This post is also available in: German
To lay down on a runway, bike down the long strips of concrete, grill a sausage, or fly kites in the shade of imposing airport terminals, isn’t something you get to do every day. I used my last day in Berlin to visit the old Tempelhof Airport. Despite previous stays in Germany’s capital and many suggestions by friends and friendly hotel staff pointing me that way, I had not managed to tread the abandoned runways in person previously.
Granted, my chosen day wasn’t really ideal. It’s late October and a thick cloud cover has spread over Berlin. In addition, a light rain is beginning to set in, which apparently hasn’t stopped day trippers and sight seers from spending the afternoon at the newly created park.
Although “park” seems to be term which is a tad too optimistic for what is left of the former airport. Apart from some fading colour and crumbling concrete, time at the airport facilities seems to have stopped. It appears as if an aircraft might land or take off any minute. An immense grassy and treeless area, three times larger than London’s Hyde Park, spreads out in the middle of Berlin and the skyline shrinks to a vague and hazy mass in the distance. Without the usual greenery, flower beds and water areas usually found in park, the airport looks like a giant – and thanks to the gloomy weather – apocalyptic wasteland.
Looking at the gigantic curved airport building, the only word that immediately comes to mind is “monumental”. Built in the 1920s, the original airport didn’t stand up to the Nazis high standards and a new, more imposing building was needed. A structure, which suited the Nazi-Ideology. At the time of construction, it was even the largest building in the world, but also became famous as the central supply centre during the Berlin Airlift. In the news it was referred to several times as the “mother of all airports”.
The impressive airport is now a favourite destination of many picnickers, kite surfers, cyclists and skaters. Despite the suboptimal weather I observe families flying kites together, kite surfers whizzing past me, carried by the rising winds, and a few strollers like myself. I can only imagine how popular the spot must be during the well-visited peak times in the summer months.
However, a trip to the Tempelhof airport does not necessarily have to be a fair-weather activity. The connection to the subway system is excellent and you can just drop by for a quick visit and stand on an airfield for a few minutes. There are also daily tours offered, for which I sadly didn’t have time (yes, work was calling again). Maybe next time.