Adventure Abroad on the Fourth of July






Berlin is full of abandoned places, their abandonment making them somehow beautiful, meaningful, in a way they weren’t when in use. We charted a course for the Spreepark, a former amusement park with such a twisted history they made a movie about it. We hopped trains, walking down a long path so desolate and overgrown it felt like suburbia, and stopped for snacks.

A group of kids followed us, believing we knew the way in, and out. We hopped a fence near the half-collapsed dinosaurs but the kids lost their nerve. A large circus tent had a small hole cut into the tarp. Kate and I dared each other to look inside, certain it was full of squatters. Buildings like some kind of German take on an American town, swan boats scattered in the sand and in the trees, a waterway over which a rollercoaster ran, the water milky, murky.

We heard a dog barking and remembered reading that the park is protected against intruders by guards with dogs. The barking got closer and we saw a dog running toward us. We started in the opposite direction, but it was just a bulldog and it stopped barking as soon as it got close. We kept walking, trying to access the heart of the park, though like any amusement park it seemed designed to mislead. But in this case, unlike other parks, it was designed to elude you.

A voice started calling, “Hallo! Hallo!” A woman with her hair tinted that Eastern European red calling after her dog. We waved, returned her hallo, but realized she wasn’t coming for the dog. She was on the phone with backup, whoever that could be. Her German was harsh; we feigned ignorance. We passed the pond and I took a picture. She followed us, at one point grabbing Kate by the arm. She had wanted us to leave but now she wanted to take us to the person on the other end of the phone. We were maybe 10 yards from a fence, on the other side of which were joggers, moms pushing carriages. We decided the abandoned rides were probably not worth the trouble and headed for the fence, through weeds and trees. It was covered in barbed wire but we made it out without a scratch, untouchable. The woman tried to follow and took our pictures with her cell phone. We wondered what she could have possibly done with them.

Spreepark, Berlin
July 2013

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