Every now and then, a bizarre and wonderful attraction lies just off the beaten track, seemingly existing only to beckon to the traveler who has seen it all. Berlin’s Spreepark is just that attraction – a massive, surreal amusement park opened in 1969 and abandoned in 2002. Famous amongst urban exploration aficionados and purveyors of so-called ‘ruin porn,’ Spreepark may not be open to the public, but that doesn’t stop thousands of visitors per year from illegally burrowing under or climbing over fences.
Built over three decades and looking like the hallucinogenic hodgepodge of the weirder elements of each, Spreepark was once a wonderland for East German children keen on whimsical topiary, English-themed gardens and crazy amusement park rides. Now it only attracts adults (perhaps all kids at heart?) who want to experience the surreal sights of crumbling rollercoasters, disheveled carnival games and a massive disintegrating Ferris Wheel (that still works!).
The Park, the only one of its kind in East Germany, was built as the Kulturpark Planterwald in 1969, sold to a private investor after the fall of communism in 1989 and renamed after the adjacent River Spree. However, it seems that no one checked new owner Norbert Witte’s background too carefully. In addition to running an alleged cocaine-smuggling ring out of the park, he drove Spreepark into financial insolvency and decamped to Lima with six of the park’s best-loved rides (his son still remains in prison for his involvement in the crimes). Spreepark has remained out of operation ever since, a rusting monument to eccentricity on the fringes of the city.
Of course, it is precisely this abandonment that has made it a top-rated tourist attraction for those interested in strange places. Some of the most-photographed sites inside include the rollercoaster (its mouth an iconic angry cat-like creature), dozens of toppled dinosaurs and a log flume ride overgrown with branches and leaves. A popular photo opportunity is to seat oneself in an old bumper car, the brightly coloured mid-century auto looking out of place in the overgrown grass of the grounds.
But alas, it seems that an unauthorized visit to this delightfully weird amusement park has recently gotten a lot harder. As of March 2014, the city of Berlin purchased the ramshackle site, and they have increased security and erected a taller fence. This has not stopped brave souls from continuing to enter illegally, and many report that the guards are tolerant of this so long as trespassers are discreet whilst inside the park. A fire in September 2014 caused minor damage, and regularly scheduled tours have been put on hold for the foreseeable future.
If you love strange, offbeat places that only the most daring tourists visit, a visit to Spreepark might be for you. While we can’t recommend that you should scale the fence and enter the site, some of the rides are visible from outside of the fence and a walk along the river nearby is nearly as magical as entering the grounds. Spreepark is a weird and wonderful part of Berlin’s communist past, and a must (or a must-try) for any fan of urban decay and abandoned architecture.
Don’t worry, we don’t want you to climb fences – you can find more information and photos of the Spreepark on this blog. If you are looking for a little bit of thrill, check out our blog on Berlin bunker tours.
Written by Jessica O’Neill