Berlin: Excursion to Köpenick and the Müggelsee

In 2021, I was in Berlin four times. I love to return to my mother town to discover new corners and to rediscover known corners.

With a friend, I visited Köpenick. We parked conveniently at the Kirchstrasse 5-6 parking, just opposite of the famous townhall of Köpenick.

The townhall is famous for the Captain of Köpenick. He stands next to the main entrance.

 

The Captain of Köpenick – the imposter that arrested the mayor and confiscated the town coffer

We enter the town hall of Köpenick. The atmosphere inside must have an intimidating effect on their citizens. 

The townhall was inaugurated in October 1905 and enlarged in 1949. 

Dogs have to remain outside.

It was one year after the inauguration, that, in 1906, the cobbler Wilhelm Voigt made his coup as the “Captain of Köpenick”.

The life of Walter Voigt, born at Tilsit in Prussia, already went off rails during his apprenticeship as a cobbler in 1863. Between 1863 and 1891, he was sentenced seven times, in 1867 even for twelve years of jail. In 1906, he was expelled from Wismar and later from Rixdorf. He was jobless then.   

In 1906, he bought the uniform of a captain from a second-hand-dealer, investigated several town halls in Berlin and selected Köpenick, one reason being the good train connections. He collected a group of soldiers and with them, he took the suburban train to Köpenick. He performed his role as a captain with determination and was successful, because order and obedience were engrained in the German society at the times of Emperor Wilhelm II. The imposter Captain arrested the mayor and confiscated the money of the city. He even signed for having received the money. He escaped, was arrested ten days later and sentenced to four years of jail. However, Emperor William II amnestied him in 1908. 

After 1908, he earned money by telling about his imposter coup. He registered his voice on a disk and received 200 Mark for that. He made speeches, not only in Berlin, but in all Germany; the advertisements appeared in the newspapers of that time, as the exhibition panel explains. However, the outbreak of the First World War ended this “business” opportunity. Wilhelm Voigt died as a poor and ill man in Luxembourg in 1922.

Various films present the story of the Captain of Köpenick, one of them with Heinz Rühmann as the protagonist in 1956.

In addition, his imposter adventure entered literature; Carl Zuckmayer wrote the play “der Hauptmann von Köpenick” in 1930, and in 1931, it was performed for the first time in the German Theatre of Berlin.

 

Strolling through Köpenick

It is raining. There is a small market on the Schlossplatz. Geflügelotto presents his pieces of grilled chicken.

Even the Berliner Sparkasse, a bank, offers their services, making it all clear that this mobile bank branch office does not carry any money. It just provides advice.

Also Köpenick is getting ready for the German and Berlin September elections. The LKR are liberal conservative reformers that dislike the extensive gender equality used in the German language by adding “*innen” to include the female gender. They want it to be removed from schools and governmental activities. “Quatsch” means “nonsense”, and “Quatsch” includes the female gender here. 

 

The baroque castle of Köpenick with the exhibition of furniture and dishes

From the rain, we escape to the castle of Köpenick, located on the Schlossinsel or castle island surrounded by the river Dahme. 

A panel explains that the castle island has been inhabited since almost 5000 years. In 850, the Slavs built a fortification here. The baroque castle that we see today is from the end of the 17th century. The castle is now part of the Berlin State Museums. 

We are amazed by the beauty of the modern porcelain and ceramic works presented. This is the plate named “Unkraut” (weeds) by Grita Götze.

From Sonngard Marcks, I have selected three works, first the “Faltschale” (folded bowl),…

… second the “Scherbengericht” (this correctly translates to “ostracism”, but this translation loses the allusion to  “Scherben” = “broken pieces” and “Gericht” which means either “court” or “dish”)… 

… and third the Deckeldose Zori (Deckeldose = container with lid).

In addition, original porcelain is presented such as this rococo dinnerware made by KPM for Frederic the Great in 1767.

Furthermore, there is a permanent exhibition of furniture (Raumkunst) from renaissance, baroque and rococo. I select three highlights.

I am surprised to find this noble baroque buffet of the Basel guild of zaffron (Safranzunft), crafted by the carpenter Johann Heinrich Keller in 1666. The panel does not describe, how this buffet came to Berlin. 

This commode is from Würzburg, 1750. 

From the panel, I learn that commodes are called “commodes”, because they are “commode” (French for convenient, practical) with the drawers providing easy access to the content (I guess, as opposed to coffers in use until now; commodes were an innovation of the 18th century). 

This “Pultschreibeschrank” (desk and cupboard) is made from poplar and decorated with oil paintings showing mythological scenes (1730, probably from Rome).  

 

 

Köpenick – walking around the Kiez

The rain has stopped. We walk around the so called Kiez, which is the old village of Köpenick.

The houses have been renovated… 

… and decorated with care.

 

Müggelsee with lookout

My friend would feel like getting an overview of the area. We find it above the Müggelsee, where we climb the lookout that has been constructed in 1961.

The tower has the charm of a socialist building. The view is superb. Here we see the skyline of Berlin far behind the forest.

Now we have turned south and look at the river Dahme that joins the Spree at Köpenick. 

 

Müggelsee – boat harbour Rübezahl

We have a drink near the boat harbour “Rübezahl”. The name alludes to the giant that lives in the Riesengebirge (Giants mountains or Karkonosze) in Silesia, now part of Poland. 

The reeds are a protected biotope.

We walk along the lake. In the background we can see the outskirts of Köpenick. 

My mother had always told me, how much she loved to be here, when she was young. 

My friend wanted to take a boat ride – but now it is almost six p.m.

We leave Köpenick and accomplish the day with an excellent dinner in the Italian restaurant Il Giardino at Hackerstrasse. 

 

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