Tempelhof airport: sports, leisure and urban gardening
If you want to discover the Berliner joie de vivre, the former airport in Tempelhof is a good place to start. Since the last planes touched down here in 2008, it has become one of the city’s most popular green spaces. Kites and barbecue smoke fill the air. Cyclists and skaters, joggers and dog-walkers swarm the runways. Groups of friends and families litter the scruffy grass (– sometimes literally! Dear reader, please use the rubbish bins provided!) Yoga groups adopt the lotus position. Urban gardening has taken root. Art exhibitions and performances are not uncommon.
There is something for everybody here and it’s the colourful mix which makes it so special – for Berliners and visitors alike. But Tempelhof has huge historical significance, too. It was one of the main settings for the Berlin Airlift, or Berliner Luftbrücke – arguably the greatest feat in aviation history. Just after the second world war, the city was divided, like the rest of Germany, into Allied and Soviet territory: into West and East. Allied Berlin was surrounded on all sides by Soviet territory. One day in June, 1948, the Soviets decided to apply some pressure: they cut off all roads and train lines into West Berlin. So the Allies took to the skies. The blockade lasted for around a year, during which time over 2.3 million tons of food and supplies reached West Berlin. The Rosinenbomber, or “candy bombers”, made some 278,000 flights and the West Berliners regularly came along to Tempelhof to cheer them on.
Nowadays, most visitors only have access to the grounds – not the buildings. Although Preview Berlin, one of the city’s biggest art fairs, and the Bread&Butter fashion fair both take place inside. If you have the chance to go there, then I recommend doing so. I myself got to have a cheeky poke around the hangars last year.
Although Tempelhof isn’t a million miles away from Hotel Concorde, there are other parks more locally. But Tempelhof is worth the U-Bahn ride, especially now that barbecues and public nudity – two of Germany’s most popular pastimes – have been banned in the Tiergarten park.
While you’re in that neck of the woods, there are plenty of other things to discover in the Neukölln/Tempelhof districts. Take the Malzfabrik, for example. The vast halls of this former brewery – located somewhat off the beaten track next to an ugly industrial estate – have been taken over by artistic projects, a mannequin manufacturer and an urban farming project which provides local businesses with fresh vegetables and fish.