Most people with small kids visit Zoo Berlin if they want to have a fun day with lots of animals. But Berlin has another fascinating, slightly weird zoo in former East Berlin: Tierpark. At Tierpark you can spot animals as well, but the park is fascinating all by itself, because the buildings are a bit battered but have a lot of charm. And where else would you spot a graveyard in a zoo?
Polar bears at Tierpark
We had one of the weirdest conversations at Tierpark Zoo. Zoo Berlin had polar bear Knut (he died a couple of years ago), but Tierpark has polar bears that are even more special. It was really cold outside. It had been snowing and a normal stroll through Tierpark was hardly possible because a thick blanket of snow is hard to remove.
We shivered a bit and tried not to fall when we spotted the polar bears. They didn’t mind it was minus ten outside. They were having a blast on the frozen pond of their bear home, rolling through the snow. When we smiled, looking down at so much polar bear fun a woman came up to us and said: ‘Dass ist Toll.” We thought she said: ‘this is fun, because toll means fun in German’. So we replied: “We haven’t seen so much fun in years.” The woman sighed. “Nein, er heisst Toll. Und das ist seine Frau, Olenka.” Aparently, the polar bear was called Toll, or Fun in English. And his polar bear wife was called Olenka.
We laughed, waved Toll goodbye and continued our walk. The buildings at Tierpark are a bit battered and rusty (not the cages with lions of course) but it’s adding to the charm of the large park. It is quite an adventure to move through this park when it has been snowing, because it is rather large. The animals have lots of space and it’s almost like you are not walking in a zoo, but in a large park. Not that weird, the zoo was a park before 1950. The large palace, schloss Friedrichsfelde, reminds you of that period. In the spring and summertime it’s a beautiful spot as well, when the trees are in full bloom and the grass is covered with flowers. There still is a East-Berlin vibe around the zoo. The retro furniture and large windows with copper look a bit like Palast der Republik if you use your imagination.
The combination of a zoo and a park makes this a bit of a weird, but fascinating spot. Where else would you see a graveyard at a zoo? The Treskow-Friedrichsfelde family that lived at the palace are buried near the bear home. You can also spot a memorial for the people that were forced to work at nearby Arbeitserziehungslager (Nazi work camp) Wuhlheide. At the West-Berlin zoo you will find lots of cuddly animals, but no graveyards or war memorials.
After a day at Tierpark Berlin you have seen all sorts of fish, ferocious lions and tigers and of course the most fun polar bear ever: Toll. And you have been at one of the most interesting spots in Berlin. More place to be in Berlin