Not so long ago in the year 1969, a wondrous amusement park opened in East Berlin. It was called Spreepark Berlin and it remained open until 2002.
A Brief History of Spreepark Berlin
Spreepark Berlin was the only amusement park in the GDR at the time. It was built on a large concreted area and was packed with rides, games, and other stalls. The green area featured many restaurants and more solid structures. The biggest attraction was the 45 meter high Ferris wheel with 36 gondolas. Every year, almost 1.7 million visitors came to the park. As a West Berliner, I never got to go to the Spreepark Berlin, but after countless interactions with bright eyed former visitors, you just knew it was an unforgettable experience.
After the reunification, the publicly-owned Betriebskulturpark Berlin was settled. Norbert Witte became the new manager of Spreepark Berlin. He had lofty goals to expand and reshape the park. He added a water feature around the Ferris wheel, and build roller coasters and water rides. Unfortunately, this was not enough. As the years went on, less and less people came to visit the park. In 2001, he had to register insolvency.
Since 2002, the former amusement park has become more and more neglected. The site is no longer freely accessible. Many of the buildings are unstable, and the still standing rides are rusted. In 2014, a major fire broke out and destroyed a large portion of the site.
Over the years, a wide range of interested parties have shown interest in the site through concept designs. Unfortunately, they have never been implemented. In 2016, the publicly-owned Grün Berlin GmbH took over the site. They wanted to make the site accessible again.
Our Visit to the Spreepark Berlin
Between 2009 and 2014, guided tours of the Spreepark were offered. They were two-hour long and only on the weekends. Luckily, we managed to secure a tour before they ended.
We had no idea what to expect and were very excited. We were surprised that half the tour participants had been here when the park was still active and could remember the “good old days” when the park was in its prime. We looked forward to hearing their stories and learning all we could about the former park.
From the meeting point, we went into the restricted area. We crossed old, winding roads that lead to one of the water courses. The entrance hall looked dilapidated, but it was still stable enough to enter without danger. In this place, time seemed to stand still. The canals were empty and the boats laid at the bottom seemingly waiting for flowing water to bring them back to life. Further into the complex we got a better look at the canals. They were covered with moss and were leaking. The landscape was truly untouched by man for many years. It certainly had a strange charm to it, the wild water ride.
The symbol of the Spreepark is the Ferris Wheel. As you are traveling in the Plänterwald, you can see it in the distance. Just as the boats seemed to wait for flowing water, the Ferris wheel seemed to be waiting for passengers so it could start up its engine and begin again. This backdrop would certainly be better suited for the GDR classic “Spuk unterm Riesenrad”, which was created here.
After the Ferris wheel, the tour led us to the remains of a former roller coaster. Going into the mouth of the coaster and not knowing what comes next certainly inspired a funny feeling. Despite the years, parts of the old train system were easily recognizable. The engineering fans were thrilled to be able to look underneath the track system.
The tour through Spreepark Berlin took us to some interesting places. We learned about the history of the park, the attractions, and the small stories of former visitors.
The 2 hours was almost too short to take it all in. It is truly sad that visiting the old park is no longer possible. I would have loved to go through the grounds on more time. Especially considering that the second time brings new discoveries!