IN BERLIN: ALL ACCESS SPREEPARKJune 9, 2013
Whilst in Berlin a few weeks back we bagged access all areas to Berlin’s Spreepark, the abandoned GDR fairground and location for our festival photo-shoot. Daunted by the prospect of exploring the park alone, we felt it was only right to get in touch with Sabrina Witte, daughter of Norman Witte – the park’s original owner.
Spending most of her childhood living with a theme park for a back garden, Sabrina was the ideal person to guide us through the eerie land and tell us about the good ol’ days when the park was still alive.
Scroll down for an intimate view into the infamous Spreepark.
First things first, here’s some history…
The Spreepark fairground officially opened in 1969 under the name Kulturpark Plänterwald, the first of its kind in East and West Berlin. The park was a popular attraction, pulling in 1.5 million visitors a year, aiding the parks development into a more recreational theme park over time.
With popular rides such as the 148ft Ferris wheel, log flume, rollercoasters and a gut wrenching pirate ship, the park remained a successful investment up until 1999. Problems occurred when restrictions were applied to the size of the visitor car park, resulting in a rise of admission prices to battle with falling numbers. The park owners were struck with massive debts, forcing them to seek other means to fund the parks up keep.
Now we don’t want delve too far into the dark stuff, but the impending demise of Spreespark was cemented when owner Norman Witte was caught smuggling a whole load of naughty substances into Germany in 2002. He was imprisoned for seven years, and the park was forced to close its doors.
From that point the park fell victim to neglect. Trees and weeds consumed the open space and the once loved rides developed a ghostly loneliness. Quickly the park became a hotspot for trespassers and graffiti artists, accidently developing the park into a new type attraction, “The spooky and abandoned theme park trapped in time”.
Nowadays the Witte family still own the land and put it to good use. Blockbuster hit Hanna was filmed here, The xx recently used the space as part of their Night + Day festival. Put this together with occasional tours and renting the space to one off events, and you could say the Witte family are making lemonade outa’ lemons.
So off we went to explore, meandering through the eerie silence to meet up with Sabrina. Here’s what she had to tell…
I was four years old when we came to the park, just a little girl. I have a lot of nice memories here, from when the park used to be full. People say it’s scary, and as a child I was always scared of the dark. But here, I don’t mind, it’s my home and I’ve always felt safe and comfortable.
I don’t normally give the tour; it’s very hard for me you know? When you live here for so long and now it’s all empty…it hurts. I know every stone and every tree. In my family I have four sisters and one brother, all-growing up here as kids. We had a special time!
This was the first rollercoaster we built. It was fast and had a dark tunnel into the mouth of the ”catmouse”. There was a recording of voices, which made scary sounds when you went through – it was great for little kids.
This was the water ride; the biggest of it’s kind in Europe at the time. On the big dip the bumpers would push the boat in the air and all the water would fall down inside the raft. It was this point where the picture would come; you’d look very pretty. We have all the pictures on our site, even some from back in 69’. The ride still works but the water isn’t clean and it smells. Eurgh.
Young people like to break in and go on the attractions. It’s scary because there are dangerous points in the park; I’m always worried that someone will break a leg or worse. Now you can only enter the park on a tour.
Sometimes we’ll have a man and a women jump in over the fence, they’ll find somewhere to sit with some champagne, very romantic. When I see people like that, I tend to look the other way. I said to my ex-boyfriend “You’re so stupid, why didn’t you think of that eh?”
The Ferris wheel still moves, and everyone’s saying it’s a ghost, but it’s just moving with the wind. It has to, it’s a big wheel, and if it couldn’t move there would be a possibility it might fall down. The winds so strong you know. It makes this weird sound when it moves, and you don’t notice it during the day. But during the night, when there’s no other noise, it can be pretty scary yeah.
The houses in the village were painted a new colour when the movie Hanna was filmed here, before they were quite dirty and grey. Inside there was a mirror maze! When I was younger I boasted to my mum about how I knew the way so well! In I ran and SMACK! My nose was broken.
There was also a ball pond, not the best idea. Kids loved throwing the balls out on the street, there were always parents standing there to throw them back in.
The feet on the ground are mine. My parents made all the walkways completely new. One day they said “don’t walk over to the wheel” and I was all like “ok”. So I stepped on the path and was like “shit” and carried on walking. I ran back home and hid my shoes but a little while later my parents found out. They were more than angry. A few years later I was like “hey c’mon be cool”, it’s like my personal walk of fame! They don’t laugh about it.
When I was twelve me and some friends tried to grill food in the restaurant. It didn’t go so well and we burnt the whole place down! I was sent to England for a year ha ha!
What a place ay? No wonder our photography team were so keen to get inside and shoot some festival fashion…
Just check out the shots they got going on! (Click the images to get shopping online)!