Volkspark Humboldthain — The Bunker Beneath The Beauty

The most obvious feature of Volkspark Humboldthain in Berlin’s Wedding district is the partially collapsed Flakturm (anti-aircraft tower) perched atop the hill at its center.

The hill itself is only one of many which were added to Berlin’s parks after World War II, built from bombing rubble. This hill in particular, however, is made of the rubble left when the French partially demolished the tower and its two gun platforms.

They still had plenty of rubble with which to work, because the reinforced concrete tower was had 12-foot/2.5m thick foundations and inner and outer walls offering another 11.5 feet/3.5 m of protection! Before it was finished, the hill consumed over 1.4 million tons of rubble, carried to it by unemployed Berliners.

They couldn’t remove the entire structure, however, because its north face was too close to the railway. So the north face remains, and it’s extremely popular with rock climbers. About half-way up one of the climbing routes is an opening through which you can actually reach into the tower’s bunker, where up to seven thousand Berliners at a time sought protection from the bombing raids.

You can tour the bunker, but only between April and October. The rest of the time it’s closed so that the largest bat population in Berlin can hibernate inside! If you’re even a little claustrophobic, however, I advise against a tour which will have you locked between two steel doors about 8 m below ground.

When the second door is opened, you’ll see a warren of rooms continuing for more than 100 m. There’s no better way to experience the sheer massiveness of this place.

If you’d prefer to stay above ground, trek to platforms at the top of the tower for some great panoramas of Berlin!

The 71 acres/29 hectares of Volkspark Humboldthain, or course, aren’t all about the Flakturm. There are tree-shaded walking, biking paths lined with flower beds, and a large outdoor public swimming complex. There are a playground, a water garden, and plenty of places for picnics or sunbathing.

Humboldthain Park’s Rose Garden is shielded from the rest of the goings-on by its high hedges with private recesses for benches. The garden’s huge trees shut out noise and views of the surrounding streets, so you can almost forget you’re in Berlin.

But why would you want to? :-)

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