Der Britzer Garten in Berlin-Neukölln, aufgenommen am 5. Juli 2016. Foto: Kitty Kleist-Heinrich

According to the organizers, up to 40,000 people gathered in the Britzer Garden last weekend – not to admire flowers and grass as usual, but essentially to stare at their mobile phone screens. Fans of the game Pokémon Go had traveled from many parts of the world to swap rare digital animals and exchange ideas with like-minded people in analogue form.

Claudia Reinhard from the Berliner Zeitung took a look around and spoke to some of the game fans – or, as they are called in the Pokémon universe, trainers. Colleague Anni Dietzke had previously asked organizer Philipp Marz about the background to the festival. You can read the interview again here.

The festival met with criticism from regular park visitors. Reader Marion S. already complained in advance: “With the large number of expected participants from all over the world, who will “stumble”, “tramp” or “rush” through the Britzer Garden in large numbers, mainly with a smartphone in front of their noses , I am afraid that the horticultural facilities there (beds, hedges, meadows, rose garden, perennial garden, themed gardens, rhododendron grove, ponds, etc.) that are so lovingly laid out and cared for on a daily basis will suffer greatly, will be partially destroyed, waste etc. will end up in nature be disposed of.

And above all, the animals living there, breeding birds, wild bees (nests) etc. will be very severely disturbed, hopefully not prevented from breeding, killed or driven away.” She was also bothered by the cell phone towers with WiFi amplifiers that had been set up days before .

Michael A. also complained in particular about the technical effort involved in the festival: Already weeks before the event, diesel power generators had been in operation and “a permanent burden for the visitors”.

He writes: “In my opinion, this is also an example of the waste of fossil fuels, which hurts me every day given the current news situation. In my opinion, the interests of (permanent) visitors and residents are not fairly balanced here against the commercial interests of Grün Berlin GmbH.”

And what does the operator Grün Berlin say about it? “As a stage for the Pokémon Go event, the Britzer Garten with all its diversity was able to present itself to national and international guests for a weekend – both the city of Berlin and the Britzer Garten benefited from this as a unique venue,” it says on request. In the run-up, care had been taken to ensure that the horticultural facilities were treated with care.

For this purpose, a comprehensive security concept has been developed and far-reaching protective measures have been taken. Among other things, 160 additional rubbish bins have been set up, the toilet infrastructure has been expanded and additional catering has been operated with a reusable system.

“The Pokémon game itself was designed in such a way that sensitive parking areas were left out from the outset and the streams of visitors were well distributed over the extensive grounds. In conclusion, we are happy about a successful, peaceful event and guests who visited the Britzer Garten with respect and consideration,” it said.

The wear and tear that would generally occur at large open-air events would be repaired in the coming weeks or would disappear by natural grass growth.

Grün Berlin also said that the required infrastructure had been gradually set up and put into operation in advance. Contrary to what was planned, the use of decentralized systems was necessary for a reliable power supply – ecological fuels were primarily used for this.

“We understand that the masts and the associated operation of these in the otherwise natural environment of the Britzer Garten in particular have had a disturbing effect on some visitors. In order to keep the disruption for our visitors as short as possible, the dismantling of the entire event infrastructure was started immediately after the event,” it said. All masts should have been dismantled by Wednesday at the latest.