Open skies, green space in Berlin-A A +A
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
GRAYNESS blankets the city. The day is cold and rainy. It makes one want to stay indoors, wrapped in a warm blanket, and sip hot tea. But here you are, out in a wide open field trying to find shelter from the whipping wind and the icy rain. There is no refuge, though. The trees are some distance and they are without leaves. All you can do is turn your back to the wind and imagine a beautiful summer’s day.
When the sun shines and cottonball clouds dot the blue skies, people take over the runways of Berlin’s Tempelhof airport. They run, jog, and inline skate; they walk their dogs, have barbecues and picnics, and bird watch. In May 2010, the historic airport in the middle of Berlin became the Tempelhofer Freiheit park.
Only birds, kites and wind surfers take to the skies at Tempelhof these days. Even on
the second day of the year, some braved the poor weather and surfed. You did not come to join them, but to see the world’s oldest commercial airport until its closure on Oct. 30, 2008.
Tempelhof witnessed the first flights of American aviation pioneer Orville Wright and the German flag carrier Lufthansa. Zeppelins took off from the airport. It survived two world wars, Hitler and the Holocaust. It was the site for the Berlin Airlift when American allies brought food and supplies to the city during the Soviet blockade of West Berlin in 1948.
The German capital decided to close the Tempelhof airfield two years after it started constructing the Berlin-Brandenburg International airport in Schönefeld, which is far from the city center. The construction has suffered delays, ballooning expenses and one controversy after the other. But that’s another story; this day belongs to Tempelhof.
Any tourist would prefer lining up to see the Reichstag or be among the crowd posing before the Brandenburg Gate, even in the rain and snow. But the airport, which is less than 20 minutes from the two attractions, is drawing visitors. It’s open from sunrise to sunset, according to the seasons of the year, and there’s no entrance fee.
You enjoy a cold beer, while tanning on one of the deckchairs in the beer garden in the former picnic area of the US forces. You consider joining a game of baseball or basketball. Feeling lazy, you instead order one more beer and watch people and clouds go by. Everybody can have their own space here. Tempelhofer Freiheit (freedom) park, with 386 hectares, is bigger than the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
Berlin plans to make the open space an urban parkland. It has created “pioneer projects” for those who want to offer sports and recreation, learning activities, neighborhood integration and dialogue, among others. Garden initiatives, a unicycle school, and grammar games have been set up.
“In summer the park becomes one big party place. There are a lot of activities. A group has even made mini golf courses out of interactive art works,” says Frank, who lives a block away from the former airport.
As you leave Tempelhofer Freiheit, you make a promise to return – in spring or summer – any day that is warmer and brighter than today.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 14, 2013.