Pure Pleasure in the Lustgarten Berlin

Berliners love to be outdoors, so it is fortunate that their city has a wealth of parks, gardens, forests and lakes for them to enjoy.

One of those parks is the evocatively-named Lustgarten, which simply means Pleasure Garden. This garden is to be found on Museum Island, which sits in the middle of the Spree River, which runs through Berlin.

This island lives up to its name as it is home to five respected museums which occupy the northern part of the island. The Lustgarten is located next to the Old Museum, so named because it is old and houses an antique collection, and the Berlin Cathedral, or Berliner Dom as it is also called.

The park has had a much varied history. It was once part of the Berlin City Palace and has been used as a garden, a parade ground and an area in which mass rallies were held during the socialist and communist days.

Over the years, many rulers have changed the park’s nature to suit their particular whim; even Napoleon used the Lustgarten as a parade ground during his occupation of the city in 1806.

The park was redesigned in 1929 and given a more formal countenance with formal paths which divided the park into six sections and an impressive steam powered fountain which was replaced by a statue of Kaiser Frederick William III who was the Prussian King at the time.

Apart from immortalising himself in stone, the Kaiser wanted Berlin to have the biggest and best of everything as a symbol of Prussian might, so commissioned the building of a giant bowl. The bowl was ordered to be so big that it would dwarf the size of Nero’s Bowl, which was kept at the Vatican Museum, so architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel designed a bowl that was to be hewn out of a single piece of granite which weighed about 750 tonnes.

When finished, the giant bowl weighed about 75 tonnes. It is indeed impressive, having a diameter of 6.9 metres and a circumference of 21.7 metres. Once carved, the bowl took two and a half years to polish, and was finally erected in the garden in 1834.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, forty people were invited to partake of breakfast whilst sitting inside the bowl. This so impressed the Berliners, they now refer to this massive artefact as the `soup bowl’. The bowl was moved during World War II in order to protect it, but when attempts were made to move it back in 1981 the bowl broke in two, so now it has been cemented together to make it look exactly like it did originally.

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