SPREEPARK: A TOUR OF BERLIN’S ABANDONDED AMUSEMENT PARK
Spreepark has much in common with the city of Berlin itself—a complicated history that allows past and present to co-exist in visually striking ways and a growing popularity that will probably be its undoing
Spreepark, an abandoned amusement park in the heart of Berlin, is the city’s most fabled destination for urban explorers who prefer their adventures to be of the trespassy kind. Abandoned but never really forgotten (its ferris wheel can be seen over the tops of the trees in Treptower Park) it was still hard to find information about it several years ago, leaving most people to discover it via word of mouth. How quaint, no? Now there are entries on Trip Advisor, articles in The Guardian and on countless blogs, and it has been the subject of several documentaries, an art project, and a Hollywood film.
The park’s media resume highlights the things it has in common with Berlin itself—each place has a complicated and dark history that allows past and present to co-exist in visually striking ways. And each place spent years flying under the mainstream world’s radar…until inevitable discovery and the obligatory dismantling of what made it interesting in the first place. Just like Berlin’s charismatic neighborhoods, which are being sanitized beyond recognition, development plans are also underway for the park. The secret is out and there is no going back. It doesn’t make this place any less fascinating, but it changes everything.
I hate to ruin our street cred, but we didn’t scale the fence or dodge security to get these shots. We visited the park in June during a weekend when it was open for an art project that promised…well, art projects and the chance to interact with the park. There were no projects to be seen and the interactive part turned out to be a strict and expensive tour that included a very serious minder who trailed the group to make sure that no one followed their inner explorer and wandered off. The over-the-top security was weird and the overall atmosphere was anticlimactic. We did not quietly discover overgrown ruins in forest and field—instead, the place was very alive with activity, like a group of bmx bikers who were filming in the “Globe Theatre.” It was disappointing to see that whoever is running the show is not genuinely interested in culture or history, but rather in making a tidy profit from the park’s edgy reputation and dramatic decay (hello Berlin).
A few moments did live up to what I’d imagined. Hoping to get closer to the ferris wheel, which was balanced on a tiny island surrounded by swan boats and pirate ships and an Aztec temple almost completely covered in grass, I walked over a series of questionable bridges that spanned murky waters speckled with colored lightbulbs. The lightbulbs, it took me a moment to realize, had blown off the ferris wheel and landed softly (and intact) in the scum. Looking up, I realized that the ferris wheel was slowly rotating—a little in this direction, a little in that direction—nudged into motion only by the wind.
+ Anthony’s accompanying photo essay
+ A fantastic account of sneaking into the park in 2009 on Abandoned Berlin
+ Photos from back in the day and info about upcoming tours (in German) on the park’s website
Photos and illustrations by Rebecca for the Field Office