Nearly five hundred beech trees at Lake Stechlin, Germany have grafitti carvings. The oldest of these grafitti reach back into the 1920s. Some are from the NS era, many are from 1950s to 1980. I wanted to know what these signs can us about the history of the lake and its vitors.

At Lake Stechlin I found 487 beeches with carvings. I took GPS coordinates of them and photos. On a walk around the lake at average every 30 m a marked tree can be found.

The trees with grafitti are not randomly distributed. More then half of them have its nearest neighbor closer than 14 m.

They are clustered around swimming places, so called "Badebuchten", they are aligned along the trail that runs around the lake, and in many places they face toward the trail. They want to be seen.

Most markings are near the village Neuglobsow.

Tattoo trees

Most of grafitti are simple: initials, and combinations of initials with dates.

On some trees elaborate symbols have been placed. Others are filled with markings and scratches and show a wild collection of signs.

Some have series of dates on them, from visitors that came back, and left their marks year after year.

Trees can be found that carry traces of generations of visitors.

Trees with dates

More than one fourth of the trees with grafitti are dated, 127 of them.

The oldest is probably from 1922. There is another from 1923, one from the 1930s, three from the 1940s, eighteen from the 1950s, more then twenty from the 1960s & 1970s, respectively, fifteen from the 1980s, eleven from the 1990s, ten from the 2000s, and fifteen from the 2010s.

The frequency reflects the tourism. The tourism had its peak during the GDR time. More then 1000 visitors per day stayed overnight during this time in the village. There was also a campsite at the lakes northern bay. And then there were the workers from the nuclear power plant nearby.


Most of the grafitti are on the eastern bay, at the tip of the peninsula, where it is closest to the village, and at the swimming spots of the northen bay, where it is called "sunbay."

At a place, called "Stammstechlin," at the northern shore, lots of grafitti exist on old trees. They are commonly directed towards the lake, despite the shores thick reed cover.

Probably, when the people left its markings, these were swimming spots, free of reed. The reed spread because the lake heavily eutrophicated since.


At places many beeches have scars. They are commonly heavily adnate and difficult to interprete.

Near the sunbay at the northernmost tip of the lake, and in an area near the old fisherhouse, they are exceptionally common.

On old maps these places are marked as campsites. Probably the scars mark old injuries from nails and attachments for signposts, washing lines, and tents. Perhaps, these are also simple markings, now unreadable.

The grafitti are mostly placed at eye level. During the years the trees grew toward the sky, but at their base only their perimeter grew.

Old markings, when placed on young trees are therefore often stretched, like a drawing on an empty ballon that gets pumped up. But they are still on its original height.

Old markings that were placed on old trees are instead often almost unchanged.

Beeches can get three hundered years old. The older they get, the slower the grow.

The mysterious K

Many repeating combinations of letters exist. Many taggers left their signs at several trees. But nobody was so active as the mysterious person who left the single letter "K."

Around the lake 21 trees are marked with a single K. Although the K looks different at different trees. – In some places it is on slender old trees, quite stretched. In other places it is a faint scar on mighty old beeches.

Often, where the K is, no other grafitti was placed.

Perhaps, the K was not scratched by a single person and it is not a sign for a name.


Hearts are by far the most common motifs on the trees at lake Stechlin. On 67 beeches hearts can be found. This is 14% of all grafitti trees.

Many variants of hearts exist. Some have pairs of initials inside, above or below. Some have a year or a date. Through others run arrows.

There are hearts from all decades. Some are bold and others are delicate.

On one tree is no heart, but the line "I love you."


The German-Israelian writer Lola Landau, who lived at the lake during the 1920-1930s until she was exiled, wrote: "We saw on our hikes through the woods that signs of hate were cut into many trees, the swastika of the nationalsocialists. It stood for national revenge and racial hatred. Many villages of the country had been conquered by it already."1

I found the symbol on nine trees. Some are adnate and crooked and some were cut over. But others are clearly visible.

Soviet star

The soviet star is on two trees. One is cut into a very old beech. The others is slightly stretched and cut into the bark of a slender tree.

They have no dates. The similarity with other old markings and the degree of ageing indicate that they are many decades old.

Perhaps they have been cut by soviet soldiers or even by German communists during the nazi era.

Symbols of runes are on seven trees. It seems they are from the nazi time.

On two trees a distinct rhombus can be found, the Odal-rune. On at least three other trees is the arrow of the Tyr-rune.

Both symbols have been used by the Hitlerjugend. Perhaps it is not a coincidence, that some of the runes are at the peninsula. There the Hitlerjugend had during the 1940s large summer camps. More than 3000 boys dwelled in the woods every year in august during this time.


On 14 trees kyrillic letters can be found. Most of them belong to initials. On one tree is written "Ростов и Дон".

Many trees with kyrillic grafitti are near the old fisherhouse and on the peninsula. Some of them are with dates from the 1970-1980s.

They were most probably cut by soviet soldiers during the time of the GDR, when many of them where barracked in Fürstenberg and surroundings. And sometimes, during the summer months, they camped for weeks in the woods at Lake Stechlin, when they had their maneuvres.


Ten trees have upright rhomb symbols with a vertical line in them. I interprete these signs as vulvas.

In the 1970s and early 1980s I saw them frequently as grafitti in e.g., public toilets. They were regarded as obscene, and to draw them was seen as a vulgar act. Perhaps the vulvas at Stechlin are from this time. Today the symbol seems to be popular only in some regions of Eastern Europe.

The rhombs are concentrated on the southern and eastern shores,  places which were frequented by tourists.

The Murderbeech

This ancient beech can be found at the eastern shore of the lake. The grafitti shows a person with a hat and a gun, shooting at a person with a long skirt.

The grafitti tells the story of a femicid that took place near the tree in 1903. In that year, this is what is told, a wedding party walked along the shore. The bride was ambushed by a young forester, who was unhappy in love and who killed himself after the homicide.

The grafitti is probably not older than from the 1920s and is today a small tourist attraction.

The tree is in the official list of natural monuments of the region.


Among the rarities, I found along the shores of the lake, these should be mentioned:

A tree with the label "Glück auf, 1966" the  "good luck" of the miners;

a tree with inscription: "G.O.L. Ökotoilettenshow  von Yelda und Markus", ("G.iggling O.ut L.oud Eco-toiletshow of Yelda and Markus") without date;

two trees with smileys;

and one tree with a stick man.


A peace sign was cut into one tree at the southern shore. It is not dated.

The peace symbol has its roots in the US anti-war movement.

In the East it became popular as a contrast to the ideaologically loaded peace dove. It was also a sign of a subculture that developed during 1970-1980s, the Blueser-scene, East German hippies.

From time to time they came from Berlin and spent their holidays at Stechlin.


A map with photographs of all trees with grafittis and background info is here.


I am grateful to Romy and Stef Richter (Neuroofen, Germany) from Stechlin Institute for their support. Without help of Silke Oldorff (Menz, Germany), who spontaneously rented her hendheld GPS device to me, this project wouldn't be realized already. Robert Schnüll (Berlin, Germany) helped with data handling.