Tempelhof and the Fantastic Four
Once apon a time, in the far and sheep-overrun land of New Zealand, where hobbits wear flip-flops and everyone commutes by bungy-jump (to work for our primary export industry; The Flight of the Conchords), a 13 year-old boy was given some music by Die Fantastichen Vier.
His older brother, who had just returned from a year’s exchange in the German seaside resort of Usedom, pressed ‘play’ on their Windows 98 computer and in doing so created one of the most unlikely fans of 90’s German hip-hop imaginable.
Fast-forward over a decade – to last Sunday, to be precise – and Die Fantastichen Vier and the now 25 year-old Kiwi all found themselves at a free summer festival at the decommissioned Berlin-Tempelhof airport.
The former were most likely unaware of the latter, who did not really care, so much was his joy at unexpectedly witnessing the former’s performance among other people who had loved ‘Fanti Vier’ (other teenage Kiwis, it transpired, had not).
Fanti Vier cavorted all over the stage with impressive energy (considering the veteran quartet formed in 1989) and David Guetta followed with a flashy DJ set, which I suspect might have continued playing without him had he stuck his hands in the air 100% of the time, rather than 50%.
The second highlight of the day was the venue itself.
As with most spots in Berlin, Berlin-Tempelhof Airport is dripping with history. Its commercial history dates back to 1927 – making it one of Europe’s three noteworthy pre-WWII airports – and it was only closed in October 2008.
Looking even further back, it hosted a demonstration of the Orville brothers’ ground-breaking aircraft in 1909, was used as a parade ground for the Prussian army and the area is even assumed to be named after the medieval Knights Templar.
Its history took a sinister turn in 1934 as the Nazi government began extensions to create the mammoth terminal complex intended to be a fitting entrance to the World Capital of Germania.
Left remarkably untouched during the war, Tempelhof became part of American-controlled territory. Indeed, it became vital to the survival of West Berlin’s two million inhabitants when in 1948 Stalin decided to blockade the Western territory – prompting the first of 277,000 supply flights of the Berlin Airlift.
In 2010 the airport grounds were opened to the public as the ‘Tempelhof Freiheit (Freedom)’ park – a vast expanse of grass and runway 10 minutes from the city centre by train .
On a good day expect to see picknickers, land yachts speeding down the runway, kite-flyers, yoga enthusiasts, people relaxing around small shanty-house constructions or indeed, trade fairs or open-air music events like last week’s Berlin Festival (I sadly missed it due to budgeting constraints), which also make creative use of the Tempelhof terminal.
On a really good day, it’s as hot as all hell as there is no shade whatsoever.
There are plans for further development of the park, but as I see it, I really hope it stays close to how it is now; an open space reflecting Tempelhof’s past significance and its potential to continue as an asset to the lives of Berliners.