When Sidney Vollmer and his daughter water their houseplants, they greet them with a “hello”. The Amsterdam-based writer has used the time at home this year to transform himself – and his daughter – into green-fingered plant advocates, as he explains in his long read How we are going to save the world with houseplants. For Vollmer, caring for the plants in our homes is a first step towards living a more ecological life, and this led him to turn his lockdown hobby into an initiative for global change. His goal is simple: use the power of plants to improve the environment beyond your front door, whether by sowing flower beds on your local street or handing out cuttings and seeds to people in need of some green. The benefits of spreading nature are countless, from improved air quality inside to calmer, more livable cities outside. The result: a cleaner planet and happier people. Vollmer’s plan for change started with mini pots of sweet peas and avocados watered by his daughter. What little plant will inspire you to make a big change? (Text: Benji Haughton / Photos: Pflanzenfreude.de & Cassidy Phillips)
Walking through its landscape of sand dunes, red deer and heathland, Schönower Heide feels like several continents merged into one. Located 5km from Bernau just north of Berlin, this 533 hectare nature reserve offers fresh air, wildlife and scenery that is almost dreamlike. The area was used for military training until 1991 and since then its grasslands and inland dunes have been allowed to flourish. At the park’s arched wooden entrance, two circular walking trails greet you: a 1.6km-long heath footpath for short strolls and a 5km wildlife trail for an adventure around the entire reserve. Whichever path you take, you are sure to meet some beautiful beings, including fallow deer, mouflon sheep, red deer and even wild horses. The paths have maps and signs explaining the flora and fauna, which includes 40 lichen species, numerous wildflowers, over 60 breeding birds and more than 140 four-legged mammals. And the best bit: all this striking, unfamiliar beauty is less than an hour from the city. (Text: Benji Haughton / Photos: Savannah van der Niet)
Schönower Heide, Schönwalder Chaussee, 16348 Bernau; map
The reserve is always open and entry is free. You can reach the park with the S-Bahn to Zepernick station followed by a short cycle. Car and bike parking can be found at the entrance.
IN OUR HANDS: AN INTRODUCTION TO MUDRA MEDITATION BY ELA SPALDING — RECOMMENDED BY MARIANNE JACQUET
As we enter another introspective time with the pandemic, I felt it was appropriate to stay still for a moment and reflect on the bigger picture. What if our wellbeing can have an impact on our surroundings? And if so, how do we find the resources we need within ourselves? Through her work, Panamanian artist and dancer Ela Spalding shows you how. In 2018 she started developing In Our Hands, a meditation toolkit based on mudras – the hand gestures used in yoga. The series features a box set of cards, each one combining a photograph with an emotion and breathing instructions. Spalding’s approach explores the relationship between somatic awareness practice and ecology, and her cards help us use this solitary time for inspiration. The cards provide a welcome invitation to reconnect with our own ecosystem and breathe just that little bit easier. (Text: Marianne Jacquet / Photos: Bui Luu Quynh Nguyen)
Marianne Jacquet is an artist and founder of the Magic Ink creative hub.
In Our Hands by Ela Spalding (Ed.) can be purchased from the author or at Zabriskie, Reichenberger Str.150, 10999, Berlin–Kreuzberg; map
If you want to rewild your flat this winter but aren’t the most green fingered of people, this Terrarium kit from The Botanical Room is just the thing for you. Already Cee Cee-approved, the Kreuzberg plant shop has now come up with this lovingly-designed grow kit that comes complete with instructions and all the necessary materials for creating an easy-care terrarium. Once planted, your mini forest doesn’t need much attention besides occasional watering – all you need to do is watch your miniature world grow. The set is available in two sizes – M and L – so it fits all living spaces, and the plants themselves are seasonal. So if you’re looking for a little more green, stop by the shop on Manteuffelstraße where they stock the kits or buy one online – orders are sent out Monday to Wednesday to ensure speedy delivery. (Text & Photos: Bui Luu Quynh Nguyen)
Terrarium kit from The Botanical Room, Manteuffelstr.73, 10999 Berlin–Kreuzberg; map
Tue–Fri 13–19h & Sat 12–19h
Quieter than ever since the recent closure of the nearby airport, Tegeler Fließ is a mini getaway full of flora and fauna. Formed by glacial activity during the ice age, this landscape of peat bogs, meadows and woodland follows a 10km-long stream which you can explore on foot or by bike thanks to a clearly-marked boardwalk. A short stroll from Waidmannslust station brings you to the start of the trail, where your nature-spotting can begin. The stars of the show are the water buffalo, introduced in 2015 as a way to conserve the wetlands. And while these 500kg beasts are typically kept inside in winter, there are plenty of other creatures to spot: moor frogs, beavers, cuckoos, cranes and dragonflies all inhabit the reserve depending on season, so don’t forget your binoculars. The path continues for another 3km, after which you can head on towards Tegeler See and the gardens of Tegeler Schloss. FYI: the benches at sunny Marie-Schlei-Platzare a great spot for a lunch break amidst the soothing sound of calling herons. (Text: Benji Haughton / Photos: Savannah van der Niet)
Tegeler Fließ can be explored by bike or on foot starting at S-Bahn station Waidmannslust – you can view the route we took here.