July 7, 2015

Berlin has become a Mecca for urban explorers, mainly because they do urban decay so damn well. A city that boasts an array of abandoned buildings and spaces; it is a contradiction between dereliction and gentrification. From abandoned factories to theme parks, power stations and hospitals, it can be difficult to know where to explore first.

Spreepark in East Berlin, is a symbol of the city’s “ostalgia”, a lingering fondness for the paraphernalia of a bygone Soviet era. Luckily for us, photographer and fashion blogger, Molly Baber armed only with a camera and nose for adventure, took up the challenge and headed to Berlin’s worst kept secret to explore.

Berlin’s abandoned theme park is an unofficial playground for curious tourists and Berliners alike. Opened in 1969 as ‘Kulturpark Plänterwald’ the theme park was a popular attraction until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. It was bought by Norbert Witte and his wife Pia, who re-opened the park a year later. Although the theme park had an initial burst of success, by 2002 the lack of ticket sales forced Witte to close the park for good.

Visiting today, it’s pretty hard to imagine the gates were open as late as 2002. The ferris wheel creaks in the wind while fallen carriages lie tangled in a mesh of wild grass. Dinosaurs, frozen in time, roar silently between the rusted roller coasters.

After the close of the park, the family moved to Peru taking six rides with them, planning to open a new theme park. However, things took a turn for the worst when Witte and his son were arrested for trying to smuggle 180kg of cocaine back to Germany in the Flying Carpet ride. (We know, right?) He was sentenced to seven years in prison while his son was sentenced to 20 years.

After Witte was released from jail, he moved back to the abandoned theme park grounds and lived in a caravan and his daughter gave weekend tours of the neglected park to travellers and curious Berliners.

Now, the park is a hotbed for all things music and film – The xx performed at the park as part of their atmospheric ‘Night + Day’ series. So if Jamie xx rates it, we don’t need further convincing.

See more photography from Molly Baber here.