A week ago today I found myself doing something I never even imagined I would do: digging a hole under a fence with a stick… entering somewhere “forbidden”- and that was the old abandoned theme park, ‘Spreepark’ in Berlin.
To find out more about this park’s history you can visit the Abandoned Berlin website here. To summarise briefly, Spreepark was once a major attraction in former East Germany, but after German reunification in 1989 its demise began. There were many problems when new owners took it over, visitor numbers dwindled, and it finally closed in 2001, leaving behind remnants of fun fair rides and attractions.
The remains were weird and wonderful, featuring dinosaur heads, swan boats, mammoths, boarded up houses, train tracks, a Viking boat, to name just a few – and of course there is the iconic Ferris wheel which looms eerily over the empty park.
Before this trip to Berlin I had never actually heard of the park… but a friend of a friend recommended it to us before we left. Not knowing the extent of security involved in protecting the park, we thought it would be worth a visit as an abandoned fun fair sounded creepy and worth investigating. But when we looked it up online to find out exactly where it was, we discovered the Abandoned Berlin website, and were somewhat shocked to find that there was apparently a high-level security fence, guards and dogs onsite.
On the other hand, the author of Abandoned Berlin made it sound like a lot of people manage to get in, and don’t take this level of protection very seriously. There is even a story about a 90-year-old woman who got in for a ride on the Ferris wheel – but then had to be rescued when the wind carried her up but not back down again. If a 90-year-old woman can get in for a bit of fun, then, well, surely anyone can!
So last Monday my friend and I went to check it out and I have to admit I wasn’t really taking the threat of the fence, guards and dogs very seriously. I mean, it was a Monday afternoon, and I figured there was bound to be more security on a Saturday night (if people try to get in for some drunken hilarity).
But when we saw the fence and the signs reading “Betreten verboten!” we began to feel more nervous… even scared. And even though the Abandoned Berlin website had made it sound easy to get inside under the fence, many gaps under the fence (where other risk-takers had clearly entered before) had been securely concreted up. Not to mention that the fence ran along a main path which was in constant use by runners, and people taking leisurely strolls by the riverside on a Monday afternoon… it seemed as if it would be impossible to a) find a point of entry and b) get in without anyone noticing.
Our plan wasn’t to do anything dangerous – just to get into the park, see the crazy stuff inside, and take a few photos… but it seemed unlikely that it would actually happen. It also seemed a bit over the top to have all this security for something so derelict and forgotten… but there was an incident when other “visitors” set the park on fire, so I guess those people have just spoilt it for those people like the 90-year-old woman who just wanted a last ride on the Ferris wheel.
After walking quite a long way down the path, and some unsuccessful attempts to climb the fence (the gaps were too small for our feet), we decided that crawling under was going to be our best option and kept an eye out for an un-concreted gap underneath.
We had just passed the Ferris wheel on the other side, and the main gate which was securely locked, when a little further up the path, we saw our opportunity. There was a small gap which looked like it could be made bigger so that we could slide underneath. The gap, although it could still be seen by passers-by, was still fairly concealed by trees, allowing us to work on it without being noticed too much.
I surprised myself and my friend by my determination and zealous attempts to make the hole bigger by digging ferociously with a large stick. I was finding it all rather funny and suspected that the talk of guards and dogs was (at least today) nothing to worry about. The only fear I had was that a passer-by would see us and report our antics.
My friend and I made a good team and looked out for people passing by. One old man passed and clearly knew what we were getting up to, but seemed to give us nothing more than a knowing look and slight smile. This seems to be the prevailing attitude to people entering Spreepark.
We were very nearly done with enlarging the hole when a young woman approached us. I wondered what she was going to say… and then she asked us, “Do you know how to get in?” We told her of our plan – she seemed surprised but also keen to follow suit. She told us she had come to Berlin only to get into the abandoned places. She left to fetch her friends who had been scoping out the other side of the park.
Shortly after she left, we decided to try our hole out for size. I went first… putting my legs under first, pressing into the ground, and doing a kind of ground-limbo to get my rather curvacious upper body under the fence. A quick wriggle and I was through!
Haha! I had broken into a theme park! My friend threw her rucksack over, I caught it, and then she was also sliding under the fence. We were both in! We took a photo to celebrate the occasion and then we hurried off through the undergrowth in search of the crazy and creepy remains.
We followed a path, past a pile of rubbish and abandoned huts, which led us to the central attraction area. There was a building made to look like a station, with a train track inside it. There were lots of stinging nettles too which made the photo opportunities slightly painful.
Further on there were some boarded up houses – perhaps formerly fun-houses with play areas, or perhaps a house of mirrors. Now it was all empty and forgotten.
We came across some swan boats, parked at the side of the central area, next to just one car which looked like a face, wearing a hat and Harry-Potter-style glasses.
There was a Viking boat, which looked more like a shipwreck, and a lot of tree trunks which looked like they once could have been a seating area.
Most creepy was the Ferris wheel, which was still turning steadily, making a quiet, metallic creak as it went. “Eeeeeee….. eeeeee” – it was the only background noise we could hear.
There was absolutely no sign of guards or dogs.
We didn’t stay long – just long enough to have a run around, take a few pictures, and then get out of there!
We headed back to the fence. I had a delirious panic that our gap had already been concreted up… but no, there it was…
A quick limbo under and we were safely back on the other side – with the photos, a few bruises and nettle stings to prove it.
The girl we had met before was there at the gap, now accompanied by her friends. They watched us re-enter the legal side of the fence. We left them discussing their entry, and a few minutes later we saw them running along inside the park. They, too, had been successful.
On a trip to Berlin, this is not the conventional attraction, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are the adventure-seeking type who can cope with a bit of adrenalin and the thought that a guard with a dog might have to escort you out if you happen to get caught.
To be honest, I can’t quite believe I did it, but sometimes the rules are there to be broken 🙂