Emphasis on the word hidden in this case! On the way to the central bus station, my daughter and I realised we were far too early and had over an hour to kill before she had to board her bus. So we turned around and headed towards the closest park in the area, which turned out to be the Brixplatz in Westend. It being a holiday today all over Germany, the streets were empty and most people were partying somewhere in the carnival areas.
The Brixplatz is a small and unassuming place hidden by rows of old apartment buildings. If you are not familiar with this area of Berlin and have no definite reason to be here, the park is almost impossible to see. First of all, it is a gated park, with cute little signs on the gates politely requesting visitors to make sure the gates remain closed to that the wild boars don’t find their way in. Hmmm, something to perk your attention already.
The moment you step into the Brixplatz the dense foliage of the trees and bushes swallows you up, immediately eradicating all signs of a pulsating metropolis beyond the fence. The small and narrow paths are your only guides to navigating through and around the urban jungle and for once, it doesn’t really matter which direction you go.
It is initially a downward path that leads towards a pond completely covered in little green water plants. The sound of frogs croaking in vivid conversation alternating with the ducks and birds were an absolute delight and made me suspect that this was a protected biotope, which a sign further down the path confirmed. There are a couple of benches scattered around but these are few and far apart from each other, which I think contributes to the more natural feel.
Originally planned in 1909, this former stone quarry area had a designated park in the spot where the Brixplatz stands today as part of the residential development plan of Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf, with the working name of Platz F (Space F). It was later renamed to Sachsenplatz until WWI got in the way and Berlin developed other priorities during the war. When the local government was about to resume the project, WWII broke out and presented yet another inconvenience, until finally in 1947 the park was named after the Rector of the Technical College, Josef Brix.
Most of the maintenance is private initiative and voluntary. There is a keen attention to detail that quickly becomes endearing the longer you remain in the area. For example, out of the blues there are bird feeders hanging from trees lovingly filled with fresh food. Perhaps it is also meant for a squirrel or two, who knows, but needless to say, it is a good reason to smile.
Unassuming that is, the Brixplatz area became known over the years as a Kunstlerkolonie (artists’ colony), due to several prominent actors, directors, authors, poets, and even the legendary boxer Max Schmeling who took up residency there. If you are familiar with German literature, the name Joachim Ringelnatz should ring a bell, especially his poetry. One in particular stands out: Am Sachsenplatz: Die Nachtigall which was written right then and there.
Berlin is full of surprises, not all of them pleasant, but every once in a while I stumble on a treasure like this and the soul rejoices.
(NB – source of all background information pertaining to Brixplatz: Wikipedia, unfortunately there is no English translation this to this particular entry)