Spreepark‘s history is almost as strange as the plastic creatures roaming within it. Originally opening in 1969, Kulturpark Plänterwald – as it was originally known – was the only amusement park in either East or West Berlin, and the only constant park in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany.
By 1991 Kulturpark Plänterwald had been transformed into Spreepark, and visitor numbers peaked at 1.5 million per year. But the cost of new attractions and a shift away from pay-per-ride to a pay-at-the-gate model contributed to large debts by 1999. Spreepark had no option but to raise the admission fee to generate extra revenue, but merely succeeded in deterring potential thrill seekers. By 2001, visitor numbers had dropped to 400,000 and the amusement park declared itself insolvent.
In a final twist that any rollercoaster would be proud of, the park’s owner, Norbert Witte, and close associates allegedly fled to Lima, Peru, with spiralling debts of €11 million. They even shipped six rides, which authorities believed were being sent for repair. After a failed attempt to run a “Lunapark” in Lima, Witte was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in 2004 for attempting to smuggle £14 million of cocaine from Peru to Germany in the metal masts of the “flying carpet” ride.