Pfaueninsel - An Island Paradise in the Middle of Europe

Not many people would look for an island paradise in the middle of Europe unless, of course, they were familiar with the geography of Berlin. In the lower reaches of the Havel is just such a place, Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island). Once a resort of the Hohenzollern family, the island is now open to the public as a city park. Its history begins in 1665 when the Great Elector assigned the "Pfauwerder" to chemist Johan Kunckel so that he might erect a crystal-glass works there. Kunckel succeeded in producing the much-sought-after ruby glass, but soon fell into disfavor and his secret laboratory was burnt to the ground in 1689. After use as a farm in the 18th century it aroused the interest of Friedrich Wilhelm II, whose formal summer residence was the Marble Palace at Potsdam, and he had built in 1792 on the island-in the form of a ruin-a county seat for himself and his wife. The islands original name, Kaninchenwerder, was bestowed upon it because of the large number of rabbits that at one time overran it. Although legend has it that friedrich introduced the rabbits to the island in an attempt to provide hunting, the rabbits came to the island long before his time by crossing the winter's ice. But Friedrich did import the peacocks that give the island its name today. However, Friedrich II did not live to see the completion of his plans. It was Friedrich Wilhelm III and his Queen, Luise, who created the quiet summer residence. The building was constructed in the custom of the time, in the form of a 15th century ruin. Placed between the towers of a bridge to nowhere, the castle is an ever pleasing tourist attraction. Aside from the peacocks, other animals were introduced until the island took on the appearance of a zoo. Finally, the menagerie reached such a state that all but the wild beasts that inhabited the island or migrated to and from the mainland over the winter's ice were used to start the original Berlin Zoo. But the peacocks were destined to return. The birds were placed in the Potsdam castle gardens, but became to noisy for the neighbors. Rather that destroy the creatures, they were exiled to the island where they multiplied into a large community which finally led to the renaming of the island. The castle park was laid out by Lenne who furbished it with rare trees and shrubs. This was the basis of the park as it exists today. From the ferry house you go past the Castellan's House-erected in 1795-to reach the end of the island, where stands the Schweizerhaus or Swiss Cottage, built in 1825. On the west shore of the island, near the site of the once-famous Palmhouse which burned down in 1880, is Jacob's fountain in the form of a ruin, with Corinthian entablature. In the center of the island lies the Guest House. The House was enlarged in 1826 and incorporates the front of a gothic house from Danzig. The stables on the island were built on 1802 as cow stalls and, oddly enough, in the form of a chapel. On the east shore of the island stands the Memorial Temple for Queen Luise. It has the original sandstone facade from the Charlottenburg mausoleum with a bust of the queen. Returning to the Ferry House the path passes the site of Kunckel's labaratory, the Aviary and the Winter House for Exotic Birds. Near the Ferry is the Frigate Shed which was built in 1832 to house the British-made frigate "Royal Louise". The island is one of the most popular picnic and strolling areas in Berlin. As many as 3,000 visitors journey to the island on a busy day. It is easily reached by ferry boat which departs from Pfaueninsel Chaussee.

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