Dinosaurs, ferris wheels, and Russians

My dear friend Evan arrived in Berlin on Friday; given the perfect (75, brilliantly sunny) weather, I immediately whisked him off to the beach, where he slept and I swam and read. The next day, we sought out some real adventure, and so we set out for the Spreepark.

The Spreepark was formerly the GDR’s only amusement park, with 1.5 million visitors a year. Post-reunification, it struggled financially, and in 2002, with the park insolvent, its owner fled to Peru. (He’s since, according to Wikipedia, been “sentenced to seven years in jail for attempting to smuggle 180 kg of cocaine with a value of £14 million from Peru to Germany in the masts of a ‘flying carpet’ ride.”) Since then, it’s been abandoned — by all except the occasional trespasser, that is.

I first learned about the park from my brother Noah, who breached its fence a few months ago and recommended that I do the same. Time being short, I won’t recount every detail of our entry into, or hurried exit from, the park; but I will share a few photos that I hope will give you a sense of how amazing it is to have the whole place to yourself.

The triceratops guarding the entrance.

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Greenery and such

Of all the cities I’ve been to, I’d be hard-pressed to think of one with better outdoor spaces than Berlin. Aside from the hundreds of cafes and bars that line the city’s sidewalks, the river “beaches,” and the two lakes, there are quite a few public parks. And some of them are simply massive. Unfortunately, there are only really four months or so out of the year during which they’re usable, and it’s probably raining most of that time anyway, leaving us with something like 40 days (and a dozen weekend days) — in a good year.

Thankfully, today was one of those days, and so I visited two of the massive parks. In the morning, I went for a run through the Volkspark Friedrichshain, the city’s oldest public park, conveniently located a few blocks from my apartment. It’s got two mountainlets with jogging paths winding gently around them, in addition to loads of fountains, streams, fields, and about a dozen mammoth bronze Communist-era monuments. It’s a damn good place to get hopelessly lost — I made sure to test it out for this purpose.

In the afternoon, I biked across a large swath of the city to the Tempelhofer Park, the city’s largest park. Until 2008, it was one of the city’s two airports, with an illustrious history: It was once one of Europe’s three busiest airports (whose main building was among the tallest buildings in the world), and it was the site of the Berlin airlifts during the Cold War. In 2010, two years after its closure, it reopened as a park. It still very much looks like an airport, with all the runways still intact. It’s a paradise for joggers and bikers, and especially for kite-fliers, dozens of whom take advantage of its treelessness every warm day. Here’s a glance at a tiny fraction of it: Read more of this post

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