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In the middle of nowhere and yet so close – the U3 to Onkel Toms Hütte

With the rowing boat on the Schlachtensee in Berlin
At Lake Schlachtensee in Berlin © visitBerlin, Foto: Dagmar Schwelle

Millions of people are on the move every day in Berlin. They get on and off buses, trains and trams, heading to work, shopping or picking up the kids from day care. They often have only their goal in sight and lose sight of Berlin. We want to change that in our new blog series. Yes to getting off the beaten path, no to ignoring our surroundings. So, we'll be travelling to stops that are less well-known but which have a lot to offer Berliners and guests of the city alike. And we'll take an especially close look, try things out, have new experiences, in other words, enjoy Berlin to the fullest! We're going to kick off with the stop with the literary name of Onkel Toms Hütte ("Uncle Tom's Cabin").

Onkel Toms Hütte

Of course, we're not standing in front of an old slave cabin when we get off the U-Bahn. When I look at the station, the feeling I've had ever since leaving the Nollendorfplatz station now seems ridiculous. 13 stations, 22 minutes, Zehlendorf – we're clearly still in Berlin. No cotton plantations and not a humid, sultry Southern climate. But yet different. Even the listed station is unusual with its yellow Siegersdorfer ceramic moulding, lobbies, and the glass roof. The rows of shops to the left and right running parallel to the tracks look like two small strip malls that were erected instead of a third and fourth track. We're excited as take the low ramp out of the station. And then what? Amazement. We're faced with impressive rows of colourful houses surrounded by birch and pine. We walk along Riemeisterstraße and cannot resist walking on the soft green ground with the many large trees. As we walk along, we take in the flair of the colourful suburban houses packed in tight on small streets with names like Am Wieselbau, Hochsitzweg and Fuchspaß.

Onkel-Tom estate

We then take Onkel-Tom-Straße and Argentinische Allee back to the station. What we saw has definitely piqued my curiosity. My thirst for knowledge is so great that I spontaneously decide to ask the elderly gentleman behind the counter of the local bakery. The man gives us information and we could have spent the entire afternoon enjoying coffee and pastries as the man told us the stories about the Zehlendorf "roof wars", a dispute in the 1920s about the architectural style of the new suburb, the name given the station and today's Onkel-Tom neighbourhood. But there was no time left for that. But we can tell you this much: the Onkel-Tom estate, also known under the name of the Papageiensiedlung (the "parrot estate") was designed by architect Bruno Taut. With nearly 2,000 homes, the forested estate was already known at the time it was built (1926 - 1932) as one of the largest social housing projects. Taut was inspired by the natural terrain and developed an urban residential model based on the natural environment and the nature of the estate far removed from the dark courtyards and tenements in the city centre. It’s actually a mystery why this little part of Berlin wasn't included with the six modernist estates already declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. In summary: the U3 doesn't go all the way to Kentucky, but it does take you to a magical place at the edge of the city.