Tour Coverage: SPREEPARK – The abandoned amusement park from another era

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 When you live in a city like Berlin, you tend to think that nothing can really surprise you anymore. At least until you find out about that abandoned amusement park that you’ve been living next door with for years.

Not many places in Berlin have such a turbulent history as Spreepark. It first opened its gates in 1969 as the stated-owned “Kulturpark Plänterwald” (Plänterwald cultural park). It was meant as a present to the people of the GDR for the country’s 20th birthday. Even though being called a “park” the place was more determined by concrete, the only leisure park in the GDR yet still attracted 1,5 Mio visitors a year with its ferris wheel and various other attractions, making the place a success and the top destination of countless school trips. For the state’s 40th birthday, the park got a new ferris wheel, updating it from 36 to 40 gondolas. However, shortly after everything changed as the wall came down and not too long after that the GDR disappeared and Germany was reunified.

In 1991, the park was given in the hands of the Witte family and the park got its todays’ name Spreepark. During the time that Norbert Witte was in charge of the park, he made multiple changes, making it look more green, implementing a wild water ride and even installing an “English village”. In the end of the 90ies, the area of Plänterwald, where the park is situated, was declared conservation area, which made it harder for Witte to work on further development. Less people came and he started smuggling drugs in ride equipment that he shipped from Peru to Germany. Spreepark had to close in 2002 due to the constant lack of visitors and not to long after this, Witte’s criminal activities were revealed. He and his Son, the latter still claims to be innocent, were sent to prison. While Norbert Witte has been a free man again since 2008, his son served his 13 or his 20 years of prison in Peru. In 2016, he was allowed to serve the rest of his sentence in Germany. His future remains uncertain.

Things for the park developed positively in the meantime. In 2014, the state of Berlin bought back the site that has been in a deep sleep for the last decade and put one of its public companies in charge. That’s when a new life for this abandoned place slowly started: Numerous piles of thrash were disposed and where nature had taken over in the course of the years, walks were made accessible again. The plan is to open the park’s gates again in 2019. A committee of 1.300 interested residents was asked for ideas that are now being checked out for their suitability by a team of curators. One thing is clear: It’s not going to be an amusement park anymore. From 2019, this former lost place is supposed to turn into a huge creative playground for artists, offering them work and living spaces. There will be theater performances, exhibitions and art installations, making it a safe space for the arts in an ever-changing city. The park will also be made accessible by boat and it will host a beer garden – what more can you ask for! Maybe bring back the ferris wheel?! Things are looking good for this too. The ferris wheel as well as the water rides will most likely be back in operation in 2019 too. Exciting times ahead for Spreepark!

If you still want to get a feeling for the park’s history, you can book a guided tour in advance. Sneaking in through the fence has been made impossible. Some of the highlights of the guided tour (available until October 2017) include the roller coaster that is leading out of a tiger’s mouth, a fallen t-rex, an English village and swan canoes, all overlooked by the mighty ferris wheel of course. Let’s see if they all make a return to the new Spreepark. Things certainly remain exciting until the end of the year, when detailed plans will be revealed.

#Spreepark #Abandoned #August2017

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