There are some great articles in the online realm about abandoned amusement parks – former fun-filled places where the screams and raucous laughter have given way to a more creepy atmosphere. But an exploration of Spreepark in Berlin will reveal more than rusty rollercoasters. Here you’ll find yourself wandering among full-scale plastic dinosaurs, which almost appear to be watching over the dilapidated amusements.
It’s a curious sight on the landscape, which conjures the image of a second coming of the dinosaurs, wandering through a post-apocalyptic landscape characterised by the twisting metal of Spreepark’s decaying rides. In this modern dinosaur world, the Tyrannosaurus (top) and a couple of other unfortunate specimens have been toppled. And with the king of the carnivores out of action, the massive Brontosaurus – which appears to be going nowhere fast – can breathe that sigh of relief it never had back in its Jurassic lifetime.
Turning our attention back to the abandoned rides, Spreepark‘s history is almost as strange as the plastic creatures roaming within it. Originally opening in 1969, Kulturpark Plänterwald – as it was originally known – was the only amusement park in either East or West Berlin, and the only constant park in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany.
By 1991 Kulturpark Plänterwald had been transformed into Spreepark, and visitor numbers peaked at 1.5 million per year. But the cost of new attractions and a shift away from pay-per-ride to a pay-at-the-gate model contributed to large debts by 1999. Spreepark had no option but to raise the admission fee to generate extra revenue, but merely succeeded in deterring potential thrill seekers. By 2001, visitor numbers had dropped to 400,000 and the amusement park declared itself insolvent.
In a final twist that any rollercoaster would be proud of, the park’s owner, Norbert Witte, and close associates allegedly fled to Lima, Peru, with spiralling debts of €11 million. They even shipped six rides, which authorities believed were being sent for repair. After a failed attempt to run a “Lunapark” in Lima, Witte was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in 2004 for attempting to smuggle £14 million of cocaine from Peru to Germany in the metal masts of the “flying carpet” ride.
It was the final act in a bizarre and tumultuous rollercoaster ride that has seen Spreepark abandoned for the last eight years. Between the silent dinosaurs, the large ferris wheel continues to dominate the park, while other attractions, including an English village, remain on site, gradually becoming ensnared by foliage and generally forgotten by the world beyond Spreepark’s boundaries.
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