{Germany} Spreepark Berlin

April 30, 2014


Amusement parks don’t feature very often here on Museum Diary – I’ve spent enough time during my years in museum education telling parents that museums are NOT amusement parks – but an abandoned amusement park that has in itself become a kind of museum piece with a fascinating history, that’s a different story altogether.

spreepark dinosaur

spreepark map

The Spreepark Berlin started out as the Kulturpark Plänterwald, which operated from 1969-1989 and was the only amusement park in the former East Germany. After German reunification, it was taken over by the Witte family, who trans transformed into a more Western-style attraction after German unification (Western as in Western Germany, not as in the Wild West). However, they had to fulfil a contract with near to impossible conditions, such as no parking spaced, no signs direction people to the park, and a limit on visitor numbers that was almost half of what was needed just to break even. Unsurprisingly, they ran into financial difficulties and eventually Spreepark Berlin had to declare bankruptcy. Subsequently, in 2002 the amusement park was closed to visitors, parts of it were torn down or resold, while the rest was abandoned and left for nature to take its course.

spreepark mammoth

spreepark water ride tracks

spreepark water ride carriages

spreepark cars with faces

What followed after is actually quite a sad story, with the Witte family taking off to Peru to start a new life, drifting deeper in to poverty, and eventually becoming involved in drug smuggling in an attempt to level their debts. This Spiegel Online article sums it up much better than I could attempt to: “Life Is a Rollercoaster: The Downfall of a Funfair Family

spreepark broken booth

spreepark trex

spreepark broken swan boats

spreepark viking boat

spreepark big wheel carriages

Looking on the slightly brighter side of things, part of the family returned to Berlin and to the Spreepark, and from summer 2009, visitors could book to go on guided tours at the weekend to see the abandoned amusement park and hear about its history. Later on, some of the park was even rejuvenated, with a little train taking visitors round the site and a cafe offering drinks, sausages and ice-creams, and it again became a popular destination at the weekends, albeit on a very different scale. However, ownership of the park has now been taken over by the city of Berlin, and the site had to be cleared by the end of April. That meant, that the probably last ever tours of the abandoned Spreepark took place this past weekend. I took the chance to go on one of those tours, and was lucky enough to end up in one of the groups that had one of the Witte daughters as their guide – hearing about the history of the park from her personal point of view, how she grew up there, the escapades she and her siblings got up to after hours, and the impact that the downfall of the park had on her family, was very emotional. It’s still up in the air what will happen to the site now, but I’m very glad I got to be part of this special piece of Berlin history.

spreepark village houses

spreepark rollercoaster rails

spreepark rollercoaster monster mouth

spreepark ticket booth

You can see more photos from my Spreepark visit over on Flickr.

spreepark big wheel


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