Berlin, part 1 - a flight back in time

I love Berlin- as my friends know, it's one of my favorite cities in the world. Since I went for the first time (at the LOVE Parade in 2003..!!) I realized there was something special about it. It is not Germany as the usual (and mostly wrong) stereotypes- it is scruffy, a bit messy, edgy, alternative.. young, vibrant, forward, modern.. historic, interesting, layered with so many pivotal events in the history of Europe, that every time I had been there, I came back with some more knowledge about this continent as we know it today. It is undoubtedly the land of Architecture, where people established through buildings their rules (see the Soviet Style Blocks in the Eastern Side of the city, or the Stasi Headquarter), their power (see even today, the American Embassy, or the Reichstag with the glass dome), their warnings (the Holocaus Memorial, the Wall Museum, the free permanent exhibition "Topographie des Terrors,  the Checkpoint Charlie), their culture (Museum Island with the Pergamon and others) and their optimism in the future (the Sony Center, built where there was nothing, in the no-man land between East and West Berlin, once the wall was put down).

Having been there many times, I always try to see something new. One thing it did not change was the weather, which was bad, even though it was early July (bad meaning rain and 15 degrees.. even 12 degrees one morning...brrrrr).

So one thing I HAD to see was Tempelhof. I am passionate about aviation and mostly about places that have been abandoned and left as they were back then.. just as if they were emptied yesterday and nothing changed (like the ghost town in Kolmanskop in Namibia). Tempelhof was one of the 3 active airports in Berlin, and it closed in 2008. It was built back in 1930, when the Nazi party was emerging, with its peak in 1933. They envisioned it to become the airport of Germania, their ideal city, capital of the Nazi Empire in Europe. Of course this was short lived, and also the project was too big and ambitious to even be completed. However, they created a system of buildings that together are not much smaller than the Pentagon in the US.

What happened is that the airport was spared by the heavy bombing from the Allies at the end of the war. Although Berlin was mostly completely destroyed and reduced in crumbles, this point must have had some tactical advantage for the winners. Once Berlin- and Germany- were split between France, UK, US and Russia, this airport fell into the American sector. It became a military base for the American troops residing in the city- and in the meantime they restored the building (which was anyway damaged during the bombings in 1945). They used one part of it as living quarters for the troops, and one other as "hotel" for visiting guests, and also an elegant place where to hold balls, parties, and big meetings. In 1948, the Soviets blocked the other Allies access to goods, by blocking railways, roads and canal access. In response, the Western Allies organized the Berlin Airlift to carry supplies to the people in West Berlin. Aircrews from the US Air Force, the British Royal Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the South African Air Force, flew over 200,000 flights in one year, providing up to 4700 tons of daily necessities such as fuel and food to the Berliners. .

By the spring of 1949, the effort was clearly succeeding and, by April, the airlift was delivering more cargo than had previously been transported into the city by rail. The success of the Berlin Airlift brought embarrassment to the Soviets who had refused to believe it could make a difference. The blockade was lifted in May 1949 and resulted in the creation of two separate German states.The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) split up Berlin.In remembrance of the airlift, three airports in the former western zones of the city served as the primary gateways to Germany for another fifty years (and thanks Wiki for this part of text).

So today, they use the area around the runways and surrounding as a recreational park ( And the buildings.. well, they are almost all empty. As the Americans left them, once they left in 1994, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.

There are organized tours of the buildings, in German and in English (info here: We booked the English one on Saturday afternoon, and it lasted around 2 hours. We visited the hotel for American Military visitors (and that was quite spooky.. never ending corridors, with hundreds of empty rooms, each door open, no lights...) the Cargo Area, the bunker (from WWII, for the German Military troops), the Canopy where the Nazi would have their rallies before the war, and the main check-in areas, as well as the American amenities, such as a Basketball court and an abandoned Squash court. Overall, a very interesting visit that I highly suggest.