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What Google doesn't know

Drachenberg im Grunewald Berlin
Drachenberg im Grunewald © visitBerlin, Foto: Dagmar Schwelle

In the age of Google Maps and Street View, which enable me in theory to dive into my neighbour's paddling pool on my laptop screen, it shouldn't be a problem to accurately locate a lake in Berlin. So I thought. A few weeks ago, on a summery Sunday morning, my phone rang: "Grab your swimming trunks and let's go to… the Teufelssee!"A great idea – after all, I'd never been there before! I accepted straight away. Did I know how to get there, too? Of course! What else is Google Maps for? With my sunglasses on my nose, my towel already under my arm, I quickly google my route and seriously start having doubts: there is no lake! The Teufelssee isn't on Google. At least, it isn't indicated as such topographically (see image). There are apparently no routes that lead there. For townies with no Boy Scout training who rarely stray into the Grunewald, the "A" located nowhere is a real challenge. Especially as the Grunewald is much bigger in comparison to the Lustgarten. In the end, I get directions over the phone from Grunewald train station to the Teufelssee.

The Grunewald

So, it exists after all. After a first dip in the lake, I begin to understand the digital backwardness. It feels like I'm in the 1970s. Half of the bathers are completely naked, although there's no enforced nudism. A few men near to me wearing John Lennon glasses philosophise about the meaning of life with their hair down. At least three people nearby are deep in meditation and yoga. You hear almost exclusively the broad Berlin dialect. Everyone's unbelievably relaxed and it's strikingly quiet. Here and there you can hear the odd small noisy portable radio. Childhood memories come flooding back. All we need now is the ice-cream man. And even he actually walks past my towel. Cars, trains, the ringing of mobile phones - it all seems so far away from here. The air smells of sun cream and the surrounding Grunewald forest. The lake is good for swimming as well as for paddling at the edge. You can practice your belly flop from a small central island. A couple of lifeguards keep their eyes on things. The surrounding lawns on a slope and with shady areas under large old trees replace the crowded meadows found elsewhere. It's hard to believe that right there outside the gates of Grunewald lies the hippest and coolest world metropolis where everyone and everything is located digitally. And while someone's probably just posting the last free berths in the Prinzenbad via geotagging, the Teufelssee doesn't even exist on a map on the Internet. And that's the way it should be. After all, Google doesn't need to know everything.