You can live in a city like Berlin, and never connect the dots, so to speak.  I mean, you take the U-bahn most of the time, and never see that one place buttresses another. My bike has been out of commission for several months, but getting it to the menders isn’t straightforward, and the weather, until now, wasn’t bike weather.  Now the sun beckons to us, to go and explore.  My default setting is Templehof, the old airfield within walking distance. The name Templehof comes from the Knights Templar, who used the land in mediaeval times. Then Templehofer Feld was a parade grounds for military parades up to the First World War. Orville Wright landed there in 1909, and Graf von Zeppelin flew over a large crowd, dipping his balloon in deference to the Kaiser.

In 1923, a tiny Templehof Airport opened, and by the time a full-scale airport was built (in 1928), it was already too small to accommodate the traffic. When the Nazis took over, Hitler and his architect Albert Speer, who realised the prestige attached to flying, planned an airport suitable for the world capital “Germania”.  Templehof was one of Europe’s three iconic pre-World War II airports, the others being London’s now defunct Croydon Airport and the old Paris – Le Bourget Airport. The buildings are suitably impressive, even now.  After the war, the Americans took it over, establishing three air corridors out of Berlin, to Hamburg (north), Hannover (west) and Munich (south).  These were the three routes used in the Berlin Airlift, when the Soviets blockaded the city, in an attempt to get the allies to leave. From June 1948 to May 1949, the allies delivered 1.8 million tons of food, coal and supplies in 277,264 sorties via the three air corridors, commemorated by a sculpture of a three-pronged “hunger-rake” at Platz der Luftbruecke (rather than “airlift”, the Berliners referred to it as an “air-bridge”).

For pictures see:

Templehof closed in 2008, despite much protesting, and has been used ever since by the good burghers of Berlin, to fly their kites, to ride their bikes, to slide their sledges, to push their prams, to tend their community gardens, to canoodle in the corners, to play football, to land-kite-board, to play Frisbee, to flirt over volleyball, to go for a walk, to jog, to picnic and meet.  Plans are afoot to “develop” Templehof ie. build luxury apartments, though there are plenty of voices of opposition.

This week, I went to Platz der Luftbruecke, at the corner of Templehofer Feld, and walked over to Viktoria Park to see the small hill that gives Kreuzberg it’s name.  There is a tiny hill (nothing like as high as Killiney Hill) topped by a war memorial designed by the famous Prussian architect Schinkel, to commemorate the undoing of Napoleon and his exile to Elba. Berlin is flat, except for small inclines like this one, so standing on top afforded me a great view of the city, and a nice place to have my picnic.  I walked down the other side, which was, surprisingly, steeper, and ended up on Bergmannstraße, a glorious mish-mash of cafes and second-hand shops and craft outlets, which led to Gneisenaustraße, which I didn’t realise was around the corner – I’ve only ever been there (to visit “Another Country” English-language second-hand bookshop) by U-bahn, hence, in the process, I connected the dots between my house, Templehof, Platz der Luftbruecke and Kreuzberg.

During the week, I connected the dots by travelling on the tram from Warschauer Straße, which is in Friedrichshain, up to Landsberger Allee, also in Friedrichshain, but I have only ever been there via U-bahn.  I love travelling by bus or tram, because you get to see where you are.  My friend Ana helped me to negotiate buying a toaster via E-Bay, which I’ve never done before, so I had to go pick it up (the toaster, which I only bought in November, broke, and I had thrown away the receipt). When I got there, the very nice man said we had to pick it up in the cellar.  I made sure that the hall light was on, and the cellar was just at ground level, as I was sure I was going to be locked in there forever. However, the prospect of toast pushed me on, and I picked up the working toaster without being murdered, for all of 3 euro. It’s probably a relic of the East Bloc, the design looks a bit like the Volksbűhne (People’s Theatre), but what a luxury to have toast again.