Kosmos Wiepersdorf


Stop 5: Castle pond
© Dirk Bleicker

Stop 5
Castle pond

Carp in salad beds: Achim von Arnim as a farmer

In November 1825, Achim wrote to Bettine, who was staying in Berlin: “I found the pond almost completed, and in the next few days saw it quite finished with bright water already sparkling in it.” And the following spring, Achim reports: “I have stocked my ponds with a ton of small tench and crucian carp, in the next few days the carp will also arrive.”

Achim von Arnim the writer was a respectable farmer—and apparently not just for financial reasons because public offices in Berlin were closed to him. What he did in Wiepersdorf went far beyond self-sufficiency. He regularly sent large quantities of a wide variety of foodstuffs to Bettina and the children in Berlin: eggs and bread, rye and wheat flour, but also pork, smoked goose breast or a “shot deer.”

Occasionally, Bettina could even give her brother-in-law Carl von Savigny “half a calf.” Arnim sent larger batches of butter, which his wife, permanently plagued by money worries, sold in Berlin. She placed orders regularly, that she would like canned beans, beets, gherkins and pickled cucumbers, “the latter without dill and laurel.” Then she added that he was to “bring millet, beans, and dried fruit.” “Freshly slaughtered fowl” or “preferably even a few snipes” were always very welcome. Arnim planted plum and cherry trees, established strawberry beds, enlarged the barnyard with additional barns, stables, and sheds to increase his income, and had it relocated to the south side of the manor house.

With its carp and other kinds of fish, the pond enhanced the menu. And it did so both in Wiepersdorf and in Berlin. Achim von Arnim, who had even published on physics before becoming a poet, now also published on agricultural topics, such as the grain trade or the cultivation of silk.

There were also anecdotes linked to the pond. At one point, Arnim was looking for his son Friedmund, who was spending the summer in the country with his brothers. “Instead of him, I found a child’s shirt and trousers by the pond, and received no answer to my calls. I thought he had drowned and wanted to search in the pond with poles.” But then his other son, Siegmund, recognized the shirt and trousers as his own. Friedmund, meanwhile, was lifting the organ bellows in the loft of the church. Another time, a thunderstorm with heavy downpours flooded the surrounding meadows and Arnim announced, almost gleefully that ...  “I caught a carp and other fish in my lettuce beds. Farewell! Hugs and kisses for you and the children. Yours affectionately, Achim Arnim.”

Substantially increased in scope through Arnim’s efforts, agriculture at Wiepersdorf continued to be of paramount importance to the estate until the end of World War Two. Still in the summer of 1945, the Wiepersdorf harvest supplied soldiers of the Red Army and refugees. It was not until the land reform in the Soviet occupation zone that Friedmund von Arnim’s family, the last owners of Wiepersdorf, had until 1946 before being expropriated. More than 500 hectares of fields, meadows, pastures, and forests were distributed among land-poor farmers and refugee families. Various stories circulate about this period at the end of the war. For example, Mr. von Wenckstern, the house accountant who belonged to the nobility, was shot by soldiers of the Red Army near a tree in the castle park.

The tree no longer exists today. Nor does the pond look the same as it did when Achim von Arnim provided Bettina with fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish. A quaint, picturesque bridge and a footbridge: all this goes back to the remodeling carried out by Achim von Arnim-Bärwalde, Achim von Arnim’s grandson, and characterizes the estate today. The same is true for the studio, the orangery, or even the park. The latter is the next Wiepersdorf chapter, and our next stop is located at the end of the garden oval facing the castle.