After the long, hard Berlin winter, usually within one week of Easter, the same miracle happens every year, when suddenly the whole city bursts out in green and flowers.

During this annual blossom bonanza, both Berliners and visitors flock to the Mauerweg path, many of Japanese origin among them, because come April comes Hanami – the Japanese cherry blossom festival. This year the first blossoms were already visible in March, but the main festival month remains April, when one variety after the other starts illuminating long stretches of the Mauerweg path – the green mile(s) along the former border between East and West Berlin. Now a 160 km long stretch, of which 50 km alone goes through the city, the Mauerweg is an ever-gratifying, mostly nature-dominated path through history for both cyclists and hikers to explore.

One stretch of cherry trees starts at Schwedter Straße, right after the Gleimstraße crossing. If you then cross Schwedter Brücke and keep following the Mauerweg (look for the grey signs), you will soon reach Bornholmer Straße and the Bösebrücke bridge. Here, due to a political glitch, the first peaceful walk-through of thousands of GDR citizens took place on November 9th,1989 – making it the first, accidental opening of the wall since 1961, promptly leading to its peaceful fall. Having passed underneath the bridge at Bornholmer Straße, another stretch of cherry trees begins, blossoming a little later than the rest, in an even stronger shade of pink. Here, the observant wanderer will detect a sculpture on both sides of the path – a split rock symbolizing the formerly divided city. Both the cherry trees and the sculpture are gifts by the Japanese people via the “Sakura-Campaign” of 1990, which raised the necessary funds. Do walk on for a bit, until the Mauerweg takes you to Wollankstraße, where you will reach yet another cherry tree path, hidden between houses and train tracks. Once, I stumbled upon the surprising sight of a Japanese bride there, being photographed in full regalia underneath the cherry blossoms.



The “Gardens of the World” in the Marzahn Recreational Park meanwhile have their own Hanami festival. This year, it will be taking place on the weekend of April 13th /14th across the Japanese, Chinese and Korean gardens with a comprehensive program of shows and events. The offers range from song and dance to handicraft and the Japanese art of drumming. The three Asian cultures can be explored via a culinary spread through to a special highlight – the Sunday fashion show – while kids enjoy XXL games on the big lawn. Cosplayers get in for free on Saturday, when they can display their Manga and furry costumes to their hearts’ content.

The cherry blossom, or “Sakura” stands for both vitality and transience. The multiple Japanese civilian donors, who helped create the Mauerweg cherry path and sculpture at Bornholmer Straße underneath the former border crossing, thereby wished to gift the Berliners peace and tranquillity of the heart. Much appreciated, and a heartfelt “Arigatō!”

Berlin Notes: Town of coffee

Photo: Coline Mattée

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