“To live is to be haunted.”
You may have heard of Vahishta Mistry, the guy who quit his job to travel the world. The last time we met him, he told us how his journey began. This time he regaled a tale that evoked a sense of mystery, fear, and abandonment. Here's his account of his adventures at an amusement park that has been long forgotten.
I freeze, at what could have been the slight sound of a twig snapping. Was it just my imagination? Sweat beads on my brow. As I wait, I sense the clincher: the woodland noises have all stopped and I can hear, in the distance, guttural German voices drawing closer. Contrary to what it sounds like I haven’t traveled through a time warp and fetched up in World War 2. In fact, the year is 2014, not 1944 and I’m bending the law by trying to visit an abandoned amusement park: Spreepark, in Berlin, Germany.
Spreepark is now a cultural and historical landmark, albeit an accidental one. It is named after the river Spree, and in its heyday, it served more than 1.5 million visitors each year – mainly because it had a 40-meter Ferris wheel. Indistinctly un-fun East Germany, this was a huge attraction. In November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. Without financial support from now-extinct East Germany, the park was sold to an investor, Norbert Witte. After heavy spending, and rechristened as Spreepark, it re-opened in 1992 with new attractions.
By the time 2001 rolled around, Spreepark was barely doing 400,000 visits. Its doors closed for the last time on Nov 4, 2001, and that’s where the story ought to have ended. Except, a few years later, despite the fences around it, a few adventurous people snuck in and began publishing photos and accounts from Spreepark. The intervening years of neglect had turned the rides and zones into a weird, dystopian dreamscape and suddenly every urban explorer worth his or her salt was trying to get into Spreepark. Like a zombie, Spreepark refused to die.
The relentless assault of trespassers had resulted in a manifold increase in security. Guards, armed with batons, tasers, and dogs were present, as were beefed up fences and locks. This only served to heighten my resolve to get in.
Ruined statues of plump dinosaurs, and buildings with peeling paint and rusty exteriors sat squat against lush greenery. Weeds pushed up through cracks in the concrete. Scenes from post-apocalyptic shows and games, like The Last Of Us, or The Walking Dead played out in my head.
The sounds from the park matched the mood, with bird calls and wind sounds mixing with more sinister rustles, groans, and creaks from the dilapidated rides. Looming large over all else, the Ferris wheel clanks occasionally, as its cabins shift restlessly in the wind.
Despite this constant back-and-forth, I did manage to see a fair number of the park’s sights – the Ferris wheel, of course, as well as the cluster of plastic swans that would have been ridden on the waterways linking the park’s sections. Touching anything left your hands grimy and there was an ever-present risk of contracting tetanus from all the rust lying around.
The tension does get to you and sooner or later, one needs to exit – for some, it’s in the hands of the local police, after having been caught and fined for trespassing.
Spreepark is still closed, a year on, although there have been many plans of appropriating the land. However, Spreepark is now open for cultural events held in an amphitheater – while you don’t get to see most of the park’s more dilapidated and fun exhibits, it’s one way of getting a legal close-up look at Spreepark!
You too can embark on a thrilling journey, all you have to do is get your air ticket and set off!
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