Berlin park gardeners and their clientele

G.Green meadows, wide avenues, large trees and bushes that give shade to people in the summer. This is a typical image of a park in Berlin and other cities around the world. Especially during the lockdown, green spaces have gained importance for many people. But like all public places, trees, lawns and paths don’t take care of themselves, they have to be looked after by men like Willi Weinert. Weinert, who does not want to be called by his real name, is 50 years old, of medium height with glasses and has been working as a landscape gardener in Berlin parks for many years. One Sunday afternoon with a cup of coffee in hand, he talks about his daily work. However, this daily life seems different from normal gardening. Even the first working day of the week is anything but normal gardening, where you may be dealing with annoying wasps or ants. Willi Weinert’s team has to face other problems and find its way into unusual situations. Because during his work in Berlin, in the Treptow-Köpenick district, he is confronted daily with the daily life of complete strangers.

Not the slightest sympathy for her

Among other things, with people who “got their brains out,” as Willi Weinert describes it. When he and his team arrive at the park at a quarter to six with their equipment to remove what’s left of the last “megafetes,” they will also have to dismantle the homeless shacks. Weinert also shows some understanding for people: “I wouldn’t think it would be nice if my house was razed too.” The homeless and especially the drug dealers who use the workplace of Willi Weinert and his team as a place for shops do not have the slightest understanding of landscapers. “Then they just want to break the windows of our cars,” says the landscape gardener, describing the arguments. He also reports of a knife attack, in which he luckily escaped without injuries. “It’s everyday life at the moment,” he says, which is why the team on the Görlitz railway embankment only works with police protection every Monday, so that there are no further attacks.

Dismantling the residents’ “houses” on the embankment of the Görlitz railway is obviously not his main task. “We are called when we receive complaints, which we then process,” says Willi Weinert, describing his daily work: “For example, cutting branches and removing weeds.” a lot of waste ends up in the water, as do park benches. “However, these are no longer sunk in the pond, but immediately set on fire,” adds the landscape gardener dryly. The remains of burning benches are just one of the many strange and frightening discoveries Weinert made during his career. “The corpse in the park” is one of those discoveries that he cannot forget even years later. He found one, “but three have already been found,” he adds, without too much emotion, as if it were commonplace to find a corpse in one’s work. Additionally, he and his team have already found a dead sheep that had previously been stolen from the Berlin Zoo. Among the finds that Willi Weinert would not have expected at the beginning of his career are also dead puppies buried by their owners. Due to his work of him, he mostly becomes an involuntary witness to the stories of others, which continue to occupy him after work.

Strange encounters make up for difficult ones

“Dealing with other people” is one of the reasons Willi Weinert likes his job. While this contact is often far from pleasant, there are also good encounters in the park. Because he and his team also like to do a little “side job” as treasure hunters helping the geocachers in their quest for small rewards. In the fall, he and his team also discover larger treasures as they rake leaves, which often consist of other people’s lost or hidden items.

While working in the park in the Treptow-Köpenick district, Willi Weinert meets not only drug addicts, corpses and treasure hunters, but also people who behave in unusual but otherwise harmless ways. He talks with an old acquaintance smile, like a man undressing layer by layer on the way from Plänterwald S-Bahn station to Treptower Park S-Bahn station until he’s completely naked. On the way back, he gradually gets dressed again. “Of course only in summer,” says the gardener with a smile on his face. Another old acquaintance that the team could sometimes observe is the “Kreuzberg naked cyclist”, as Weinert calls him. He rides a bicycle, without clothes, from Kreuzberg to Treptow-Köpenick. To date, the team doesn’t know why. “That’s right”, is the hypothesis. These little surprise effects amuse the landscape gardener with his now nearly empty cup of coffee. Such experiences and his work with his team seem to make up for the unpleasant discussions. “I like it, so why should I change,” concludes Weinert when he explains his work, which is more unusual than one might think at first glance.

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