It’s not every day you get to walk, bike and roller-skate down an airport runway or set up a barbecue on an airfield at an airport.
But at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, these things are normal – the closed airport has become Berlin’s newest playground, now known as Tempelhof park.
Taking up a space of 400 hectares, picnics and jogging aren’t the only things this park has space for: kite flying, hot balloon rides, urban gardening and marathon events are just a few of the things you can and will soon be able to do in the park.
The city plans to recreate the park in many ways, from creating a lake to building new homes, while still keeping the airport building which plays a major role in Berlin’s history.
A Little History
Built in 1939-1941, Tempelhof airport was built in typical Nazi monumental “Bombastic” style, complete with carved eagles at the entrance and a roof constructed to hold an audience of 100,000 people watching military parades and air shows, designed to be the world’s biggest terminal.
A Symbol For Freedom
Tempelhof is more than just an abandoned airport or an awesome park, for many of the Berliners it remains a symbol for freedom …
Outside the airport stands the Airlift Memorial, honouring those who fought for freedom and participated in the “supplies action”, and the 79 pilots who lost their lives during the Airlift.
In 1948 Soviet authorities halted all traffic by land and water into and out of the western-controlled sectors of Berlin, with the only access left being an air route across the Soviet Zone. For the next 11 months the western powers began sending skytrains supplying the people with food to survive.
The legendary “Operation Little Vittles” is almost as famous, where the “Candy Bomber” Gail Halvorsen started dropping candy to the children from his parachute before landing, and other pilots started to do the same.
Go There Before It Changes!
Today, a dilapidated plane overgrown by weeds hides in one corner of the park, and in summer you can buy sausages from a beer garden created for the US military during the Cold War.
As always, in true Berlin style, the past is mixed with the present.
I’m sure the future of this park will be amazing, but the way it is today is truly unique and something to experience, and who knows what will be left and distract from its history when the park is recreated into something new?
So don’t risk it, go bike down the runway and enjoy the unique view while you still can!