Jan Bommes/Flickr

Communism, drug trafficking, arson—Spreepark saw it all. 

Spreepark, an abandoned Berlin amusement park turned ruin porn icon, burned down over the weekend in what the police suspect was arson.

Kulturpark Plänterwald, as the fairground was known when it first opened in 1969 in the neighborhood of Treptow, was a marquee project of the communist East German government, and it remained a popular attraction until the wall fell in 1989. It was bought in 1990 by Norbert Witte, “the descendent of a line of German carnival performers and operators,” and his wife, Pia, and reopened the next year as a 74-acre amusement park. Although Spreepark had an early burst of success, with 1.5 million annual visitors, by 2001 dwindling ticket sales forced Witte to declare insolvency. The park closed, and the family moved to Peru, taking six rides with them.

There, things got worse for Witte. He suffered multiple heart attacks and failed in his attempts to open a new theme park. Finally, he and his son were arrested in 2003 when they tried to smuggle 400 pounds of cocaine back into Germany; the drugs were found stuffed inside the machinery of a ride called the Flying Carpet.

After he was released from jail, Witte lived in a caravan on the abandoned park grounds, which gradually returned to nature. Witte’s daughter gave weekend guided tours of the rotted swan boats, the rusted ferris wheel, the overturned dinosaurs, and the swamped-in log ride. The postapocalyptic scene was used as a location for the 2011 action movie “Hanna.”

In March, the Berlin government bought the lease to the land and ordered the previous owners to clear the rusting structures. It hoped to turn the grounds into a family park. There’s no immediate word on whether the fire will change those plans. But Spreepark’s most visible legacy is in the thousands of photos taken of the grounds by curious visitors who hopped the broken fence. Here’s a selection.

(Marco Hamersma/Flickr)
(Chris Grabert/Flickr)
(Chris Grabert/Flickr)
(David Rush/Flickr)
(W. Foster/Flickr)
(Jan Bommes/Flickr)
(Jan Bommes/Flickr)
(Jan Bommes/Flickr)

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site

More from Quartz:

Twitter Admits That as Many as 23 Million of its Active Users are Actually Bots

This Startup Sounds Like a Joke, But it Just Might Work

How Amazon Built a TV Studio That's Finally Challenging Netflix

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: A lone tourist in Barcelona, one of several global cities that have seen a massive crash in Airbnb bookings.
    Coronavirus

    Can Airbnb Survive Coronavirus?

    The short-term rental market is reeling from the coronavirus-driven tourism collapse. Can the industry’s dominant player stage a comeback after lockdowns lift?

  2. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  3. A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.
    Equity

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.

  4. Equity

    We'll Need To Reopen Our Cities. But Not Without Making Changes First.

    We must prepare for a protracted battle with coronavirus. But there are changes we can make now to prepare locked-down cities for what’s next.

  5. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

×