Berlin is well provided for in the airport stakes. Our easyJet flight touched down at Schönefeld Airport, just outside the city. There is another airport at Tegel, in the western suburbs of Berlin.
The two airports are required due to Berlin’s status as an important European destination, but they’re also a relic of the city’s division. During the Cold War, Schönefeld served East Berlin, while Tegel was for West Berliners. One of the final acts of stitching the city back together will be to concentrate all flights on the Schönefeld site and close Tegel. In fact, the new airport was due to open during our stay and – had things gone to plan – we would have been one of the first passengers to use the airport on Sunday 3rd June. My travelling companion Andrew, a committed aviation enthusiast, was immensely disappointed when a series of cockups postponed the airport’s opening to March 2013. To add insult to injury, the free tourism brochure left in our hotel room was filled from cover to cover with articles expounding about how great the new airport terminal was going to be.
Until 2008, Berlin had a third airport – Tempelhof. Opened in 1923, it was one of the oldest airports in Europe, possibly the world. It became famous during the Cold War when, in 1948, Russian troops prevented access to West Berlin, forcing a massive airlift operation. US planes, carrying food and supplies, landed at Tempelhof Airport as often as every three minutes, beating the blockade. The US Air Force maintained a base at Tempelhof until 1994.
Tempelhof closed in 2008 as part of the process of consolidating all Berlin’s air traffic on one terminal. In the long term, the whole area will be redeveloped, but plans have been put on hold due to the current economic crisis. Rather than let the runways and taxiways stand idle, however, the Berlin city authorities have had the smart idea of opening the huge site up to the public as a park.
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