Some things are so self-evident, they don’t require justification. For example, sunny weather is good. Autumn is nicer than winter. And old-fashioned trams with wood-trimmed windows and brass bells that ding are simply more fun to ride than modern ones.
For example, the very cute, very cool old-school tram line still running at the edge of Berlin, which has been rattling and rumbling through the Köpenicker Forest for more than a century.
The Woltersdorfer Straßenbahn connects the little Brandenburg town of Woltersdorf to Berlin’s S-Bahn, traversing lush forest as it goes. At just under 6 km each way, it’s the tiniest tram network in the country and has been running almost continually since 1913, save for a brief pause at the end of WWII.
Today’s fleet is comprised of East German Gothawagen trams from 1959-1961, chunky, charming things painted in cheerful shades of ivory and blue with plenty of wood trim inside. (The original 1910 and 1913 trams can also be rented for special occasions.)
First you have to get yourself to S-Bahn Rahnsdorf station, then cross the street to find the tram platform at the edge of the forest. (A C-zone ticket from Berlin’s BVG/VVB network covers your ride, or buy a Woltersdorf tram ticket from the driver for €1.30.) Ding-ding goes the bell and the tram begins to rattle on its way.
The nicest parts of the journey are the first bit, when the tram zips through the heart of peaceful, unadulterated forest – look closely and at this time of year, you might spot locals stooped in the woods, gathering wild mushrooms in wicker baskets – and towards the end of the route, where you can still get a sense of what Woltersdorf looked like during its early-20th-century heyday. The tram line ends at the town’s historic lock, which separates the Flakensee and Kalksee lakes, complete with a perky little drawbridge that goes up and down regularly to let through local fishing boats.
Today’s Woltersdorf, population around 8000, give or take, is a sleepy little town, the kind of place where the average age of inhabitants is 50+, every shop is closed by noon on Saturdays, and the most exotic thing you’ll find is a Greek restaurant with souvlaki on the menu. It feels distinctly East in the way most Brandenburg towns do. But it’s also pleasantly pastoral, with ducks by the lock to toss bread to, walking trails along the lakeshore, and a handful of Ausflugslokale, kitschy café-restaurants where daytrippers get Spaghetti-Eis in the summer and Kirsch-Streusel-Kuchen (only €3.50 with a pot of coffee) the rest of the year.
If, like me, you have an appreciation for Waldeinsamkeit, the not unpleasant melancholy from being alone in a forest, consider walking the last 30-minute stretch of the return journey to S-Rahnsdorf station. After all, there’s such a short time window at this time of year to savour the crunching of golden leaves underfoot.