There is an unexpected sight hidden among suburban streets in the south of Berlin: Lilienthal Park. To some, it might look like an ancient burial ground from an alien-like civilization or some ancient tribe.
Lilienthal Park is the park’s name, and the Fliegeberg is the name of that hill that is part of Germany’s aviation history. It was there that, in 1894, Otto Lilienthal started doing his gliding experiments in Berlin. You probably read his name around Berlin a few times since Berlin’s busiest airport, Berlin Tegel “Otto Lilienthal” Airport, is named after him.
But who was Otto Lilienthal?
Otto Lilienthal was born in Anklam in May 1848. He became famous as the Glider King since he was the first to make well-documented, repeated, and successful gliding flights. His photographs started being published in newspapers and magazines worldwide and influenced the general opinion about the possibility of flying machines for humankind.
Standing on the top of the 15-meter-high hill, he could launch his gliders into the wind no matter which direction it was coming from. I keep imagining the faces of the crowd that used to go there to see the flying man from Lichterfelde.
In August 1896, Otto Lilienthal was doing one of these glider tests in Rhinow when his glider pitched forward, heading down quickly. He tried to recover his position but couldn’t, and he fell from a height of 15 meters while still in the glider.
His last words to his brother Gustav were Opfer müssen gebracht werden! (Sacrifices must be made!). And the Fliegeberg remained there.
Only in 1932 the site of the Fliegeberg started to be shaped like it is today. The clay pit was filled with water and became a pond, a former workers’ residence became a tourist restaurant, and a viewing pavilion was built at the summit.
Now, grass covers the hill during summer, springtime brings cherry trees blooming, and everything is orange during autumn, as you can see in the pictures here.
When you climb the steps leading to Fliegeberg’s summit, look down and wonder about the faith that Otto Lilienthal needed to jump from the top and fly by an experimental glider. Just look around and wonder. A bronze globe stands on the top, inscribed with Otto Lilienthal 1848 — 1896, as a reminder that this place is a part of history. Otto Lilienthal laid down the legacy and influence that spread around the world. From Santos Dumont to the Wright Brothers, Otto Lilienthal opened the skies to everybody.
Visiting Lilienthal Park
The first time I visited Lilienthal Park was on a Sunday in 2014. I visited Lilienthal Park and the Fliegeberg the same day I went to see Chris Gueffroy’s Memorial. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day. I took my bike and went from Neukölln to Lichterfelde. It wasn’t the best idea I ever had since it was a longer bike ride than I was prepared to…
The park is close to Brandenburg, and the nearest S-Bahn station is Berlin Osdorfer Straße. Take the train and walk the rest through the suburban streets of Lichterfelde.
Otto Lilienthal Park: Hidden among suburban streets of Berlin
Schütte-Lanz-Straße – Lichterfelde – Berlin
I took too many pictures of the park; you can see more of it on my Flickr.