Trying to find Spreepark in Plänterwald was one of the biggest adventures, or non-adventures, of my recent trip to Berlin. Described by our Airbnb host as 'a fantastic destination for an excursion, with life-sized dinosaurs, kaput ferris wheels and a choo choo train that runs on the weekend', we set off on the metro towards Plänterwald with high hopes of a unique Berlin day out.
The first obstacle that presented itself was the lack of a train running to Plänterwald that morning – none went as far as we needed due to track works.
"Not to worry!" We got ourselves as far as Treptower Park and asked if the distance to Plänterwald was walkable, something that was met with a unanimous "no". Having resigned ourselves to a cheeky taxi ride, we felt some elation in that we would soon be exploring abandoned roller coasters and looking skywards at old ferris wheels.
Unfortunately, our taxi driver had no knowledge whatsoever of an abandoned amusement park. After making a couple of phone calls and asking us to repeat over and over the details of our destination, he took us to Plänterwald where, on the river Spree, we found cafés on boats, pedalos and a holiday gathering of boogying geriatrics. Still no sign of that huge wheel...
Upon asking the nearest ice-cream man to direct us to "the abandoned theme park" we were met with another blank gaze. "I've never heard of it."
It being a beautiful sunny day, we decided to walk along the manicured tarmac woodland path beside the river, keeping our eyes out for the odd neglected swan ride or 'choo choo' train. Then – there it was! Through a red fence emblazoned with the word 'VERBOTEN' every hundred yards we glimpsed an abandoned train. Excited, we quickened our pace.
Further along the verboten fence we met three people coming from the other side. "There's a guard. I wouldn't risk it." After our host's enthusiastic recommendation, a fruitful internet search (Google it right now to see how fantastic the pictures look) and battling Berlin's chaotic public transport, it seemed that this park really stood alone and empty, and more abandoned than we ever thought. Eventually, we turned our backs and resorted to a beer and an hour on a pedalo.
It took a second, more focused Google search once reunited with our smartphones that evening to find out that Spreepark, opened in 1969, had been the only entertainment park in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and, after a tortuous journey through debts and dubious owners, it was closed down in 2002. Wikipedia also informed us that it has been abandoned since then, with tours operating until March 2014. So the official take was that we had missed it by four months!
On returning to Bristol, my only regret was not waiting for that guard to leave and passing through the hole in the fence to explore Spreepark.
And to add salt, I have since discovered up-to-date reviews on Tripadvisor with tips and tricks to avoid the guards. Their advice (and now mine) – stray from the main path, take yourself in to explore and stay vigilant for guards!
|The broken down choo choo | Photo: Rosie Pentreath|
|Strictly verboten | Photo: Rosie Pentreath|
|The abandoned ferris wheel | Photo: Rosie Pentreath|
|Our first impressions of Plänterwald on the Spree | Photo: Rosie Pentreath|
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