Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

22nd June 2012

Don’t Hassle the (Tempel)hof
Posted by at 11.05pm | Out and About | 2 responses

Berlin Tempelhof (former airport)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.

Berlin Tempelhof (former airport)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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8th June 2012

Wall to Wall
Posted by at 12.39am | Out and About | 4 responses

Checkpoint Charlie "You Are Entering The American Sector" signMy history lessons in school were heavy on Germanic stuff. World War II featured prominently, of course, but I was always slightly more fascinated by the post-war era, particularly the political situation that led to the division of Germany and the erection of the Berlin Wall.

Die Berliner Mauer carved its way through the city, separating West Berlin from the country of East Germany entirely. It wasn’t a neat separation, as the wall zig-zagged and wiggled its way through the streets to reflect the borders of the post-war occupation zones. Roads were blocked and railway lines severed. People living on the same street found themselves separated from their neighbours. The only access to and from West Berlin was via a handful of road, rail and air corridors. For East Germans and East Berliners, crossing the border was deliberately made as difficult as possible.

Berlin WallUS President Reagan’s demand to the Soviet authorities (“Tear down this wall!”) was belatedly acted upon in 1989. 23 years later, there is little of the Wall left, and what remains is in various states of decay.

Reunification and reconstruction has removed most of the physical evidence of The Wall but it still makes its presence felt in some ways. There are still two distinct “city centres” recognisable in East and West Berlin. To this day, the city’s tram network abruptly stops at the former border (The West Berlin authorities abandoned trams while East Berlin retained them), although there are plans to extend it into the West.

My knowledge of the Berlin Wall was largely limited to that gleaned from playing the eponymous Scenario in SimCity 3000 (which, as it turns out, is not accurate). In order to rectify this, Andrew and I set out to find ourselves some Cold War relics.

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