Browsing articles tagged with " Kids"

Plänterwald, for children and adults

Berlin, October 22, 2012

The story of the former amusement park in Berlin-Plänterwald is that of a dream which became a nightmare, of an enterpreneur who would in the end destroy his own family, that of a father for whom his son would be imprisoned for twenty years, in one of the hardest prisons in the world. Paradoxically, a place for leisure behind which lies a gruesome story, a mixture of dreadful economical management and drug dealing.

The origins of the then named Kulturpark Plänterwald, located at the eastern sector of the divided city, go back to October 1969. With the opening of the only permanent amusement park in the country, the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) commemorated the 20 years of its foundation. The 45 metres of its colourful wheel would become the absolute star of the facility, which would welcome up to 1.7 million visitors yearly during its good times; pas mal. The fall of the Berlin Wall, in November 1989, would mean for the Kulturpark the gradual fall of its visitors.

Norbert Witte and the Spreepark

Renamed as Spreepark, the facility revived in 1992 under new command. Norbert Witte, a self-made enterpreneur, was the person to manage the park, despite the seven victims of an accident caused by a ride of his back in 1981, in a fair in Hamburg (article). The renewed park, which had been expanded within the first years, closed doors in 2002 leaving behind a debt of 11 million euros.

Witte then started a new life… in Peru. He took six of his rides to Lima with the intention to set up Lunapark, his umpteenth attempt to start a business. He failed once again, and this time he would end up in prison for drug dealing: Witte had 167 kilogramm cocain hidden in one of his rides, which had to be taken back to Germany. There he was arrested, as soon as the Peruvian police discovered the illegal content of the machine. He was judged in 2004 and sentenced to 7 years: he served five of them in Berlin and was released in 2008 after suffering a couple heart attacks. His son was not so lucky and is since then imprisoned in Lurigancho, Peru, from where he will theoretically be freed in 2023.

Visiting the park

Currently, some of the rides are still visible in Plänterwald (photo album). Amid lush vegetation, a small fair train covers the perimeter of the facility every weekend and on bank holidays, between 11 am and 6 pm for 15 minutes (video). The ride costs 2 euros. For those interested in learning more about the park, there is a guided tour (in German) which lasts about 2 hours, every Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm. It costs 15€ (information, here).

Articles about the issue:

Spiegel Online (in English): The Downfall of a Funfair Family
Caretas (in Spanish): Carrusel de coca
Tagesspiegel (in German):
20 Jahre Haft: Appell an Perus Botschafter

The history of the Wittes has been taken to the screen: the documentary Achterbahn (Roller coaster, 2009), is a portrait of the ups and downs that Norbert, his former wife Pia and their sons, Marcel and Sabrina, have lived both in Berlin and Lima:

Berlin with children

Berlin, July 30, 2012

Mums and dads know it perfectly: before travelling with your kids to a big city, one like Berlin, you’d better inform yourself about places and activities for them; otherwise, your holidays might turn into a bitter experience! A museums tour, for example? not such a good idea, at least when not combined with something attractive for the children. Here you have some suggestions…

…like a double one, to start with: Berlin has two zoos: at the heart of the old west sector, you will find the Zoologischer Garten and the Aquarium (metro U2, U9 and S-Bahn), occupying a part of the central Tiergarten. On the eastern part of the city, the Tierpark Friedrichsfelde (metro U5), which 160 hectares were opened when Berlin was divided. Also interesting is the AquaDom & Sea Life (S-Bahn Hackescher Markt): thousands of marine criatures on a route ending at a cylindrical aquarium, an ecosystem integrated by 1,500 fishes in 1 million liters of salty water.

Other options to discover with your kids are Legoland, next to the spectacular SONY Center (U-Bahn and S-Bahn Potsdamer Platz). You can learn a bit about its offer at Attractions on its web site. You might also find interesting the “Museum for children MACHmit!“, a place to play and experience. In this case, though, much better if you can speak some German (U2 Eberswalder Str.). The king of the museums is, thought, the Naturkundemuseum, a natural history one: its amazing mineral collection, the dinosaurs, the cosmos and the solar system, and a sample of thousands of spiders, fishes and crustaceans, all of them kept in 81,000 liters of ethanol… A not to miss, here you can read some information in English. To get there, take the U6 to Naturkundemuseum.

And yet three more options:

* At Madame Tussauds you will have the chance to see tens of popular figures in wax, both historical and contemporary. The museum is at Unter den Linden, close to the Brandenburg Gate (U55 Brandenburger Tor or Friedrichstraße station, with U-Bahn and S-Bahn).

* The Museum of Technology, the Deutsches Technikmuseum, is one of the most interesting ones to visit with children, in an absolutely interactive experience. It can be reached with the following U-Bahn lines: U1 and U2 to Gleisdreieck, or U1 and U7 to Möckernbrücke.

* Gruselkabinett: this is an attraction only for kids older than 10, and in any case accompanied by an adult. Built up inside a real bunker, this “tunnel of horror” offers very strong emotions but also an exhibit on the different uses of the bunker, after the WWII. You can get there with the S-Bahn to Anhalter Bahnhof station.

This is only a small sample of all the options that Berlin offers to visitors with children, but stay tuned: we will suggest more activities and places to go to, in future articles published at An update on Germany. Below you can see a couple articles which might be of interest. Have fun!

►The public transportation system in Berlin: U-Bahn, S-Bahn, …
►In Hamburg, do not forget to visit Miniatur Wunderland when travelling with your kids!

A stroll around the Berlin Zoo…

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