Who: Abigail Ahern, Interior Designer Where: Maison et Objet, Paris…
What: An excursion to the Pfaueninsel
Where: Berlin, Germany
“Have you ever been on the Peacock Island,” I asked my lovelies on the weekend, while we sat on the terrace of the in 2015 reopened restaurant Wannseeterrassen (Wannsee terraces) and enjoyed the magnificent view of the Havel and its many sailors. Of course, none of us had been, because who would be a tourist in their own city, if not foreign friends or out-of-town friendships wanted to be entertained. There was general shrug and then also a confusion with the Villa-Island Schwanenwerder. There now seemed to be needed some clarification: Less than ten minutes later we reached the pier of the ferry, which took us with a short ride on the Havel to the island.
About a hundred peacocks currently live on the Peacock Island and so it is not surprising, that we promptly ran into one after our arrival. Accompanied by his rather pale brownish feathery partner – unfairly distributed by nature, by the way – the proud peacock unfortunately still did not show us his colorful feathered fan. But then, the nature, the flora and fauna of the island is just unbelievable beautiful: In the 67 hectare landscape Park, declared in 1990 by UNESCO as a world heritage site, is a green paradise and a haven for rare plants and animal species. And the Peacock Island is also closely linked to the Brandenburg-Prussian history.
Once, the Peacock Island served the Prussian kings as a retreat, Friedrich Wilhelm II, nephew of old Fritz, let there be built an air-castle from 1794 onwards at the southwestern tip of Werder’s for himself and his mistress Wilhelmine Encke – later Countess Lichtenau. Thus, the great period of the island began, which only then really became the Peacock Island. His son Friedrich Wilhelm III. instructed the completion of the initiated landscape park in the English style. A Meierhof for milk production had been created and the cavaliers-house for noble guests with original Gothic facades was expanded. Great artists of the time such as landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné and architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel created, with the help of the court gardener Fintelmann from the island, an artificial paradise in the 19th century. There were kangaroos, bears and a lion, shade palms and Ailanthuses, the South Sea Islander Maitay who had been summarily renamed Heinrich Wilhelm, a giant named Karl Friedrich light and dwarfs.
And the dwarves with their very own history were the reason why I had a desire to explore the island and the history associated with it. Specifically, since I read the novel „Pfaueninsel“ (Peacock Island) by the German writer Thomas Hettche, in which the author brings the dwarf-siblings Christian and Maria Dorothea Strackon and the other mentioned figures, including the island of history, to life. A gift from my friend Christine, which I devoured in a few days and took me to another world. It is the love story of the dwarf Marie, the historic documented castle mistress, who comes as an orphan at the age of six years to the island, including dwarf brother Christian. Marie falls in love with Gustav, the nephew of the court gardener who grows up with her. Who too always loved her, but can not be with her because her smallness, her crooked legs, the flat nose and high forehead gradually made her to someone else, a stranger from another world, which is also no longer with love possible to be integrated in the emotional life of the rational, now successful man and not integrated into the always reasonable expectant age itself, the incipient Maschinenzeitalter, the industrialization. Hettche’s love story tells about the adjustment of nature, of human dignity, the nature of time and the sensitivity of the soul and the body – and not least of love in its multiple manifestations, on which traces I now walked around the island. Dipping into Marie’s world, which Thomas Hettche describes so sensitive and multifaceted in his book.
And so we walked from the castle up to the Meierei, past the cavalier-house and picnic area where refreshments are served. My favorite part was the garden with its flowerbeds and shrubs and the rolling hills that lead down to the Havel river. Here, I want to open my picnic basket next time and just lie in the grass. And further dream myself into the world of dwarf Marie and the Prussian kings. BvH
Unesco World Heritage
It goes green
The scent of lavender
The island lies in the forests and waterways district Wannsee is 22 kilometers from Berlin city center and five kilometers from Potsdam away. Nestled in a complex, multi-layered historical cultural landscape, the peacock island with an area of 88 hectares, including 67 hectares of land area is designated as a nature reserve since 1924. The reserve is reported as Fauna-Flora-Habitat and part of the EU bird sanctuary. The Peacock Island is also called “Prussian paradise”.
How to get to Pfaueninsel
The Peacock Island can be reached from the center of Berlin by bus line 218 from Theodor-Heuss-Platz Underground Station through the Grunewald and continues on Wannsee S-Bahn station. Then the short ferry to the Peacock Island follows.