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One of my favourite things about Berlin is the presence of beautiful forests and lakes within a short S-Bahn (light rail) trip of the city, and the Großes Fenster (Great Window) is possibly the most striking example. Getting there from the east or centre of the city is a 30-min-to-one hour journey to the Nikolassee station (line S7), followed by an approximately 2 km (1 mile) hike. From Alexanderplatz, you can take the S7 (going to Potsdam Hbf) directly, and will be there in about half an hour.

Google maps will give you directions from the station to the Großes Fenster, but these directions need to be taken with a grain of salt. In the directions, Google describes footpaths as if they were streets, and, by naming them (Wannseebadeweg, Am Großen Fenster). However, they are not marked in any way, so the names are meaningless. For another thing, if you list the destination as “Am Großen Fenster” (the path that the Großes Fenster is on, surprisingly enough), it stops short of where you actually need to go. Indeed, the only way to get accurate directions is to list the destination as Schwanenwerder, an island a short walk away from the actual destination.

Once you arrive at Nikolassee, just follow the signs to the exit. You will almost immediately see a pedestrian bridge (Rosemeyerweg). If you look for Rosemeyerweg, you will miss it, as the street sign is parallel to your line of sight coming out, and you will add an extra 15-20 minute bonus walk to your hike as you walk back and realise that all you actually had to do was keep going straight.

Eventually, you will come to Kronprinzessinnenweg (Crown Princess Way). Turn right, and walk about half a block until you see Spanische Allee. Turn left there. The Google directions describe the street you are turning into as “Wannseebadeweg”; however, there was no sign (that I saw, anyway) indicating that that was indeed the name of the street. You will cross the street and come to a warning sign indicating that no motor vehicles are permitted and that pedestrians enter at their own risk. Walk past this, and keep going for about half an hour.

At this point, it is important to get gradually more apprehensive that you are going the wrong way. At least, that is what the people who did the signposting in the forest (Grunewald) seem to think. You will see various turnoffs. Keep going straight. After about half an hour, you will see a white painted stone listing various destinations and distances. One of them will be “Großes Fenster”. Follow the arrow. You will be staying on the same path, but it will veer off to the right. You will see one more of these stones about another half an hour later.

Eventually, you will start to see water through the trees, and the path will start going down hill. You will go down some stairs that have been built discreetly into the path and arrive at a T-intersection. On the left, you’ll see a small marina. Go to the right, and walk another fifteen odd minutes, and you’ll be at the Großes Fenster.

On your left, you will notice that there is a fence and a sign. In case you do not understand German, the sign states that it is prohibited (subject to prosecution) to go beyond the fence, as the area is used to obtain drinking water, and any disturbance of the ground and the plants on it could adversely affect the quality of the groundwater.

When you reach a small clearing on your left, bordered by two large trees, you’re there. Off to your right, you will see Spandau in the distance, and somewhat farther to your right, you will see a tower jutting out of the trees. This is the Grunewaldturm, an observatory tower providing a panoramic view of the forest and a restaurant at the base, approximately 4 km (2 miles) away. The same stones that you followed to get to the Großes Fenster will direct you there.

The Autobahn to Magdeburg, as seen from the Rosenmeyerweg pedestrian bridgeSpanische Allee ("Wannseebadeweg")

The sign at the entrance to the Grunewald

The first of the very sparsely distributed signs

Das Große Fenster

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