I woke up on New Year's Day and right away the swimming feeling in my head told me I needed to get up and moving. So we leashed up the dog and picked our way through the mess of fireworks strewn across streets and parks in our neighborhood. Only a few hours removed from our first Berlin Sylvester, the time had come to recharge the batteries with some wandering in the woods. Normally I'd be fine to poke around Tiergarten for a few hours, but Berlin's urban park looked a little worse for wear with strewn-about confetti and spent rockets.
No, what we needed was a real excursion. And Berlin delivers -- all less than an hour from our door.
Grunewald lies just a few stops on the No. 7 S-Bahn west of Charlottenburg, and the forested area was a welcome respite after a night fueled by alcohol, pyrotechnics and the resulting mayhem when you combine those first two ingredients. Plenty of other Berliners had the same idea, but thankfully Grunewald is large enough (3,000 hectares, or 7,500 acres) that the trails didn't seem clogged, despite a horde of walkers, trail runners and mountain bikers.
The railway station deposits you right on the northeast corner of the park. From there you walk along the tree-lined Schildhornweg, which then splinters into a maze of different routes. Lisa, Toro and I headed west towards water, making our way along the well-worn paths to the Havel.
It's easy to see how in the summer the park would be lush with greenery and packed with daytrippers. On that frosty January day, though, the ponds were tightly covered in ice and the air was brisk as we wound our way through the trails and down along the damp sand at the water's edge.
All in all, it's a good way to spend 4-5 hours on a weekend when the city. The bracing winter air swept away my hangover and the quiet time in the trees restored a mind that was pinballing after experiencing a visual overload of fireworks and explosions.
A trip to Grunewald is even better if you bring a lunch. But if you don't, there's a biergarten strategically placed near the S-Bahn stop. For serious hikers, there's the option of taking the No. 7 S-Bahn down to Wannsee and then walking 15-something kilometres all the way back to Grunewald.
One note, on this trip we bypassed Teufelsberg (lit: Devil's Mountain), the former US spy station from Cold War days. Plenty of smart Berlin people have written about Teufelsberg, and it's on the list next time we're out in Grunewald.