Sitting in the River Havel that runs through Berlin, Pfaueninsel or Peacock Island is a beautiful little getaway rife with abandoned buildings, wild peacocks, and even the facade of a fairytale castle built by a Prussian king.
The lush 243 acre island was originally known as “Rabbit Island” thanks to a small rabbit farm that was established there in the 17th century by Frederick William I of Brandenburg. It was not until his descendant Frederick William II came around in the late 18th century and turned the island into a private getaway for he and his favorite mistress, Wilhelmine Enke. Supposedly stating, “On Rabbit Island neither the merest tree nor bush may ever be felled again!” William II began the islands existence as a natural refuge for plant and animal.
He also built the island’s most iconic structure, the two-towered white castle folly for himself and Enke. The two towers are connected by a medieval-styled bridge.
After William II died, his son took over the island and built, among other buildings, a menagerie that had all manner of exotic animals including crocodiles, wolves, eagles, and of course peacocks. By the mid-1940s most of the animals had been transferred to the newly built Berlin Zoo. But some of the peacocks remained, and the island remained a bit of protected natural land.
Today the island can still be visited via ferry from Berlin’s Wannsee railway station. Both the ivory folly and the wild peacocks remain on the island. Although there is notably less royalty.