A mobile farm in Kreuzberg. Photo by Karen Howley
Berlin tours usually market themselves as one of two types – the kind that gives you the opportunity to get that photo with the Brandenburg Gate en route to learning something about Nazi Germany, or the ‘alternative’ tour: pub crawls, Wall walks, squat visits and so on. So when the opportunity arose to go on the Green City Tour (a "Grass Routes" project), I was curious as to what exactly would fill up this four-hour jaunt through sustainable Berlin.
A Green City Tour covers about 17km, passing through Friedrichschain and Kreuzberg, and taking in tourist sites around Mitte on the way up to Prenzlauer Berg. Thankfully, those hours on a bike in sweltering heat flew by with our informative tour guide Olenka: the route is packed with unusual stops, from a solar-powered settlement inhabited by 30 people (right in the heart of Friedrichshain!) to a craft workshop where we got the chance to make our own badge buttons.
I was surprised by how many creative sustainable projects there are in Berlin. A former tank station, still standing in Prenzlauer Berg, now serves as a bar and exhibition space (although all eyes were on the football when we dropped by). An urban mobile farm goes about its daily business right in the centre of Kreuzberg – ready to pack up and go should the city council demand it. These are the kind of places I know I have cycled past before but not thought anything of.
One of my favourite parts was learning about "guerrilla planting". Little did I know that this may be the reason flowers spring up around trees in my Kiez. You can buy what are called "flower bombs" – really just packets of seeds, wrapped in some neat packaging that labels them as "bombs". Colourful but dangerous (planting without permission)!
After four hours, I was a convert: the Green City Tour is a tour like no other. And so very, quirkily Berlin.
The tour runs every Friday at 2pm until the end of August from Frankfurter Tor, right outside one of the city's most obvious sustainable projects – Humana's four-storey secondhand shop. Be sure to stock up on water before setting off and a pre-lunch is also recommended since there aren’t any snack stops. In true sustainable style, you value the tour after you’ve done it: a donation of between €5 and €10 is recommended. For more information, visit the tour's Facebook page.