Far away from the tourists the flock Berlin there is a neighborhood called Kaulsdorf. It’s there that you will find the lonely hippo known as Knautschke after a famous hippo that was born in the Berlin Zoo back in 1943.
Knautschke has the entire Freibad Wernersee to himself but, when I was there, I didn’t see he enjoying much of it. Maybe it was cold; maybe it was the fact that the pool was frozen. Maybe he was just waiting for a time where he would have company, but this will, probably, never happen. Freibad Wernersee was closed in 2002 after some concerns about the quality of the water there. Supposedly this is a problem there because this is a natural pool, with water that comes from the ground. This was the reason this became the first outdoor public pool in Berlin, all the way back in 1905. Before it became a public pool, the area had a small natural pond.
In 1899, Wilhelm Werner decided to buy the land and turn everything into a bathing lodge with restaurants and anything else you might need. The hostel was called Badeschlösschen. A few years later, the pond was gone, and the first swimming pool was built.
After the Second World War, Berlin took over the pool, and Freibad Wernersee opened to the public again in 1951. The pool was larger this time with 50-meter lanes that were even suitable for competitions. In the fifties, the place got the Knautschke statue that now lives in the middle of some tall grass. Back in the day, this was in the midst of the pool and children were climbing on it and having fun as you can see in this article that tells some of the histories of this pool.
Back to the hippo statue! This statue was created by a sculptor known as Erwin Kobbert, he used to have a studio near Schloss Biersdorf, and he created it in the fifties as well. But he didn’t create only the hippo statue. There are also some friendly penguins that greet people at the door.
The day that I visited this abandoned pool, the weather was so cold in Berlin that I believe those Penguins felt like they are home.
Like I said before, Freibad Wernersee closed its doors in 2002 due to a lack of parking lots, some noise complaints and the absence of water treatment there. This was never a problem in East Berlin, but a new country was too much for this pool. A water treatment plant is too expensive for the Freibad Wernersee, and it seems that nobody wants to help it with the money.
Not even the Friends of the Wernerbad, an association created in 2006, could find the money. This organization was created with the goal of reaping the public pool, but they couldn’t pull it out. And it seems that the pool will be gone soon since the city already changed its status from a pool into something else so the area could be sold to an investor.
During the time that I was there, I didn’t see any construction work. But I didn’t see anything at all. It was a cold Sunday at the beginning of February. There were no cars on the road, and I jumped the fence without any issues. No nosy neighbors, no animals, only foot prints of people that were there before the last snow.
The snow was the only problem I had there. Everything was slippery, and I felt like the frozen water was calling my name. Every time that my feet move weirdly, my heart skipped a beat from fear of falling into the ice. I’m glad it didn’t happen!
How to get to the Abandoned Freibad Wernersee
If you want to go to the abandoned Freibad Wernersee, you should take the S5 straight into S-Bahnhof Mahlsdorf and walk for a while to get there. Follow the map below, and you will find your way there easily.
The only problem is that it’s pretty far away from the city center, but you will handle it without any fear. Don’t worry. Bring some beers and a camera and have fun exploring the oldest public pool that Berlin used to have.
If you want to see how the Freibad Wernersee looks like when it’s not frozen, take a look at the great pictures from AbandonedBerlin.com. And if you want to explore more abandoned pools in Berlin, there is one in Neukölln that has seen better days and another one in Lichtenberg that is easy to find.
The Abandoned Freibad Wernersee
Freibad Wernersee: The Abandoned Pool where a Hippo rests forever
Ridbacher Straße 44, Kaulsdorf, 12621
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