Quite a while ago now, Jiahuei Zheng and Chuhan Zheng and I went on our first “city search” as part of the course. We all picked Domäne Dahlem (Dohhh-mey-neh Dahhh-lehm) as our unknown entity. As we soon found out, we definitely got a lucky draw — Domäne Dahlem is actually the most picturesque of farms, and it’s located right in the center of (former) West Berlin!
To get to Domäne Dahlem, you need to take the U2, followed by the U1. You get of at Dahlem, exit the subway station, and find the farm across the street. The Dahlem neighborhood has a very small-town feel, to the degree that you feel as if you’re on vacation in the German countryside as opposed to being surrounded by the bustle of Berlin.
The village of Dahlem was founded in 1220. The land on which the current Domäne Dahlem farm sits has been used for agriculture for about 800 years. It is home to the Herrenhaus, which was built in 1560 and is the oldest residence still in use in Berlin. During World War II, Domäne Dahlem was labelled as important to the war efforts, and its ruined buildings were quickly restored by the authorities. It was taken over by American troops in 1945, and this was where the American occupation forces established their AFN-Radio Transmitter during the 1948-49 Berlin Blockade.
In 2009, Domäne Dahlem became independent of the Berlin state. It is now officially the “Free Land Museum for Agricultural and Nutritional Culture with an Ecological Emphasis.” It allows visitors to walk the paths through the entire farm, to feed the chickens, and to learn about the process of agriculture in general.
There is also a museum in the Herrenhaus, which has a permanent exhibition and temporary exhibitions. The permanent exhibition includes the original furniture and objects of the Herrenhaus. These include a full 1800s microbiology research lab which was used by the Prussian ministry of health and food.
The temporary exhibition is now titled “Alt und Jung” – or “Old and Young”. It chronicles the changing perceptions of age for different generations. It is interesting to learn about the different attitudes and expectations for the old that existed in the 1800s and early 1900s as compared to today.
At the end of our visit to Domäne Dahlem we also stumbled upon the iron workshop on the farm. We met the smith, Thorsten Theel, who has been one of the best smiths in Germany for the last 37 years. The men in his family have been iron smiths for generations, but he is the last – both his sons are doctors. Thorsten showed us examples of his work and photo portfolio.
When our day was over, we headed over to the Luise Restaurant which is close to the subway station. It was a traditional German eating house, with fantastic knödl, schweinebraten, and Wienerschnitzel! Here are some photos from the rest of the day: