Spreepark: An abandoned German theme park
Tuesday, 20th March 2012 by James Turnbull
Today we continue our sporadic series touring the world’s most interesting abandoned places with Spreepark – an abandoned theme park in north Berlin with a fascinating story surrounding its fall from grace.
In 1991, shortly after the re-unification of Berlin, a man named Norbert Witte took control of an ageing facility called “Kulturpark Plänterwald” that had been the only constant theme park in East Germany, and renamed it “Spreepark”.
With modernised rides the park began to pull in up to 1.5 million visitors a year, but it was being run at a massive loss, and by 2001 the business was forced to file for bankruptcy after amassing debts of around 15 million euros.
Somehow, Norbert Witte convinced his debtors that he was sending six of the rides to Peru “for repair”, when in fact he was using them to set up another theme park: Lunapark in Lima. The park didn’t get off to a good start, as peruvian customs officials delayed releasing the complete rides, and the park closed soon after opening.
Unperturbed, Mr Witte decided to enter an entirely new line of business, and again packed up the Flying Carpet ride – but this time he stuffed it full of 167kg of Peruvian cocaine (about $14 million dollars worth) – for shipping back to Germany, to have it “repaired” – again!
Unluckily for Mr Witte, one of his accomplices was actually an undercover drug investigator, and the whole affair came to a sorry end when he was arrested back in Germany. Mr Witte only served four years of a seven-year sentence, but his son Marcel (who says he had no knowledge of the drug smuggling) is still serving a twenty-year sentence back in Peru.
So, where is Mr Witte now? Why, back at Spreepark of course! Having been kicked out of the now city-owned park1, where he lived in a trailer for a while, he is apparently living just outside its fences. Could this guy and his caravan just outside the park’s gates be the disgraced con-man himself?
There are some amazing ground-level pictures of the abandoned Spreepark on The Dead Cat Bounce and Urban Ghosts, but if you wish to indulge in some personal “urban exploration” (ie trespassing), Google will help you locate information about where to climb the fence.
We should probably mention that there are also official park tours, but they cost €15 per person, and they don’t even let you go on the rides!