Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Tower of Babel(sberg)

South West of Berlin, on the opposite side of the Havel from Potsdam, lies an eccentric collection of Romantic buildings in the landscaped Park Babelsberg. It was to here that we travelled today. We had been there earlier in the year, but it was so snowy and icy that you couldn't walk anywhere easily (kein Winterdienst), and the light was so dull that we didn't take any photos. We did have the park pretty much to ourselves though - nobody else was daft enough to venture away from the hearth in such cold weather. Anyhows, today was a lovely day with the beginnings of Spring very much in the air.
Babelsberg is in itself an interesting town, famous (and during the Nazi period infamous) for its film studios. But you can read about them on Wikipedia or somewhere similar. Today we were interested in exploring the weird imaginations of such famous architects and garden-designers as Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Ludwig Persius, Peter Joseph Lenné and Hermann von Pückler-Muskau.
A taste of what is to come greets you as soon as you get off the train, with the wonderfully gabled and turretted Babelsberg Rathaus (town hall):

This kind of faux-mediaeval style seems to have been de-rigeur for town halls at the turn of the century. The red and glazed green bricks, the church-like facades and spires, the gargoyles and balconies, all are reproduced in Rathäuser from Pankow to Alt Köpenick and beyond. As if the Brothers Grimm had been asked to design a mad prince's castle, after a night of too much absinthe with the town planners.
Standing high above the park is the magnificent look-out tower of the Flatowturm,  built between 1853 and 1856 with stones from the former princely estate in Flatow (Western Prussia). The Eschenheimer Torturm (gate tower) in Frankfurt/Main served as its model (or so a bit of googling tells me).


It has a moat around it too, sadly not filled at the time of our visit, and looks like any child's idea of a Rapunzel tower.
Standing nearby is the Gerichtslaube, which the plaque on it (if my translation is correct) says it was constructed from the original 13th Century parts of a porch outside the law-courts in Berlin. Or something.
Another typically Romantically designed viewing point is the Siegessäule in commemoration of Prussia winning the 1866 Austrio-Prussian war:

It is not so impressive as the Berlin Siegessäule of course, and the view would have been better if they hadn't planted so many trees, but was worth climbing up to none-the-less.
Further on in the park and you come to Schloss Babelsberg itself.




Another wonderful neo-gothic dream, made reality! Adjoining it, the castle even has a mock-ruined gothic church complete with a statue of St Michael slaying the devil. No doubt bats flit around it in the twilight, auditioning for a bit(e)-part in a Dracula movie at Babelsberg Studios.
From Park Babelsberg you can look across the Havel to see Glienicker Brücke (bridge), made famous by any number of Cold War espionage movies as the exchange point for spies between East and West, an occurance which really did happen (The Babelsberg side was in West Berlin, the Potsdam side was in East Germany):


My best remembrance of a wonderful day out though is of a statue of a dog at Schloss Babelsberg, its doleful but patient expression captured in stone:

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