Far away from the tourists that flock to Berlin is a neighborhood called Kaulsdorf. There, you will find the lonely hippo, Knautschke, after a famous hippo born in the Berlin Zoo in 1943.
Knautschke has the entire Freibad Wernersee to himself, but I didn’t see him enjoying much of it when I was there. Maybe it was cold; perhaps it was the fact that the pool was frozen. Maybe he was waiting for a time when he would have company, but this will probably, never happen.
Freibad Wernersee was closed in 2002 after some concerns about the water quality there. Supposedly this is a problem because this is a natural pool with water from the ground. This was why this became the first outdoor public pool in Berlin 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 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 started it in the fifties as well. But he didn’t make only the hippo statue. Some friendly penguins 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 were home.
As 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 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 to reap the public pool but couldn’t pull it out. And it seems the pool will be gone soon since the city has 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.
No cars were on the road, and I jumped the fence without any issues: no nosy neighbors, no animals, only footprints of people 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 my feet moved 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 far from the city center, but you will handle it without 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 when it’s not frozen, 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 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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