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Tour de Tall Stage 1/4 – Stacks in Summer

Strava Activity
Distance in km94.8
Elevation in m582
Amount of newly ridden kms from wandrer.earth13.0
Blood glucose values throughout the ride, plus images of the structures

The grey winter months allowed me to plan some themed Tours that I would tackle when the weather improved. This Tour de Tall – visiting the highest structures (not buildings – that will be a future Tour!) in Berlin – is the first of many architectural themed Tours. Taking decent pictures of these structures is best with clear skies though, so I had to be very patient before starting the Tour!

The scholarly journal of Wikipedia includes a list of the highest structures (such as transmitting towers and chimney stacks) in Berlin but it also includes structures that don’t exist anymore. The first step was to determine which structures are still around and then find out their exact location. The Wikipedia list doesn’t give much details so I had to interpret the descriptions of some of these structures with some help from Google Maps. I was left with 17 structures that I decided to visit in ascending order by height. This way I would maximise the amount of new kilometres for my quest in cycling all the paths in Berlin.

Eventually there was a break in the overcast days for a mini-heatwave of temperatures in the upper-20s °C. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to start the Tour de Tall! I decided to use Severus, our mountain bike, since I wanted the flexibility of walking around comfortably when taking pictures of the structures. 

c-base Mural

I prepared for the ride with the usual reductions in basal and bolus insulin for breakfast before setting off. This was also the first ride this year that I put on sun cream. A momentous occasion indeed. I was now ready to head towards central Berlin and one of the thermal power plants on the banks of the river Spree – the Heizkraftwerk Berlin-Mitte (Berlin-Mitte Thermal Power Plant).

17. Kamin Heizkraftwerk Berlin-Mitte / Chimney Stack Berlin-Mitte Thermal Power Plant

Height100 m
Construction Year1997
Construction TypeNatural gas power pland

This natural gas power plant was built in the mid-1990s, after Germany was reunified, on the site of the former power plant that powered large parts of East Berlin. Areas of the old plant now host both the “Kraftwerk Berlin” art gallery/event space and the current location of the famous techno club Tresor. 

Old testament verse on the side of the building

The current power plant provides electricity and district heating to energy-hungry central Berlin. It also features decorative elements such as a mosaic featuring an Old Testament verse that I found quite difficult to read close up. The brickwork of the power plant contrasts nicely to the glass facades of the many recently constructed blocks in the area.

Soviet War Memorial in Tiergarten

The next structure was in the industrial area of Ruhleben (Quiet Life) in the west of Berlin and on the way there I cycled by many of the sights of Berlin. I think I’ve gotten used to the sight of the Brandenburger Tor without groups of tourists in front of it! The Soviet War Memorial in Tiergarten was especially poignant since it was full of wreaths commemorating VE Day and the 76th anniversary of when Germany was liberated from the Nazis. 

16. Kamin Abfallbeseitigungswerk Nord der BSR / Chimney Stack BSR Waste Disposal Plant North

Height103 m
Construction Year1973
Construction TypeSteel truss chimney with several pipes

The Berliner Stadtreinigung (Berlin Municipal Sanitation) or BSR is not only responsible for waste collection, street cleaning and waste treatment but they also run a Waste-To-Energy power plant. The stack I was interested in is part of this Waste-To-Energy plant, which incinerates general waste (i.e. non-recyclable waste) and the steam from this process is piped to the Reuter power station just across the Spree to provide power and district heating to nearby areas. More of this Reuter power station in Stage 2 though.

The stack is the flue-gas cleaning system which separates pollutants from the incineration process making the waste gases safe for emission into the atmosphere. The large stack is made up of individual metal pipes formed into a triangular stack. It looks pretty cool! 

The BSR and Reuter power plants connected across the Spree

This whole industrial area straddling the Spree is very impressive especially with the large pipes connecting power plants on either side. I did feel pretty small on my bicycle though, with so many huge trucks around.

The next structure is very close to home – so close that we can see it from our balcony. I cycled there along the Spree and through the grounds of the lovely Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace) until I reached the next thermal power station on the banks of the Spree.

15. Kamin Heizkraftwerk Berlin-Charlottenburg / Chimney Stack Berlin-Charlottenburg Thermal Power Plant

Height104 m
Construction Year1989 (?)
Construction TypeNatural gas power plant

The original power plant was built in 1900 when Charlottenburg, then a neighbouring city of Berlin, decided to dive into the electricity boom. The original machine hall is still standing with its distinctive red brick Märkish Gothic style. The pedestrian bridge, Siemenssteig, was built around the pipes pumping electricity to central Charlottenburg across the river Spree. This bridge is a favourite of mine and Nadja and I even took pictures on our (first) wedding day here! 

Since its completion, the plant has been expanded and modernised including the three stacks that I was interested in. I couldn’t find much information about the particular expansion that brought about this prominent structure. But I like how the power plant is a mixture of old and new buildings that I get to admire every time I leave the house! 

Siemenssteig pedestrian bridgge

I timed this stop just in time for lunch, so I could go home to Nadja and the cats for a proper coffee prepared by the best wife, some cat cuddles and to eat one of my flapjacks on our balcony. The best lunch stop I could ask for! I didn’t inject any bolus insulin for the flapjack as my blood glucose was pretty good and I thought that the extra effort of cycling in the heat would balance out my blood glucose.

Lunch break on our balcony!

After lunch, I headed towards the KulturBrauerei (Culture Brewery) in Prenzlauer Berg for the next structure. I sure was feeling the heat along the way, but my blood glucose was not happy so I injected 1 unit of bolus insulin once I arrived.

14. Kamin Maschinenhaus in der KulturBrauerei / Power House Chimney Stack in the KulturBrauerei

Height120 m
Construction Years1925-1930
Construction TypeBrewery

The KulturBrauerei consists of beautifully restored industrial buildings used by the combined forces of the Schultheiss and Patzenhofer Brewers to create the largest lager brewery in 1920. The brewery stopped operations in 1967 and the East German authorities immediately registered the area as a monument to avoid demolition. After reunification, restoration works took place and the area became the KulturBrauerei with spaces for clubs, a cinema and theatre. 

This is also a great area to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Nadja and I have done that and had lots of fun visiting many of the clubs, each playing different music, and then enjoying the firework display in the courtyard. 

The Maschinenhaus / Power Building in the KulturBrauerei

The Kesselhaus and Maschinenhaus (Boiler and Power Buildings) are now also concert venues – we saw White Lies here in 2013. The impressive brick stack that pops out of the Maschinenhaus was what I needed for the Tour de Tall. 

After admiring the KulturBrauerei, I meandered towards other icons of Berlin architecture – the stacks of the Wilmersdorf Thermal Power Plant. Whilst in the Park am Gleisdreieck (Park at the Rail Triangle), the insulin kicked in too much and my blood glucose was dropping. I stopped in the shade and had a gel and an energy bar for a proper carb boost.

13. Heizkraftwerk Berlin-Wilmersdorf / Berlin-Wilmersdorf Thermal Power Plant

Height120 m
Construction Year1973
Construction TypeNatural gas power plant

The original power plant on this site was built in 1911 and provided power for about 50 years. During the Cold War, the current power plant was built to provide more energy security to West Berlin and so the imposing towering stacks were built. This plant was always a back-up power supply and has rarely been used in recent years. Thus the decision was made to replace these stacks as of June 2021 with a more sustainable power plant.

The stacks are quite iconic and are a highlight when driving on the nearby Autobahn. I hope that the new plant will also include such bold architecture!

Heizkraftwerk Berlin-Wilmersdorf / Berlin-Wilmersdorf Thermal Power Plant

On the way home, my blood glucose once again was trending downwards but I reached home before it got too low. I could safely devour carbs at home after completing this first Stage of the Tour de Tall. The next Stage will also zig-zag across the city to districts further out than this one, all that I need is to wait for another sunny day. 

The % distance I cycled in each district

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