Berliners love living green. The public parks are like extended living rooms, each threatened tree is protected and those who don’t have their own allotment garden can join in any of the numerous neighborhood garden projects. Beyond its residents’ traditional closeness to nature, Berlin is also a city for environmental trends. For many Berliners, the (carefully selected) bicycle has replaced the car as a status symbol. In DIY workshops, Berliners are learning how to make their own furniture and clothing, instead of surrounding themselves exclusively with industrial mass production. And not a few follow LOHAS, a “lifestyle of health and sustainability”, people who enjoy the pleasures of life whilst eating a healthy diet and making sustainable choices in their consumption. For example, clothes should be made in an ecologically responsible way, but should also be glamorous.
The desire to preserve and expand green oases, coupled with the willingness to follow sustainable and alternative paths, is turning the former industrial city of Berlin more and more into a green metropolis.
There is traditionally a lot of green in the city. Around 440,000 trees have been officially counted. More than a third of the nearly 900 km2 of the city is green space, half of which is forest. This reflects the city’s history as a royal capital, where parks such as the Tiergarten and gardens at Charlottenburg Palace were created by the Prussian kings. In the 19th century, amidst the tenements and factories of a newly industrial city, allotments arose as oases of green; many still exist today. As Berlin expanded to its present borders in 1920, several towns and dozens of villages were incorporated into the city, together with the green spaces in-between. During the years of division, these recreation areas became necessary for survival: without them, the walled-in West Berliners probably could not have survived the division. Since the fall of the Wall, parts of the former no-man’s strip have been turned into new bike paths, parks or gardens.
An overview of Berlin’s parks and gardens can be found at www.visitBerlin.de/en/see/sightseeing/green-berlin.
Photograph: Philipp Kosche