Rick Wright will lead VENT’s Germany: Birds & Art in Berlin & Brandenburg tour, September 30-October 8, 2016.
Berlin’s largest urban green space dates to the early sixteenth century, when a royal hunting preserve was gradually transformed into a public park. By the nineteenth century, the Tiergarten district, centered on the forested square mile of this “garden of beasts,” had become the city’s most desirable neighborhood, home to the Prussian nobility, newly wealthy industrialists, and even the odd scholar or two.
Some of the finest villas are now occupied by government buildings and embassies, as they were in the days leading up to the second World War. Laid waste, like most of Berlin, in the closing days of the war, the Tiergarten is once again a refuge at the very heart of central Europe’s most exciting city—
—a refuge for human residents and birds alike.
The peaceful stroll from the Charlottenburg Gate leads through deep forest and along placid waterways inhabited by all the common birds of those habitats, from noisy Song Thrushes to secretive Northern Goshawks—yes, goshawks, breeding and wintering in the middle of the capital of Germany.
On my most recent visit to Berlin, I rose early almost every day to head out into the wild marshlands and woods of nearby Brandenburg.
As wonderful as those days were, the best mornings were those when I lingered abed just a little longer, then crossed the street to the Tiergarten. Those urban goshawks were, as so often, elusive, but my walk, past the Victory Column and the Brandenburg Gate to the Philharmonic and Potsdamer Platz, was lavish in the sight and sound of birds. Chaffinches and Green Woodpeckers bounced across the lawns, while Hawfinches and Wood Warblers ticked and trilled from the trees. It was like Central Park or Garret Mountain or Mount Auburn in May—but with different birds and no crowds.
And at the end of my walk through the garden of the beasts, there was coffee and cake and a world-class museum or six. You really can have it all in Berlin. Especially if you’re a birder.
All photos by Rick Wright.