Spreepark!

Filed 11/6/2009 | Updated 4/11/2015
The spirits of dead clowns had been mocking me long enough. For weeks they’d been goading me, taunting me, deriding me for not venturing in. Finally I confronted them, stared down my fears and faced the creepy carnies.
Getting over the fence was easier than I thought. Almost as if they’d been expecting me. They wanted me to come in. I hit the ground and stopped. All eerily quiet as I surveyed the area around me. I looked around again. Nothing. Just trees and shrubs. Cautiously, heart beating like a drum-drum-drum, I proceeded up the bank toward the overgrown path, slipping in the soft ground.
I heard something. What’s that?! A snicker? A suppressed laugh from a tree perhaps. Or one of the evil clowns. I looked back again but saw nothing was there. All quiet.
“Calm down!” I told myself. “There’s no one here, nothing here. You have the whole park to yourself!”
I’d finally made it into Spreepark, the old East German amusement park flanked by the River Spree, abandoned to the elements on the edge of Berlin’s Treptower Park.
After opening as the VEB Kulturpark Plänterwald for the GDR’s 20th birthday on October 4, 1969, it was hugely popular, not least because of its 40-meter Riesenrad (Ferris wheel) with 36 cabins. This was upgraded twenty years later to coincide with GDR’s 40th birthday celebrations to a 45-meter model with 40 cabins. Germans take their birthdays very seriously.
East Germany’s only permanent fun park, the 29.5-hectare Kulturpark Plänterwald was host to some 1.7 million visitors a year at its peak.
But its big wheel wasn’t the only one in motion in 1989. A little over a month after the new Riesenrad began turning, the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of the end for the Kulturpark.
The GDR was no longer around to pick up the tab and in 1991 it was sold to Norbert Witte, with the lease on the land made out to his wife Pia. Bureaucracy meant the details were only finalized six years later.
Witte already had a colorful past, to say the least. The carnival operator was responsible for the deaths of seven people when he crashed a crane into a carousel while attempting to repair the ‘Katapult’ rollercoaster in Hamburg in 1981. Fifteen people were also injured, some seriously, in what is Germany's worst carnival disaster to date.
“It was the worst thing I’ve experienced in my life,” Witte says in Peter Dörfler’s excellent ‘Achterbahn’ (Rollercoaster) documentary. And he’s had plenty of ups and downs as the film shows.
The Wittes opened the renamed Spreepark in 1992 and put a lot of effort into bringing it up to Western European standards. They were confident of attracting 1.8 million visitors a year and invested 40 million Deutschmark by 1997, with half of that on credit.
New attractions were added: canals, a lake, the ‘Grand Canyon’ water ride, giant rotating cups, a circus tent, pirate ship, rollercoaster, and even a Wild West town – complete with saloon, bank and play halls – where stuntmen used to perform.
However, despite attracting some 1.5 million visitors in 1993, it was as good as it got. The numbers dwindled. Only 400,000 visitors graced the park with their presence in 2001 before Spreepark finally closed its doors for the last time on Nov. 4 that year.
A lack of parking, escalating prices, disputes and dodgy dealings all contributed to its demise. The city’s decision to declare Plänterwald a nature reserve certainly didn’t help, as Witte was prevented from building the parking spaces Spreepark needed. Bankruptcy was the result. Debts of €11 million were reported.
Witte legged it to Peru in 2002, along with his family and six of Spreepark’s attractions, hopeful of opening another fun park in Lima. A friend of friend told him it would be a good idea. There were problems from the outset, however, and Witte was suffering from heart problems. The debts kept mounting.
In 2003 Norbert Witte was jailed for eight years for attempting to smuggle 181 kilos of cocaine worth some €15 million back to Germany in the masts of the ‘Flying Carpet’ ride. He was released after four years while his son, who was jailed for 20 for the same crime, is still languishing in Lima’s Sarita Colonia prison. Norbert had the fortune to be caught in Germany, Marcel the misfortune to be caught in Peru.
“I’m responsible for it. My son would have had nothing to do with such people or at all with such a thing. I have to live with that for the rest of my life,” Witte says.
Pia said she will never forgive him. The couple’s relationship ended in Peru.
Spreepark, meanwhile, was left to rot among the trees and foliage of Plänterwald, its rollercoasters rusty and neglected, buildings boarded up, and fun-rides left only for the birds and rats to enjoy.
Its strange tale took an unexpected turn in March 2014 when the city bought it back through the state-owned Liegenschaftsfonds Berlin for just over €2 million after striking deals with creditors to let their losses go. It had been for sale on eBay before that. You couldn’t make this shit up.
It was abruptly withdrawn from auction the previous July by Finanzamt Treptow-Köpenick once a Berlin concert promoter bid nearly €2.5 million, despite it being well above the asking price of €1.62 million. The other bidder was the Liegenschaftsfonds Berlin so you’d wonder why it was up for auction at all. Property deals in Berlin are always a murky affair.
The lease given to Pia Witte stipulated that the land must remain in use as an amusement or recreational park until 2061, so this had scared many potential investors away, and it prohibits the city from flogging off the land for apartments.
Or so it should, anyway. These are Berlin’s politicians we’re talking about, the same ones who approved the construction of luxury apartments on the “protected” East Side Gallery and were campaigning for more to be built at Tempelhof. If anyone could find a way to turn Spreepark into apartments, they would.
The city officially took over on April 30, 2014, when the Wittes and their entourage moved out. Norbert had reportedly moved back into a caravan on the site, and his daughter Sabrina was doing tours at weekends. Pia had given an undertaking to remove all the caravans.
The fence was replaced with a sturdier one and security is now provided by the new owners. Both fence and security were beefed up after some idiots burned down the 5,000-square meter ‘Old England’ themed area in August 2014. The mammoth and a couple of dinosaurs were already gone by then, following the example set by their once living brethren. The last I saw of the poor mammoth was on April 22, 2014. He was gone when I went back on May 9. Perhaps the May Day festivities took their toll, though I imagine the Wittes had something to do with his disappearance.
It remains to be seen how long the rest of Spreepark survives. There used to be 24-hour security with dogs inside the grounds, and there was double security just before the city snapped it up, with a rival company doing rounds outside to keep an eye on those on the other side of the fence.
Exploration has always been accompanied by a thumping heartbeat, tension bordering terror, and waves of adrenalin surging, sending heightened senses off the chart.
Weird industrial noises break the eerie silence, creaking, groaning, wailing, screaming. The Ferris wheel still looms over the park, cabins begging for someone to climb in.
Unfortunately that’s much harder now than it used to be. The city’s new security measures involved the destruction of a bridge to it and the erection of a fence to ensure there are no repeats of the scandalous incident from summer 2013, when a 90-year-old woman broke into Spreepark and had to be rescued from the Ferris wheel after the wind carried her up but not back down again.
It used to be so nice here,” she said. “I simply wanted another go.”
No wonder the swan-boats nearby look so angry. They flank the old abandoned Viking ship that used to have a dragon’s head but has since been decapitated.
Nearby is what remains of the dinosaurs that used to freely roam the park. They’ve taken to drink in the meantime. The poor old Tyrannosaurus rex is still on his side, stocious, cursing his puny little useless arms.
Buildings scattered behind also invite investigation. The water-slide’s boats are all covered in leaves and shit, while the rollercoaster’s are still lined up, raring to go, eager to plunge into the gaping jaws the fearsome-looking psychedelic cat, my favorite cat in the world. It has firmly established itself as the fun park’s friendly face.
Strange wildlife call Spreepark home, and they do their best to frighten the bejaysus out of intrepid explorers. Rustling in the grass, shuffling in the trees and so on. You hear voices from time to time, sending your heart up into your mouth. Usually they’re just passers-by on the path outside. Sometimes dogs bark just to wind you up.
But it all adds to the fun. Spraoí, coincidentally pronounced Spree, means fun in Irish, and there’s probably more spraoí to be had sneaking in than there ever was in its days as an operational fun park.
Perhaps nowhere in Berlin has provided as many thrills and spills as this old abandoned East German fairground. The story is one hell of a rollercoaster. And it’s not over yet.
“Once a showman, always a showman,” says Norbert Witte, who still harbors plans to revive Spreepark. If that doesn’t work out, he wants to erect a 125-meter Ferris wheel overlooking the river there, or somewhere else if that doesn’t work out either.
“You have to let the past go sometime,” he says.

What
Spreepark Berlin. Abandoned amusement park.

Where
Kiehnwerderallee 1-3, 12437, Berlin.

How to get there
Get the S-Bahn to Plänterwald or Treptower Park and walk from there. Map can be accessed here.

Getting in
The fence has been beefed up with a robust industrial replacement but pesky badgers have been digging convenient holes underneath. Walk along until you find an accessible spot. Be prepared to get dirty. It may be easier to find an entry point during the day than at night.

When to go
Daytime is definitely easier to get in, explore, see things and take photographs. You are more likely to be seen yourself then too, however. Security is less stringent at night. Nighttime is definitely spookier, though more dangerous.

Difficulty rating
6-9/10. Spreepark’s difficulty changes like the weather. You need to keep your eyes peeled for guards. You might be very lucky and find the place deserted. If so, it’s quite easy – simply hop the fence and go in. But you’ll likely need to stay alert, very quiet, and off the main paths to evade detection.

Who to bring
Friends. Do NOT go alone!

What to bring
Camera. Beer. A bottle of tequila is also good, preferably with oranges and cinnamon. Can be drunk either beforehand for courage, while sitting beside the River Spree, or while straddling one of the fallen dinosaurs.

Dangers
Rumors of security were well-founded. They’re there, all day and all night as far as I can tell, and they have dogs. It’s best to remain vigilant. Try not to jump out of your skin every time a dog barks. If it’s daytime it’s most likely just a pooch going for a stroll beside the river. If it’s nighttime, RUUUUNNN!!!! Also watch out for nosy passers-by who may feel it’s their duty to report people having fun, you know, the old bitter types. Petty fuckers. And watch out for the dead clowns.


This post has been updated on various occasions to reflect ongoing developments since the original after my first visit in June 2009. As before, it’s for information purposes only – I’d never encourage anyone to trespass or do anything even remotely illegal.

UPDATE: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 – Spreepark lives! Updated following the latest visit.

UPDATE: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 – The latest comments suggest security is back on the site. Proceed with caution.

UPDATE: Monday, August 11, 2014 – Some fucking idiots set fire to part of Spreepark last night. “Old England” is completely gone, a 5,000 square meter area razed to the ground, taking with it a former horror zone, a snack joint, the remains of a circus tent, and the thatched-roof buildings, one of which housed a pirate shooting range and another where people once wasted their money on those claw machines in a futile attempt to win teddies.
According to the Spreepark website, the whitewater flume ride survived, contrary to media reports.
More than 100 firefighters were called to battle the huge blaze that broke out around shortly after midnight, supported by a police boat and fire boat pumping water from the river. It took them several hours to extinguish it.
The fire was started in a number of places so there’s no question it was arson. The Polizei are investigating apparently. The state police had drones overhead today.
Mayor Oliver Igel (Mayor Hedgehog) hinted at dark motives behind the arson attack.
“It wasn’t just youths playing around,” he told RBB before muttering something about interested parties attempting to manipulate a future use for the site.
Liegenschaftsfonds Berlin (Spreepark owner) boss Birgit Möhring said the fence would be replaced with a new one, more secure, while the wooden bridge by the Ferris wheel and former amphitheater were to be dismantled.
So the Spreepark rollercoaster might finally be juddering to a halt.

UPDATE: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 – Polizei arrested four men accused of being the morons responsible for the fire. Aged 19, 20, 21 and 29, they were stopped in Steglitz for setting an Audi alight. It was around three hours after the Spreepark blaze started.
Berliner Zeitung said the oldest was driving their attempted getaway VW with no license and that they’d all been drinking. It was all “just for fun.”
Tagesspiegel reported their pyromania was in celebration of the oldest’s impending 35-day prison spell for failing to pay a fine for an earlier theft. Bright sparks then.

UPDATE: Friday, January 9, 2015 – Updated with details of the latest happenings and the tale of the family behind this incredible story. They made Spreepark, maybe they’ll make it again some day. Lots more pictures, including some taken for The Guardian, have also been added to prolong your eyes’ viewing pleasure.

UPDATE: Wednesday, July 7, 2015 – Talks over Spreepark’s future are still ongoing. State-run property management concern Berliner Immobilienmanagement GmbH (BIM), which took over the site from Liegenschaftsfonds Berlin last March, is still in talks with the state-owned Grün Berlin park authority about taking over and bringing the unfortunate fun park back to life in some form or other. Grün Berlin is the same crowd in charge of Tempelhofer Feld.
“There’s no concept yet, we’re just at the beginning,” a BIM spokesperson said. “The intention is to make it accessible to the public again, but we have to be careful about giving any details. They’re just contract talks at this stage.”
This was first reported by B.Z. Berlin in May, but we’re in Germany, where progress on any matter, no matter how simple, is only be achieved through needless excruciating effort on the part of everyone involved. A breakthrough usually occurs when the point is reached where concerned parties want to bludgeon each other with cudgels. Either way a breakthrough is achieved.
Anyway, if and when Grün Berlin take over, they’re supposed to renovate what can be renovated, salvage what they can, remove the contaminated soil, clean it up, make it safe for kids at a total estimated cost of €4 million, and then reopen it as some sort of Spreepark reincarnation.
The neighboring Eierhäuschen is supposed to be done up too at an estimated cost of €7 million, most likely to be reopened as a pub or restaurant type of thing for people passing by along the river. Nothing is set in stone yet. There are no concrete plans. If there were, they’d be changed anyway.
Meanwhile, Spreepark is hosting events! Kulturspreepark started their program of nine weekends of music and theater last Friday. It looks good, definitely worth a visit.
It’s also a good excuse to visit Spreepark for those who aren’t keen on jumping the fence, dodging security and outrunning guard dogs. I’ve been told there are such people.

UPDATE: Wednesday, November 4, 2015 – It's 14 years to the day since Spreepark closed its doors for the last time, so this is as good a time as any for the latest update.
As mentioned before the city plans to reopen it in some form or other, though it's clear it won't be a patch on what it was before. Limited money, ambition and imagination means there’s only a half-arsed plan for it.
“There won't be a classic amusement park there any more,” finance senator Matthias Kollatz-Ahnen told Berliner Zeitung last month, saying instead “a minimalist concept” is envisaged. Minimal thought and effort, in other words.
Grün Berlin is to take over after signing the contract in December and the park will be reopened next year “if all goes according to plan.”
This, from the city that will never finish the airport despite the billions poured into the BER black hole. Only €3 million is being set aside for Spreepark, to remove rusted metal and contaminated soil, and a yearly “six-figure sum” thereafter.
Meanwhile €200 million is set for the hideous ICC building in West Berlin and the city’s building a new Prussian palace, pretending it’s rebuilding the old one. An old DDR amusement park was never going to get a proper look in.
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225 comments

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We have just got back from going there today, Sunday at around 11.30am so many walkers and joggers going round the park and being winter there was no foliage to hide behind, we scoped out the whole fence around the park and now they have put a new fence up its really hard to climbe over or under there is currently one spot if you want to jump over and it's on the right hand side as you approach the entrance to the park it's about 50meters down and there is a tree leaning away from the fence and someone has bolt-cropped a section out of the top of the fence where you can place your foot after climbing the tree, we did this then jumped over, we walked around the whole park in plain sight through the cat tunnel and to the log flume etc but it's pretty bleak and most of the cool stuff has gone, there was no security at all and we were pretty obvious getting in and out. To get back out we stacked some logs on the other side of where we climbed in. The Ferris wheel is really cool though and the mechanics are still working its spins around pretty quickly and then just stops suddenly, really creepy!

Went today (Dec 3, Thurs) and there were no guards and only two other groups at the park. We were there for almost two hours. We got in at the hole on the riverside, just scoot underneath. A lot of the things I've seen in pictures are no longer there. No mammoth, no train that I found, a lot of the dinosaurs are gone, and there is a fence around the ferris wheel, but it was easy to break the zip-ties and sit inside. It was an awesome day!

Hi Anna, did you go in the morning or before dusk, what do you think is the best?

I was there on 3.January .. at the time 10am.. i hopped over the fence and explored the rollercoaster and other stuff.. the giant wheel was at work and there was a fence around it.. i also saw some cars and 2 security guards dressed in big black jackets.. but it was worth it :)

hey everyone! I lived in Berlin for while, two years ago, and Spreepark was my go-to place whenever I wanted to show Belrin off to my visting friends! We always got in without a problem, and even when caught by security guards we were always nice to them and them to us, they did the usual "you shouldnt be here" but after about 5 minutes of escorting us out we would all be laughing together and we would leave with no problems at all. This was before the fire however, and even at the time there was alot of talk of closing it off for good. I am returning to Berlin for a long weekend in 2 weeks with some friends, and would love to visit for old times sake - I am just wonder if with the passing of the time and the fire, is it still as easy and harmless to get in?
Thank you so much for your help :)

So our chances of getting In to the park this year are probably very slim? I've been dying to go for years! Think I've missed my opportunity.

Went there on 30th January 2016 with a friend. We just entered for 10 minutes or so, i wanted to stay but he didn't so we went out. Anyways, it seems that the western end of the park was repurposed as a dog training facility or something, we saw 3 women in black jackets load something from one of the hangars into a car - they are probably not guards so ignore them... We saw one group inside, and met another two girls on our way out. It is really simple to get in, the fence is broken along the northern part of the park and it is easy to get into even when everything around is muddy.

Another thing worth mentioning - we talked to a German guy outside, he said that the property is now owned by the city of Berlin and that the fines are a lot stricter. Maybe he was just trying to intimidate us, dunno.. Anyway, the fence is top notch, there are warnings LITERALLY every 15 meters with warnings in three languages, so saying that you didn't know probably won't work in case you get caught. I've jumped a quite a few fences in my trespassing career :D and this one definitely wasn't easy. Ended up crawling through the broken fence

Cheers to all the visitors and please guys, update this! I'm more than interested about the uncertain future of the park

anyone been here in 2016? hows security, same as always?

I went to the Spreepark last Friday at 8 am, but did not enter the area. The eastern side of the park was full of construction workers. All holes in the fence on the northern side by the river have been fixed by now and the fence is pretty high. Furthermore, I saw a guy in a black jacket walking around next to the Ferris wheel. Altogether, I think that we will have to wait till they reopen this place later this year. But maybe you could give it a try on a weekend when there are (hopefully) no construction workers. Cheers

We tried to go there on saturday. The park is sadly getting re built or idk what. There were construction workers in the hole park, a lot of trees have been cut and part of the attractions are getting disassemble. We couldn't get in :( and it's look like spreepark isn't accessible anymore :(

Went around August 2015, security found us but we hid, others got caught and taken away by security guards! Just be very cautious and be prepared to get dirty like they said!! We went in a hole near the river - what a beautiful site to see

So was there a few days ago. A guard was sitting and smoking watching the fence with his dog (that didnt look very dangerous though). Me and my friends talked about going in or not when we heard a metal creeking sound. We turned around and the Ferris Wheel was actually moving. I did not imagine that old rusty thing still worked, but hey it was almost religious to see it move. And luckily we didnt go in cause I expect that someone was in there to maneuver the wheel unless its the dinosaur ghost.

Were there last week, they've started to cut down the trees and bushes, which makes it significantly harder to hide from guards... especially in the ferris wheel area. Did see them twice while being there... Seems like they are starting to take it down or at least clean the site up, there were some signs in german describing some project. So yea, go there now or never I guess... But do be careful..

We have been here around September 2015. We climed over the fenche and after one minute a dog caught me. Ofc it was just a labrador. We had a lil chat with the guards of the park. They requested my driver license i told them no problem, but i want to make pictures of the wheel. They said okay why not. Eventually still got some pictures, in the end didnt really matter. Anyways this park at Sundays is guarded not sure about other days...

In 2018 the park is planned to be re-opened. The 47 year old wheel will be fixed by the same company that constructed it in '69.

We explored this place in March 2016. There were guards with GSD (on a leash) at the main entrance and patrolling inside the site - one on a bicycle. Three Dutch tourists were just being escorted off the site as we arrived - when asked upon exiting, they told us that they got away without a fine.
There is a big fence all around the perimeter, difficult to scale. We did however manage to dig a hole underneath the fence, which was still there in July 2016. (if you continue past Insel der Jugend along the banks of the river Spree, with the fence to your right, you will come across it)
We spent several hours on site, careful not to be caught by the guards - which added to the suspense! We managed to explore many of the old rides (log flume, roller coaster etc.) in the still overgrown part of the park. A large part of the front has been cleared by the developers so it was a bit trickier getting close to the ferris wheel without being seen, involving lots of stealthy sneaking around! Still the same in July 2016.

We went in on the 6th. I had seen the holes that Suleika described when I had been there earlier this summer. However as we came there these holes were filled up and closed. We went around the whole fence to find a good place to get in. Finally we decided to hop the fence, and as it is so wiggly, the easiest was actually at the main gate. We hoped in and were quite lucky I guess, since no one saw us getting over the open areas and towards the water slides and roller coasters. We explored the area for about an hour as we got more courageous and went closer to the ferris wheel. Then a guard came from behind, and three seconds later another one from the front on a bicycle. They were kind but told us to erase all of our pictures. I erased one and got away with the others. The led us out through the main gate, which was quite nice since we did not have to hop the fence again. They told us that the park is to reopen during 2018. Thank you for an awesome blog!

Building work seems to of started for some project renovation which states 2019 as the completion date. The plans only seem to involve keeping the ferris wheel though but hard to make out what else they plan on doing. Let's just hope a few more of the rides make the cut.

I went today, hopped over the fence by the river as the area is more woody this side and away from the path. The train track that goes round the outside is useful as it stays nearish the fence in case you need to run. Not nearly as much there as the past few years, seems to be getting cleared. Saw the ferris wheel, the T-Rex and whats left of the pirate ship all surrounded by construction metal fences. Didnt get to see the cat before i got spotted though :( Didnt see any dog just one guard doing a lap of the park on round the main path picking up explorers, he shouts loud and seems quite mean but doubt he can run very fast. A quick dash to the fence and i was gone.

It actually moves with the wind because it's so loose. I don't imagine it's very safe but to be fair it gets a lot of wind in that place and it's still standing...

Has someone recently been to spree park ? I'm just wondering if it's still possible to sneak in or has it been opened to the public like someone mentioned here ?

I may be going to Berlin in early 2017. Would love to check out. Any updates I should know of?

Il y a des visite du parc qui sont organiser a partir de 11am, cela coûte 5e, il faut suivre le guide et on ne peut pas vraiment allez ou on veut car il y a la sécurité qui nous suit.


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I've been there today with a friend. There may be holes under the fence but we just hopped the fence on the side where the Spree is.. you just need to ignore the people. It was kinda funny, when somewhen saw us behind the fence and asked, if it's possible to just enter or if you need to hop over the fence.
Many attractions from the pictures aren't there anymore. In the beginning we tried to be very sneaky and we observered the guards but they weren't very watchful. To be honest I expected more to see but it was still good.

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