mountain, 69m high
The Fichtenberg IS a mountain. Look at the traffic signs and trees leaning uphill. The man is working hard pulling up his trolley. Kurt Pomplun says that the steep inclination of 1:12 is a problem for the garbage removal men (p. 76).
Oh yes, I know, mountains are steeper in Switzerland. Berlin, however, is flat, and I am always astonished, when I see some inclination here.
More than a hundred years ago, the Fichtenberg rewarded climbers with a gorgeous view from the top: In 1892, they could see Potsdam and the Havel mountains as well as the suburbs Lichterfelde and Zehlendorf (Pomplun, p. 75).
Today, we see trees from the top, beautiful tall trees. There is a platform topping the Ruth-Andreas Friedrich Park. Dogs run around on the meadows, sportsmen jog uphill and take a rest on the platform.
Behind the platform, there must be the entry to the subterranean bunker tunnels of the Second World War that Seeger and Zimmermann mention in the 1980’s (p. 108). The stone slab marking the entrance was still visible then. Access was forbidden. The tunnels collapsed under the street. The street had to be barred. 40 years later, I found no signs indicating this gloomy past.
Below the platform, the Bäke creek has its source (Olaf Seeger et al, p.89). I cannot find the spring tapping, though. It is said to have dried out.
Yes, the Fichtenberg IS a mountain – it even has its creek! We will follow the Bäke creek up to the Havel near Potsdam later.
The best maintained garden of Berlin: The Botanic Garden
The western part of the Fichtenberg is the best maintained garden of Berlin, as Pomplun proudly points out. It is the Botanic Garden of Berlin, with paths and roads winding up and down.
There are greenhouses with tropical plants.
More than 20’000 plant varieties grow on about 40 ha. It is one of the largest botanic gardens of Germany. It was laid out between 1897 and 1910, as the site of the Botanic Garden explains.
Even the grapevine snails enjoy life at the Botanic Garden. They find enough food here.
Sumptuous villas, the oldest from the late 19th century
The Fichtenberg was a wild area, until Frederic the Great cultivated it: In the middle of 18th century, he mandated to plant pine trees here. In the late 18th century, wine was grown here. In the 19th century, the silk factory owner Heese planted mulberry trees. In 1841, the Prussian government acquired the mountain. In 1871, it subdivided it into lots and started to sell them. The first villa was built in 1874, and more followed (Olaf Seeger et al., p. 100).
Let us look at some of the sumptuous villas. Just some of them, there are many more beautiful villas .
Some villas hide behind defensive fences – this is Schmidt-Ott Strasse 11a, built by the architect Endell.
Bishop Dibellius lived here in the 1930’s (Olaf Seeger et al, p. 105). Endell also built the Hotel am Steinplatz near Savignyplatz (In Berlin zu Hause, p. 46f).
Other villas hide behind trees.
I do not know details about this villa number 11b.
This is the villa Anna at Schmidt-Ott Strasse 14, built out of bricks, with a slim and pointed tower attached, behind the trees.
Pomplun says, the villa seems to have been built with elements of “Richters Ankersteinbaukasten” (p. 76).
The Ankersteinbaukasten was a construction kit for children made at Rudolstadt from 1884 to 1963; production was reinitiated in 1995, as I learn from Wikipedia. As a child, I used to play with such a construction kit, when staying with my grand-mother; now I know, what it was.
The former water tower, now the FU Institute of Space Sciences and Meteorology at the Schmidt-Ott-Strasse 13, was built in 1886 (Free University=FU).
In former times, you could climb the tower for ten pfennig and enjoy the view at 40m above street level (Pomplun, p. 75.)
Despite the trees, the owner of this neo-classical villa has decided to install a red umbrella which nicely matches the green and white colours.
This is Schmidt-Ott Strasse 21, the oldest villa at the Fichtenberg: The registrar Mancke had settled here in the year 1874 (Pomplun, p. 74 and Olaf Seeger et al., p. 100).
Pomplun says that this palais was built by the architect Paul Baumgarten (senior) for the merchants’ family Henoch in 1912.
When looking for the name Henoch, I see that for members of this family stumbling blocks (Stolpersteine) have been set up at Berlin, Sybelstrasse 29 – here they are.
I feel guilty, when looking at these reminiscences.
Schmidt-Ott-Strasse 17 is this beautiful villa built in the 1930’s style of new objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit).
Someone later lacked the feeling for taste and tradition. He added this ugly supposedly modern house, probably in the 1960’s.
Like two unequal brothers, this ugly building and the architecture gem of new objectivity are attached to one another.
Across the street, at Schmidt-Ott-Strasse 6, I like this neo-classic villa. The villa belonged to the merchant Degener.
The façade is divided into three parts with four ionic columns in the middle forming the basis for the balcony (Olaf Seeger et al., p.103).
Next door, number 4, is the Evangelisches Jugend und Fürsorgewerk (EJF). In the garden, the bull gives audience to his friend, the grey cat with sparkling green eyes.
The bull is called Heinz, after the actor Heinz Hönig. Since 2003, Heinz has organized instructive journeys for children, as the notice says. Wiki tells me that Heinz Hönig was born in Bavaria in 1951. His foundation “Heinz der Stier” has invited traumatized children and young people to Mallorca and to the Harz to show them new horizons for their future.
I do not know more details about the beautiful cat. It looked at me for a short moment and run away.
The EJF hosts the Ringelbande (“Ringel” gang). It is a day care facility for children and a house for small researchers. Maybe they have performed some research about millipedes.
The large property belonged to the paper factory owner Max Krause. He made money, because he had the brilliant idea to sell envelopes in combination with stationery. His slogan was: «Schreibste mir, schreibste ihr, schreibste auf MK-Papier (whether you write to me or you write to her, you will write on MK stationery)» (Olaf Seeger et al., p. 100)
The villas are full of history and histories. Many of the street names commemorate personalities that once lived here. Carl-Heinrich Becker, for instance, was a Prussian minister and professor of orientalism that lived in the area.
What the dun crow and I see from this point is the eyesore of Steglitz.
This ugly tower at the foot of the Fichtenberg and near the Steglitz city hall seems to undergo construction now and may be completed one day.
I prefer not to further look at the eyesore, and I turn right to Lepsiusstrasse, where there are more beautiful houses,…
… and this beautiful gable that reminds me of the Spreewald.
I descend the Fichtenberg, walk along Lepsiusstrasse and sit down in the small and family-owned restaurant la Piccola Perla to enjoy some delicious pasta. It was a wonderful afternoon. I will return to identify more architecture gems on the Fichtenberg.
Post Scriptum 1: Flee markets are a good source for books about Berlin
Flee markets are a wonderful place to buy books that invite you to explore Berlin beyond the “usual” touristic sights. I came across Pomplun’s “Berlin und keine Ende” on the Sunday market at Steglitz (Hermann Ehlers Platz) and later I found two more books on the Sunday market at the Kupfergraben near the museums island: Olaf Seeger’s and Burkhard Zimmermann’s “Steglitzer Geschichten” as well as Klaus Dieter Wille’s “Spaziergänge in Steglitz”.
Post Scriptum 2: Visiting Kurt Pomplun
Kurt Pomplun is buried at the cemetery of Wilmersdorf.
Thank you, Kurt Pomplun, for telling me so much about Berlin.
- Kurt Pomplun, “Berlin und kein Ende», Berliner Kaleidoskop Band 26, Verlag Bruno Hessling Berlin 1977
- «In Berlin zu Hause», B History, das Berliner Geschichtsmagazin, Nr 4/2022
- Olaf Seeger und Burkhard Zimmermann, «Steglitzer Geschichte(n), Berliner Reminiszenzen No 56, Haude & Spenzer, Berlin 1985
- Klaus Dieter Wille, “Spaziergänge in Steglitz”, Berliner Reminiszenzen No 60, Haude & Spenzer, Berlin 1989
- Ingrid Nowel, «Berlin, die alte neue Metropole. Architektur und Kunst, Geschichte und Literatur», Dumont Kunst Reiseführer Ostfildern 2007
- Website of the Botanic Garden of Berlin https://www.bgbm.org/de
- Wikipedia entry for Heinz Hönig https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinz_Hoenig
- Wikipedia entry about Anker-Steinbaukasten https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anker-Steinbaukasten