Tierpark Friedrichsfelde is to East Berlin what the Zoological Garden is to West Berlin. Only ten minutes by U-Bahn (U5) from Strausberger Platz, visitors will find themselves surrounded by the gorgeous landscape garden of Europe’s largest animal park, which covers an area of just under 400 acres in total.
Compared to its western counterpart in Charlottenburg, Tierpark Friedrichsfelde looks back on a relative short history, which started 61 years ago when the city was still divided: in 1954, East Germany decided to create a suitable equivalent to the Zoological Garden by transforming the historic park of Friedrichsfelde Palace into an animal park.
From Palace to Animal Park
During the 19th century, the Prussian landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné designed the park surrounding the palace in the style of an English landscape garden. When the park was redesigned as a zoo, this basic structure was largely preserved. Although the park and the 17th century palace had survived World War II with few damages, their maintenance had subsequently been neglected. This all changed in 1954 with the start of renovation work to transform the park into a zoo. The palace was integrated into the overall design concept from the start.
A number of challenges had to overcome before the zoo was able to open its gates to the public. Buying exotic animals to populate the zoo proved an extremely expensive venture that required cash donations from the public. Similarly, the human population of East Berlin had to lend a hand to help with the extensive construction work. Maybe this is why many East Berliners felt they had a very special relationship to “their” zoo. With the aid of additional donations from other German and international zoos, July 1955 finally saw the grand opening of Tierpark Friedrichsfelde.
A Precious International Jewel in East Berlin
Over the past 61 years, the animal park has grown considerably, expanding its animal population from approx. 400 to 8,700. Apart from giraffes, stags, crocodiles, monkeys, bison and cheetahs, Tierpark Friedrichsfelde also features sculptures and other works of art from different periods. In addition, Friedrichsfelde Palace regularly hosts concerts and events in a historic setting. If you have a very special occasion to celebrate, you can even rent the palace for a private event.
image courtesy of Annette Shaff – shutterstock.com
image courtesy of Galyna Andrushko – shutterstock.com
The next time you find yourself in the vicinity of Strausberger Platz, don’t miss the chance to jump on the U5 and take a trip to Tierpark Friedrichsfelde. More than just an ordinary zoo, this is a chance to experience a piece of East German history.