“We’ll circle the perimeter of the park a few times before we decide what to do” Jack said.
Upon our arrival in Berlin I promised him that we’d spend a day exploring Spreepark. On our wedding day he swore to keep me safe and never make me do anything I didn’t want to do. One of us kept our word.
Spreepark is an abandoned amusement park in East Berlin with a history made for the movies. The story behind Spreepark is as unfortunate and sad as the park looks today. It’s strange to think that a place as beat up and rundown as Spreepark is today once existed for the purpose of bringing joy and happiness to it’s visitors.
Jack had read a lot of forums about the ins and outs of visiting the park before we rented bikes and headed out, but he hadn’t properly explained the situation to me. I didn’t realize we had to sneak in, under and/or over taller-than-him gates until we got there. I was under the impression that the public could walk around the park freely; I thought the thrill of the park was that some of it’s original attractions have sat there unused for over a decade, not that you had to break the law to see it. I’m not a wuss, but getting thrown out of Germany was not on my To Do List.
A police car doing 5 miles an hour while patrolling the surrounding area was the first thing we saw as we rode our bikes along the river Spree. The two police officers inside the car looked like they meant business so I decided right then that I was not going in. I went to tell Jack but he was already ahead of me and yelling to him could be seen as suspicious. As I slowly followed after him, I heard a vicious bark. I spotted a pitbull inside the park on a leash being held by another two patrollers. I was scared now. I yelled for Jack but I couldn’t even see him in the distance. I was now riding my bike fast enough to make it look like I had somewhere to be, but a direct view of the ferris wheel stopped me in my tracks.
I sat, uncomfortably, on my bike seat trying to picture what a typical day in 1969, the park’s opening year, would have looked like. I thought of families waiting in line to enjoy the view at the top and of a group of fourteen year old girls squishing into one cart and blushing their way through a game of Never Have I Ever.
When I came back to, I realized that if Jack had been completing the second ride around the perimeter he would have gotten to me by now. I said goodbye to the ferris wheel and headed towards the starting point. I found him with his bike locked up to a nearby fence. He started locking mine up before I even got off.
He grabbed my hand, and pulled me towards the park, “Okay. I saw some holes dug up but they’ve been blocked off. We might have to dig our own.” He didn’t make eye contact.
I let go of his hand to read the warning sign:
Do not enter.
Violators will be prosecuted.
Guarding with dogs. Danger to life and limbs.
I finally came out with it, “Uh, I don’t want to do this. I think you’ll have to do this without me.”
“I beg your pardon.” Jack was so excited he couldn’t even hear properly,
“I don’t think I can go in. I’m sorry.” I said, confidently. At that same moment, Jack found a large hole underneath the gate. Other than the fact said hole was along side the running path and exactly where we had previously spotted the police car, it really was the perfect entry point.
“I won’t fit under there” I murmured, but we both knew I was lying.
We kept quiet until a wave of runners passed. Then, Jack signaled for me to pass him the backpack. I did. Just as I was about to pitch him the idea of, I stand guard and he goes alone, he cut me off – “If you don’t do this with me, I might have to divorce you.”
Next thing I knew I was on the other side of the fence with dirt all over me. Even Jack looked surprised I was there. I was 99.9% sure he was joking but I was going to risk it.
I panicked, immediately. My heart was thumping in my chest and all I kept thinking was, stay low, run fast but low, and please don’t trip. The park is filled with heavy bush which restricts any clear visibility from outside to inside the park. Still, I was sprinting from behind one distressed, graffitied wall to the next. Jack was walking in open space towards the ferris wheel like an action star walking away from an explosion. After waiting a few seconds, I sprinted again and hid behind him.
Seeing the faded pink color of the ferris wheel close up was eerie, but listening to it creaking in the wind was deeply haunting.
Every bird call made my heart jump. The ticket booth that belonged to the boat ride broke my heart: beer bottles were left everywhere, rude statements were graffitied on the walls, glass was completely shattered. After 30 minutes of jumping on the swan boats, analyzing the cat face ride and praying jack didn’t hurt himself on the one-wrong-move-and-you-will-die roller coaster ride, I was ready to go. My face was in a constant state of worry and it was seriously starting to hurt. So, I hugged the fallen T-rex goodbye, took one last look at the park and made a run for it. I army crawled back under the hole and Jack followed.
We high-fived, giggled like naughty school children and walked away like nothing ever happened.