Wolkenhain – Berlin’s Oddly-Shaped Observation Tower

The Wolkenhain observatory tower in East Berlin

photography by: a2 d2/ Flickr

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Throughout the world, dumping sites are regarded as health hazard and nuisance. There are some rare instances, though, where landfills are converted into recreational parks, making lemonade out of lemons. Nestled atop a former garbage mountain in Berlin’s Marzahn-Hellersdorf district, Wolkenhain is a rather unusual observatory tower, offering a breathtaking 360° panoramic vista of the German capital.

At 102.2 meters above sea level, the knoll of Kienberg is the second highest elevation across Marzahn-Hellersdorf district in East Berlin. However, it wasn’t always the case, as this hill was less than 60 meters tall back in 1966. As a result of incessant dumping of construction waste and soil from nearby sites, the mountain nearly doubled its height in a matter of two decades.


Following the fall of the Iron Curtain and the subsequent unification of the German capital, the garbage mountain was transformed into an urban park as part of a municipal plan to beautify the city’s eastern half. Kienberg’s complete facelift was accompanied by the construction of a 18-meter-tall observatory tower atop the former dumping site, taking full advantage of its scenic location.


As its German name implies, Wolkenhain (cloud grove) was inspired by a cloudy formation perching on a forest’s canopy. The white-colored structure consists of an irregular observation deck whose triangular fragments are supported by a series of extremely slender columns, as if the viewing platform was hovering above the ground.


A similarly slender staircase zigzags between the columns before reaching the top level. Since the observation deck is made of translucent material, it is spectacularly lit with colorful illumination during nighttime, becoming not only a place to gaze from, but also a landmark to awe at. As for the views, the meandering walkway provides a mind-boggling panorama of Berlin, including a clear vista of the downtown area. During periods of clear visibility, you can see as far as 50 kilometers away, enough to spot the city’s western outskirts.


If you wish to visit Wolkenhain, you can either take the 3-station cable-car to the summit, or climb your way uphill along one of the many trails across Kienberg. The wooded mound overlooks the adjacent “Gardens of the World”, a green complex created in 1987 to celebrate the 750th anniversary of Berlin. The park is comprised of a couple of smaller gardens, each of which features a different style from somewhere around the world, with the most notable ones being the Chinese, Japanese, English, Balinese and Italian Renaissance gardens.