Berlin Daytrip: Schönower Heide
Don’t get me wrong: I like Berlin, but after three weeks in any city I need to get out and feel something besides cement under my feet. Located about an hour north of Berlin, by the end of an S-Bahn line, this wildlife preserve used to serve as military training grounds. In 2000, they started to transform this area into its present state, but there are many overgrown remnants of its past life still readily visible.
There are two small trails located within the park: 2km and 5km loops, both completely flat, that will take you through the heather, pine, and birch populated landscapes. The main attraction in Schönower Heide, of course, is the animals. Even though it is a fairly small park, the deer and sheep in the enclosed area are still rather timid of humans; be on your best wildlife viewing behavior so you don’t scare them off before you even see them!
The 2km loop includes a stop at an observation tower, by the largest source of water in the habitat, which means if you stay long enough you’ll probably see some of the animals stop by for a little drink. On the 5k loop, there are many off-shoot trails you can head down and explore if you are so inclined. I went in the evening and did both loops in a couple hours and was able to see quite a few of the male and female deer, but didn’t manage to spot any of the rams.
If you want to extend your trip up north, I would explore the grazing areas to the south of Schönower Heide (gotta love the copy and paste feature!), or the nearby suburb of Buch, which also has a nice forest with walking trails and sculptures.
The simplest way to Schönower Heide is by taking the S2 from Berlin to Zepernick. You will be traveling in Zone C, so buy the appropriate ticket/extension, and make sure you get on a train that goes all the way to Bernau and not one that ends in Buch (as I did). From the Zepernick station you can either walk through the town and fields to the park or take the 868 bus for 5 stops. Plug it into Google Maps or another route planning method, for the most up to date directions.