A Memorable Walk through Medieval Berlin
Story and Photos by Dorothea S. Michelman
Close by busy S-Bahn stop Berlin-Zehlendorf, a sunlit welcome sign lures visitors to nearby Museumsdorf Düppel (Museum Village Düppel), the totally new and yet unknown “old world” of medieval Berlin.
Once you’ve entered through the simple wooden gate, you’ll glide, almost unknowingly, in a time warp, eight centuries back in history. Museumsdorf Düppel depicts a piece of Berlin during the period between 1200 and 1220 C.E. The intriguing setting rests on the original excavation site of an early German-Slavic settlement, Celedendorf, today’s Zehlendorf. It consists of a gathering of reconstructed reed roof huts, farmsteads, a smithy, stables and the village bakery.
Pure coincidence led to the discovery of the village site. During the Second World War a bomb had created a huge crater here. One day in 1940, fourteen-year-old Horst Tryeciak found a number of ceramic shards at the site and turned them over to a museum. Many years of research and excavation followed. Remains of food and clothing were examined, implements uncovered. The site turned out to be “Ur”Berlin, the original Berlin.
In 1975 the Förderkreis des Museumsdorfes Düppel laid the foundation for the reconstruction of the village. Twenty years later Stadtmuseum Berlin joined the effort and participates in shaping and preserving the enchanting site.
Visitors to the Museumsdorf experience in astonishing detail everyday medieval activities. “Residents” weave colorful braid trimmed belts, a skilled carver creates primitive wooden tableware, elsewhere a potter forms simple clay bowls. Sheep’s wool is combed in preparation for spinning with a primitive hand-spindle. Elsewhere you may watch a “cobbler” as he fashions dainty children boots. A “peasant” painstakingly makes a net to help supplement his meager income.
The sweet smell of baking bread, made according to a medieval recipe, fills the air. You can purchase bread, as well as jams, honey, fruit and bottles of mead made with fermented honey. All delightful souvenirs from your pleasant stroll through medieval Berlin.
The fields of Düppel are filled with backbred grains, as well as beans and peas, all worked with medieval implements. An eight hundred-year-old ploughshare, a valuable excavation find, serves, along with other implements, as model for reconstructions
Old fruit varieties – apples, plums, and cherries, among them, reach back to the middle ages. Even the animals at Düppel are backbred, among them “Konrad”, the patient ox, the Skudden, an old race of sheep, and the Weidenschweine, (meadow pigs). The animals look just like their medieval “relatives” you see on old pictures.
The Düppel season lasts from a week before Easter to the first week of October. There are festivals and various special activities from an Easter egg exhibition, to birding, a children’s festival and a Market Day and Harvest Festival, the latter we attended with delight. Spanferkel (sucking pigs) were roasted on wood fires. This delicacy was served with other typical medieval dishes, like lentil soup accompanied with Klemmerbrot (a flat piece of “bread”). There also were colorful baskets, clay products and other handcraft on display for sale.
Thanks to the tireless volunteer “residents” your walk through Museumsdorf Düppel is made possible.
Visiting days: Sundays and holidays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 3 – 7 p.m.
For further information, contact:
Förderkreis des Museumsdorfes Düppel
The website is in German but can be translated via Google main search page. Click on language to the right of the search bar and follow instructions for translating any foreign language web site into English.