PFAUENINSEL (“PEACOCK ISLAND”), A 100-HECTARE island of forests and meadows on the Havel river, is a singular Berlin curiosity. Its origin as a game preserve dates back to Friedrich Wilhelm I, though it was his great-nephew Friedrich Wilhelm II that first populated the island with the eponymous birds. The island’s current peacock population, descendants of the originals, roam the island freely alongside human visitors (and the occasional pack of grazing sheep), and their distinctive hair-raising calls, which can be heard kilometers away, add to the surreal and otherworldly atmosphere.
The Meierei, the world’s nicest dairy shed, features a second-floor ballroom and the same faux-ruins construction as the Schloss.
This large hunting blind at the island’s southeastern shore features the curious juxtaposition of regal columns made from rustic treebark. The structure’s lower floor has narrow slats that face the water, through which rifles could be fired.
White peacocks (a non-albino mutation) at the central aviary
Bantam chickens at the central aviary
The island is home to numerous 18th-century structures that are at once lavish and funky. Alongside the pastoral beauty of the island, these furthered the purpose of offering a haven from the rigid Prussian court. The Schloß Pfaueninsel, at the western edge of the island, was built in 1797 in the romanticized Ruinenstil, complete with faux-ruined battlements. The all-wood structure has two large floors, a southern circular stair tower, and a three-story northern tower consisting of offices and lounges. Unique for Berlin, the castle was entirely untouched by war, and remains in its original state, even down to the chantilly fabric walls and parquet floors.
The two towers: chimney on Pfaueninsel and the Funkturm Babelsberg in the distance
The ruins of Teufelsberg across the waters of the Havel
The comically brief ferry ride to the Pfaueninsel is €4, though the cost does cover both directions and the provisional admission fee to the island. Tours of the castle (spring to fall only) or Meierei (winter only) are €6. The island is a UNESCO site, and in addition to general wildlife guidelines, bikes and dogs are not permitted on the island. Full information is available on the official site.
The ferry leaves from the end of Pfaueninselchausee every 15 minutes. The docks are several kilometers from S-Bahn Wannsee, and are reachable by foot, bike, or cab. The 218 bus runs directly to the ferry landing, and while it only comes once an hour (twice an hour on Saturdays) it does provide the singular experience of passing through a dense forest on the second floor of a double-decker bus.