Category: parks

Otto Lilienthal

Lilienthalpark is in the southern Berlin suburb of Lichterfelde and is dedicated to the glider pioneer Otto Lilienthal.

In the late 1800’s Otto and his brother Gustav worked together to develop the precursor to the hang-glider. Their designs were based mainly on the anatomy and mechanics of various large birds. By most accounts, Otto was the first person to ever make repeated and sustained flights with gliders. He was known to jump off various high spots in an around Berlin including the tops of buildings and barns.

Much of Otto’s design inspiration came from another Berliner:  Ottomar Anschutz. In 1887, Anschutz invented a fast shutter camera and began taking pictures of storks in flight. Eventually Lilienthal and Anschutz met and Anschutz’s photos of Lilienthal are some of the first ever of a man in flight.

In order to make jumps from a consistent height in any direction, Otto and Gustav eventually built their own 15 meter-high hill in Lichterfelde next to an old clay pit. This hill, which Otto dubbed Fliegeberg (fly hill),  is now topped with a memorial to Otto and is the centerpiece of Lilienthalpark.

Otto Lilienthal died as a result of a glider crash in August of 1896. His name lives on not only in Lilienthalpark, but also Berlin’s current main airport Tegel “Otto Lilienthal” Airport. There is also a street named after him near Berlin’s former Tempelhof Airport.

Lilienthal’s work would later become an inspiration for the Wright Brothers and other aviation pioneers.


Nordbahnhof Park

Now an example of natural reclamation within a dense urban area, Park am Nordbahnhnof was formerly a rail yard connected to Nordbahnhof  train station and then a no man’s land running along a section of the Berlin Wall.

Starting in 1945 the East/West division of Berlin ran right through the rail yard, so East Germany decided to close the train station in 1953 and tear the rail yard down around the same time the wall went up.  From 1961 to 1989, most of the old rail yard right of way became a wide no man’s land strip running North to South before the wall made a 90 degree turn at Bernauer Strasse.

After reunification, the area lay fallow with native meadow grasses and a stand of birch trees taking over where watchtowers, concrete, and floodlights once stood. The city of Berlin officially decided to make the area into a park which opened in 2009.  Although the park was nominally “developed,” the landscaping firm that did the work purposefully choose to keep the park’s natural setting; there are no playgrounds, grilling areas, or well groomed fields as is common in more traditional urban parks.

Despite the crowds and noise of the busy Bernauer Strasse and the Berlin Wall Memorial that runs alongside it, the Nordbahnhof park is an oasis where the birds are often louder than the nearby traffic and people.

A short video about the development of the park can be viewed here (in German with English subtitles).



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