Did you know that Berlin is home to as many as 11,000 different bee colonies comprising some 500 million honeybees (mostly two sorts: Carnica and Buckfast)?

Over 1,200 Imker or bee-keepers registered in the Berliner Imkerverbund (Berlin Bee-keeping Federation) belong to one of the 16 Berlin bee-keepers’ associations working to protect and raise the number of those invaluable insects in the city.

As of 2011 the official campaign “Berlin Summt!” (Berlin Humms) puts bee-hives on top of prominent buildings in the capital. You will find them, among others, on top of the Berliner Dom and on the Berliner Abgeordnetenhaus, as well as on the roof of the Auferstehungskirche in Friedrichshain (famous as the meeting point for the DDR opposition in the 1980s) as well as on top of the German Museum of Technology in Berlin-Kreuzberg and in Tempelhofer Feld. As of 2015 a swarm of 250,000 occupies a very central and not exactly quiet location, Alexanderplatz.

Their produce is sold through the Berliner Senat as “Berlin Summt!” honey, offered in jars filled with liquid gold and with labels indicating the exact location of the beehive whose residents kindly provided the delicacy.

If you visit the Berlin Summt! web page, especially today on World Bee Day, you can learn things about bees that might come as a surprise. For instance, that you would need to have a long breath to keep up with a honeybee. In flight, they reach they a highly impressive speed of 30 km/h. Not to mention that fact that they can flap their tiny wings between 200 and 230-250 times per second…

The biggest Berlin Imkerei (bee-keeping facility) in the 1930s stood, by the way, on the roof of the historic Berliner Landtag – the state parliament – in what used to be known as Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, and was home to over one million bees inhabiting twelve large bee-hives. The Berlin Parliament returned to the building in 1993 – by then in Niederkirchnerstraße as the name Prinz-Albrecht-Straße was dropped in 1951 – and is known as Berliner Abgeordnetenhaus today (Abgeordneter stands for an MP). Some 50,000 bees followed the MPs in early 2011 and have been humming over their heads ever since.

honeybee in berlin
Bee-keeper on the roof of the Berliner Landtag in the 1930s (Columbiahaus at Potsdamer Platz in the background).

Krollsche Oper Biergarten 1904 (photographer unknown)

A quiet afternoon at the Krollscher Wintergarten, also known as Krollscher Etablissement, beer garden in 1904.

The typical garden furniture is still in use today. Some of the one captured here might still be around and serving another generation of another beer garden’s fans.

Bombed in 1944 and abandoned ever since (image by Notmsparker)

Contrary to what we hear all too often these days – more as a warning than as a fact, I believe – Berlin still has its little secrets and surprises. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to have stumbled into both of them during a bike reconnaissance for a new book.

The sight of an overgrown red-brick ruin with a large tree growing through a no longer present roof had me press my brakes with such gusto that I nearly catapulted myself out of the saddle. A beautiful rusty fence and an elegant gate whose bottom part has already been devoured by rust, guard what looks like a Secret Garden par excellence. If I have ever seen a time-traveller’s portal to the Past in Berlin, then this must be one.

Quick internet search helped me establish that the abandoned villa once belonged to Professor August Hinderer, a man whose name has long been forgotten but deserves to be remembered again.

You can learn more about him and about the history of the house, which hit by bombs on the night of March 23-24, 1944 has never been inhabited since, by reading a great text by a true expert in Berlin’s secret and abandoned sites, Ciaran Fahey. You will find the story of the Hinderer villa below (please click the image).

Ciaran’s book “Abandoned Berlin” is a must for all Berlin & urbex fans.