Jim is not only one of the owners of the Circus, but he is also our resident expert on the hidden corners of the city. It is Jim’s firmly held belief that some of the most interesting places in Berlin are “off the beaten track”, not least in his home neighbourhood of Pankow.
Pankow Town Centre
The centre of Pankow is the area around the lovely red brick town hall, which was built about a hundred years ago at the start of the 1900s. Also of interest is the small, idyllic church that somehow seems out of place, surrounded by the main road and the normal city buildings, which includes the delightful Rathaus Shopping Centre. The roar overhead are the planes coming in to land at Tegel airport, so close that you can see the colour of the pilot’s eyes.
This 103 year old oasis has brought happiness to generations of Pankowians. It is very green, as you would expect, with nice water fountains and statues dotted here and there. In the summer the park is always packed with people, and there is nothing better than joining the summertime drinkers at the Rosenstein beer garden and knocking back a cold one.
Until the 1960s, when paranoia drove them to a fortified compound north of the city, this is where the highest levels of the East German political class lived. As you can imagine, these were and are some of the nicest houses in the city.
Some famous former residents include Wilhem Pieck (No. 29), the first President of the German Democratic Republic, and Erich Honecker – who led East Germany from 1971 until 1989. He wasn’t the last leader…that honour fell to Egon Krenz, who managed a month and a half in the job before the office ceased to exist.
This Schloss – which translates from German to “Big Posh House” – was bought by Frederick III in 1692 for 16,000 Thalers. Now, I have no idea what a Thaler is, but it does not stop me from wanting loads of them. It was used as a royal palace on and off until 1760 when it was destroyed by the Russians. Rebuilt, it was visited again by Russian soldiers in 1945 when they turned it into an Officers Club for the Red Army.
After 1949 they handed it over to the East German government, who used it first as the Presidential seat, and then as an official government guesthouse. Some of the famous guests included Fidel Castro and Mikhail Gorbachov. It is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm, and the entry costs €6.
Soviet War Memorial Schönholzer Heide
The Battle of Berlin in April and May 1945 cost the lives of approximately 80,000 Red Army soldiers, and some 13,000 were buried here, which is the third largest Soviet memorial in Berlin after the Treptower Park and the Tiergarten. On the exterior wall there are about 100 bronze tablets with the names of the dead soldiers, and in the middle a huge obelisk which is a 33m high statue of Mother Russia.
Pankow – How to Get There
You can get from The Circus to the area covered by the map in two ways. From outside the Circus Hostel (across the street from the hotel), take the Tram M1 up the hill to U- and S-Bahnhof Pankow. Or else walk down the Torstrasse to Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz and catch the U-Bahn Line 2 north, which takes you to the same place.