The Secret Life of Berlin's Abandoned Airports

The Secret Life of Berlin’s Abandoned Airports

Berlin: a city infamous for its nonstop nightlife, avant-garde art scene, and of course, its abandoned airports. That’s right, folks! If you’re tired of the usual tourist traps and yearning for something more offbeat than the Brandenburg Gate, look no further – this sprawling metropolis has a treasure trove of forgotten airfields just waiting to be discovered. So buckle up, grab your vintage aviator goggles, and prepare for a journey into the secret life of Berlin’s abandoned airports.

First up on our list is Tempelhof Airport, a colossal relic of a bygone era. Built in the 1920s and later expanded under Hitler’s regime, this airport was once a symbol of the Nazis’ grandiose architectural ambitions. But don’t let its dark past deter you – Tempelhof has since been transformed into a massive public park, complete with a BBQ area, community gardens, and even a flock of sheep. Yes, you read that right, sheep! They’re just grazing away, blissfully unaware of the airport’s history, much like the hipsters who now frequent the park to fly kites, ride bikes, and engage in other whimsical outdoor activities. Talk about rebranding!

Now, if you think Tempelhof is a trip, wait until you hear about the ghostly remains of Flughafen Rangsdorf. Located on the outskirts of Berlin, this abandoned airport was once the launchpad for Hitler’s personal pilot, Hanna Reitsch, who famously flew the Führer out of the besieged capital in 1945. Nowadays, the airstrip is eerily silent, save for the rustling of leaves and the occasional squawk of a crow. It’s a perfect spot for an impromptu photo shoot, with its decaying hangars and overgrown runways serving as a hauntingly beautiful backdrop. Just imagine the Instagram potential!

But why stop there? Berlin’s abandoned airport scene has much more to offer for the intrepid urban explorer. Take Flugplatz Johannisthal, for example. Opened in 1909, this historic airfield was once the site of numerous aviation firsts, including the maiden flight of the world’s first all-metal aircraft. Alas, the glory days of Johannisthal are long gone, and the site now lies dormant under a thick layer of vegetation. However, if you’re willing to do a little bushwhacking, you might just stumble upon some fascinating remnants of the airport’s past, like the crumbling control tower or the rusty shell of a vintage airplane. It’s like an Easter egg hunt, but with a hefty dose of industrial decay!

Now, let’s shift gears and talk about Flughafen Tegel, the most recently decommissioned airport in Berlin. While it may not boast the same level of historical intrigue as its older counterparts, Tegel’s futuristic hexagonal terminal, designed by renowned architect Meinhard von Gerkan, is a sight to behold. And although the airport is currently off-limits to the public, there are plans to transform the site into a cutting-edge research and industrial park, complete with a sleek new metro station. So keep an eye out, folks – Tegel might just be the next big thing in Berlin’s ever-evolving urban landscape.

But wait, there’s more! Berlin’s abandoned airport repertoire wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Flugplatz Oranienburg. Tucked away in the northern reaches of the city, this former military airbase was once home to the Luftwaffe’s elite night fighter squadron. Today, the site is a veritable playground for graffiti artists, who have adorned the dilapidated hangars and bunkers with a colorful array of murals and tags. It’s like an open-air gallery, showcasing the city’s vibrant street art scene in all its raw, unfiltered glory.

So there you have it, folks – a whirlwind tour of Berlin’s abandoned airports, from the bustling parklands of Tempelhof to the ghostly ruins of Rangsdorf. Each site offers a unique glimpse into the city’s tumultuous past, as well as the boundless creativity and resilience of its residents. And while these forgotten airfields may no longer serve their original purpose, they continue to inspire and captivate all who venture into their midst. So next time you find yourself in Berlin, why not swap the tourist trail for an offbeat adventure into the secret life of the city’s abandoned airports? You never know what hidden gems you might uncover along the way.

But hold on; we’re not done yet! Let’s not forget about Flugplatz Staaken, an airfield with a history as rich and diverse as Berlin itself. Established in 1915 as a military airbase, Staaken later played host to the famous Graf Zeppelin airships and even served as a commercial airport for a brief period. Although the site is now primarily occupied by a residential neighborhood and a sprawling shopping center, traces of its aviation past can still be found if you know where to look. Keep your eyes peeled for the remnants of a concrete runway or the occasional airplane-themed street name – subtle tributes to Staaken’s erstwhile identity.

And last but certainly not least, let’s pay our respects to the long-lost Flugplatz Berlin-Gatow. Located on the western outskirts of the city, this former British military airbase was once a key player in the Berlin Airlift, the monumental effort to supply the city during the Soviet blockade. Today, the site is home to the Luftwaffenmuseum, a fascinating aviation museum that chronicles the history of the German Air Force. While technically not an abandoned airport, Gatow offers a wealth of knowledge and artifacts for those interested in the city’s aerial heritage. Plus, who doesn’t love a good museum?

In conclusion, Berlin’s abandoned airports are a testament to the city’s enduring spirit of reinvention and regeneration. Each site tells a different story, offering a fascinating glimpse into Berlin’s past and a tantalizing vision of its future. So go forth, dear reader, and delve into the secret life of these hidden gems. You never know what wonders await you just beyond the runway.

Helpful Q&A:

Q: What is the history behind Berlin’s abandoned airports?

A: Berlin’s abandoned airports have a rich and fascinating history that dates back to the early 20th century. Tempelhof Airport, for example, was originally built in the 1920s and played a vital role during World War II as a military airbase. After the war, it became the focal point of the Berlin Airlift in 1948-1949, when Allied forces flew in supplies to West Berlin during the Soviet blockade. Tempelhof was later used as a commercial airport until it closed in 2008. Another notable abandoned airport is Tegel, which was constructed in the 1940s and served as West Berlin’s primary airport during the Cold War. It was officially closed in 2020 with the opening of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Each of these abandoned airports has its unique stories and secrets, making them intriguing sites to explore.

Q: Why were these airports abandoned?

A: The reasons for the abandonment of these airports are multifaceted and tied to the political and economic changes in Berlin over the years. Tempelhof Airport, for instance, was closed due to concerns about noise pollution, limited capacity for expansion, and the desire to consolidate air traffic at the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Tegel Airport, on the other hand, was shut down as it had reached its capacity limits, and the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport was designed to accommodate the increasing air traffic demands in the city. These closures were part of a larger plan to streamline and modernize Berlin’s air transportation infrastructure.

Q: What has become of these abandoned airports since their closure?

A: Since their closure, these abandoned airports have taken on new lives, and their vast spaces have been repurposed for various uses. Tempelhof Airport has been transformed into a massive public park called Tempelhofer Feld, where locals and tourists alike can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities, such as cycling, kite flying, and urban gardening. The iconic airport terminal building has also been used for various events, including trade fairs, fashion shows, and art exhibitions. As for Tegel Airport, its future is still being determined, but there are plans to convert the site into a research and industrial park focusing on urban technologies and sustainability. In the meantime, the airport has been used for COVID-19 vaccination centers and occasional events.

Q: Are there any guided tours or ways to explore these abandoned airports?

A: Yes, there are several ways to explore these abandoned airports and learn more about their intriguing histories. For Tempelhof Airport, guided tours are offered by various organizations, where knowledgeable guides provide insights into the airport’s past and its architectural features. Visitors can also explore the Tempelhofer Feld park independently, taking in the unique atmosphere of the former airfield. As for Tegel Airport, its recent closure means that guided tours are not yet widely available. However, interested individuals can keep an eye on local event calendars and social media for announcements regarding special events or temporary exhibitions hosted at the site.

Q: Can you share a funny anecdote related to Berlin’s abandoned airports?

A: Certainly! One amusing story involves the famous candy bomber, an American pilot named Gail Halvorsen, who played a unique role during the Berlin Airlift. To lift the spirits of West Berlin’s children, Halvorsen started dropping candy bars and gum attached to small parachutes from his plane as he flew over the city. This act of kindness earned him the nickname “Candy Bomber” or “Rosinenbomber” (Raisin Bomber) in German. His sweet gestures not only brought joy to the children of Berlin but also became a symbol of hope and humanity during those difficult times. Today, the candy bomber’s story is a beloved part of Berlin’s history and a testament to the power of small acts of kindness.

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