Abandoned communist funfair traces Berlin's past

Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:51pm EDT
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By Kalina Oroschakoff

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Berlin is littered with relics of its communist past, with one of the eeriest being Spreepark, where the remains of what was once East Germany's only amusement park still stand.

The park sprang to life in July, when a small section was reopened to the public with a cafe serving cakes and drinks and a couple of old rides running again, drawing nostalgic visitors wanting a taste of the park's past.

Elsewhere in the park, there are abandoned models of giant dinosaurs. A colorful Ferris wheel juts into the skyline, and plants run wild over old rollercoasters and refreshment stands.

The Spreepark, which used to boast one of Europe's tallest rollercoasters, was privatized after the fall of the Berlin Wall by the Witte family, who ran shows in funfairs in West Germany, but later went bust.

It is now one of many iconic sites awaiting redevelopment in the German capital, which is itself about 60 billion euros ($87 billion) in debt.

Adventure-seekers and history buffs visit the ruins of the park next to the river Spree, either on organised tours or by slipping through gaps in the fence.

"The place is a paradox, it excites your fantasy," Peter Doerfler, director of "Achterbahn," a documentary film about the park, told Reuters, adding that Berlin's contemporary identity is defined by its abandoned and run-down spaces.

"Berlin is known for its unused spaces and temporary events," he said.   Continued...

<p>Visitors stroll at the abandoned amusement park Spreepark during a summer party at the park in Berlin July 16, 2011. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>