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By Michaela Lola Abrera
Living in Berlin demands that you actively seek out its hidden haunts and break barriers. The city’s penchant for blending the bizarre with the ordinary makes it the perfect place for curiosity-seekers and non-conformists. Concealed within the lush greenery of the Treptow Park and barred by a rusty iron fence is the abandoned Spreepark (www.spreepark.de). This former GDR amusement center, which opened in 1969 and was best known as ‘Cultural Park Plenterwald,’ carries with it ghostly images of a bygone era.
The eerie site is located in the middle of Treptow Park in the suburban district of Treptow-Köpenick. After its stint as the GDR’s only amusement center until 1989, it underwent a process of reorganization wherein Norbert Witte from Berlin GmBH attained the contract over the property and was opened to the public from 1989 to 2001. However, due to the Witte’s corruption, the park was declared insolvent in 2001 and in debt of over 11 million Euros.
Norbert Witte and his associates fled the country but in his failed attempts to create a “Lunapark”– in Lima, Peru, he was arrested and sentenced in May of 2004 for trying to smuggle 180kg of cocaine from Peru to Germany. He hid the contraband, valued at $14 million, inside his “flying carpet”– ride.
The Cultural Park’s seedy history is something to ponder over as you walk by the serene scene of the River Spree and towards the center of Treptow. You’ll find an enclosure surrounded by trees that serve to conceal this discarded wonderland. Though it is technically illegal to climb over this barrier , the risks of being caught and thrown into a German jail makes this endeavor all the more appealing.
Once you’ve hopped over the worn ‘iron curtain’ or slid through an opening, you’ll find yourself amidst a marsh of thorny plants. Making your way past the maze of trees, fallen branches and leafy overgrowth you’ll be confronted with the remnants of this faded fairground. It’s not only the obsolete roller coaster tracks, forsaken teacup rides or the broken pieces of dinosaur statues that will give you goosebumps–it’s the silence. The echo of children’s laughter from the world beyond the fence fades away and is replaced by your heartbeat that begins to thump louder as the seconds seem to slow down. Not even the birds are chirping.
Time has stopped. Each ride looks as though its still waiting for the screams of glee that comes with a stomach churning ride or the sticky pleasures of melting ice cream on a hot summer day. Coming across the area map (http://www.spreepark.de/fahrgeschaefte_frameset.htm) you’ll find the original location of each cast off. The former tools of entertainment have become a macabre cast of characters. The swan boats, with their frozen faces and lurid whiteness, silently watch your every move. While the go-cart, which is painted with the face of a smiling mustached man, jeers from a distance. The morbid sight of the headless Brontosaurus and the sinking elephant figure accentuates the location’s disconcerting atmosphere. As you attempt to find your way out of this forgotten world, its most special attraction,“The Ferris Wheel of Berlin” looms over to cast its shadow and bid you adieu.