By Marriette Rough
If you are tiring of the hustle and bustle of European cities and fancy a little day-trip adventure whilst in Berlin, we recommend you head out to the little known Peacock Island. It is a small island located on the River Havel, which has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990.
A great destination whether you are with your family or friends. Even better if you are on a romantic date. The island itself is a nature reserve with free roaming Peacocks, hence the name. The island is also host to a beer garden and has it’s very own castle. Quite the fantasy island.
The history of the island dates back to the 17th Century when it was actually named Rabbit Island. It’s sole purpose being a rabbit breeding station set up by Friedrich Wilhelm I of Brandenburg. A member of the house of Hohenzollern, he was popularly known as the ‘Great Elector’. He later gifted the island to a chemist named Johann Kunckel so he could build a glass foundry there. Here Kunckel discovered a process to produce red coloured glass. The foundry was destroyed in a fire in 1689 and the chemist moved on to work for the King of Sweden.
The island went unused for around 100 years until 1793 when the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm II acquired it and built the Peacockisland Castle for his mistress Wilhelmine Enke. The ‘Lustschloss’ (pleasure palace) was built on the western tip of the island so it could be seen from the Kings’ residence at the Marmorpalais in Potsdam. Quite the love nest.
Friedrich Wilhelm II’s successor, a man wildly named Friedrich Wilhelm III, had the island transformed yet again in 1834. With the help of Karl Schinkel, he turned it into a menagerie, home to many exotic creatures including; alligators, buffaloes, lions, monkeys, kangaroos, bears and peacocks. At one stage there were more than 900 animals. Freddie the III was very fond of the animals, often feeding them himself. He even made the collection accessible to the general public. In 1842 Friedrich Wilhelm IV (you may be noticing a pattern here), transferred all the animals to the Berlin Zoo, which opened its gates officially in 1844.
During the Nazi Era, the island was host to the closing celebration of the 1936 Olympic summer games.
Grab your book, a picnic and head on down. Oh and make sure you stick around for sunset so you can imagine how lovely it would have been for someone to build you your very own pleasure palace!
Getting there: From the city centre take the S7 in the direction of Potsdam. Get off at Wannsee and either bike the rest of the way or take the Bus 218 which terminates right at the ferry stop. The very cute ferry takes only 2 minutes and costs 2 euros. If you do ride your bikes you will have to leave them locked up on the main land as they are not allowed on the island.