Tempelhof’s Lesser-Known Historical Landmarks
Sit back, grab your favorite Berliner Weisse, and buckle up for a journey through the less traveled, yet utterly fascinating, corners of Tempelhof, Berlin’s very own phoenix-from-the-ashes district. Known for its iconic airport, Tempelhof is often overlooked by hipster tourists and history buffs alike, who tend to gravitate toward the more Instagrammable Mitte or the edgy allure of Kreuzberg. But boy oh boy, are they missing out. Here, you won’t just find history – you’ll find stories that could fill a thousand Berliner novels.
First stop, the Tempelhof Airport. I know, I know, “but you said lesser-known landmarks,” and yes, I did. However, it’s hard not to mention this behemoth of a building, the literal elephant in the room. But let’s skip the obvious and delve into the hidden gems in this monolith’s shadow. The airport, once Hitler’s pet project, now serves as the city’s largest public park. But did you know about the forgotten tunnels beneath it?
This labyrinth network of tunnels was originally built as air-raid shelters during World War II. As the bombs dropped above, hundreds of Berliners would seek refuge below, surviving on canned sausages and the hope of a brighter tomorrow. Nowadays, these tunnels are closed to the public, but the echoes of history reverberate through them, whispering tales of survival and resilience.
Next, let’s amble over to the lesser-explored part of the district, where the Columbia Haus once stood. Today, it’s the site of the Tempelhof Dokumentation Center, but back in the day, it was a grim reminder of the country’s darker times. It served as a concentration camp during the Third Reich and later as a prison by the Soviets. It’s a slice of history that’s as bitter as a poorly brewed cup of coffee, but it’s a crucial part of Tempelhof’s narrative.
While we’re on the topic of prisons, let’s not forget the Garten der Gefangenen (Garden of the Prisoners). This serene spot is a testament to the power of nature to heal. It’s a place where former prisoners found solace in the solitude of gardening. It may not be as eye-catching as the Brandenburg Gate, but it’s a symbol of the human spirit’s resilience.
Now, let’s lighten the mood a bit. Ever heard of the Tempelhof Theater? No? Well, that’s your loss, my friend. This tiny, independent theater, hidden away on Tempelhofer Damm, is the epitome of underground art. It’s where budding actors cut their teeth, and where avant-garde playwrights test their mettle. It’s as hipster as vintage vinyl stores and artisanal coffee shops, minus the pretentiousness.
Just around the corner, you’ll find the Schwerbelastungskörper, a massive concrete cylinder that was intended to test the ground for a megastructure that, thankfully, never saw the light of day. It’s a symbol of grandiose plans gone awry, and it’s as quirky as it is fascinating.
Further afield, you’ll discover the Tempelhof Harbour. Once a bustling industrial hub, it’s now a haven for waterfowl and a hotspot for Sunday strollers. It’s the perfect place to loaf around on a lazy afternoon, munching on a pretzel while watching swans glide across the water.
Still not satisfied? How about a visit to the Ullsteinhaus? This architectural marvel is a testament to the city’s rich publishing history. Once the largest printing house in the world, it now houses offices and a music school. But its legacy lives on, inked into the city’s cultural fabric.
And just when you thought we were done, we arrive at the Tempelhofer Feld. Yes, it’s part of the airport, but it’s so much more than a retired runway. It’s a communal garden, a sports field, a picnic spot, and a concert venue rolled into one. It’s the city’s backyard, a place where Berliners come to play, relax, and connect.
So there you have it, a whirlwind tour of Tempelhof’s lesser-known historical landmarks. Sure, they might not make it to the front page of your travel guide, but they’re worth exploring. After all, history isn’t always about grand palaces and famous monuments. Sometimes, it’s about the forgotten tunnels, the quiet gardens, the humble theaters, and the silent stones that tell the most compelling stories.
And for those who think this article is already too long, let me tell you, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Tempelhof is like an onion (or a Berliner doner kebab, if you prefer), with layers upon layers of history waiting to be peeled back and savored. So, come, explore, and get lost in the lesser-known, yet equally intriguing, corners of this incredible district. Remember, in Tempelhof, every stone has a story, and every story is worth telling. Now, isn’t that worth raising a Berliner Pilsner to? Prost!
Q: What is the historical significance of Tempelhof?
A: Tempelhof, my dear friend, is like an old history book that never gets boring. The neighborhood, located in the heart of Berlin, has been around since the Middle Ages, but it really came into prominence in the 20th century. It’s most famous for its airport, Tempelhof Airport, which was one of the world’s first commercial airports. During World War II, it was used by the Nazis for military purposes, and later, during the Cold War, it played a crucial role in the Berlin Airlift, when the Western Allies airlifted supplies into West Berlin. The airport has since been transformed into Tempelhofer Feld, a massive public park. But Tempelhof is more than just its airport. It’s also home to several historical landmarks, like the Columbia Theatre, a former US Army movie theater, and Platz der Luftbrücke, a square dedicated to the Berlin Airlift. Each corner of Tempelhof has a story to tell, from its industrial past to its present as a bustling, vibrant neighborhood.
Q: Are there any hidden gems in Tempelhof?
A: Oh, you bet there are! Tempelhof is like a treasure chest that’s full of surprises. For instance, there’s the UFA Fabrik, which started life as a film production company in the 1920s. Today, it’s a cultural center that offers everything from concerts to organic food markets. Then there’s the Schwerbelastungskörper, a massive concrete cylinder that the Nazis built to test the ground for a planned triumphal arch. It’s not exactly a beautiful sight, but it’s definitely a unique piece of history! And let’s not forget about the Südgelände Nature Park, a former railway yard that’s been reclaimed by nature. It’s a great spot for a peaceful stroll, and you might even stumble upon some old railway relics.
Q: How accessible is Tempelhof for tourists?
A: Tempelhof is as accessible as a pretzel stand at a German beer festival! It’s well connected by public transport, with several U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations. The neighborhood itself is walkable, and there are plenty of bike lanes if you prefer pedaling around. Many of its attractions, like Tempelhofer Feld and the UFA Fabrik, are open to the public. Just remember to check the opening hours before you visit. As for language, most locals speak at least some English, so you should have no trouble getting by. And if you do get lost, just remember: wherever you end up in Tempelhof, it’s bound to be interesting!
Q: Any recommendations for eating and drinking in Tempelhof?
A: Eating and drinking in Tempelhof is like being a kid in a candy store! The neighborhood is home to a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and cafes. You could start your day with a cup of coffee at Cafe Bilderbuch, a charming little spot that doubles as a bookshop. For lunch, head to Zur Haxe for some hearty German fare – their pork knuckles are to die for! And in the evening, grab a beer at Tempelhof Harbour, a beach bar located right on the Tempelhofer Feld. If that’s not enough, there are also several food markets where you can sample everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to local delicacies. So, you see, in Tempelhof, you won’t go hungry – or thirsty, for that matter!