Monday, April 28, 2008

Tempelhof Airport

When Joe, Foxy and I went to Berlin, we had no idea what a historical airport we were flying into until we got home and saw it in the February 12th issues of The Wall Street Journal. (We left on the 13th and you know it takes a couple more days to get our mail)

This is my experience at the airport:

When we arrive at the airport is was great this big canopy over you not to get wet – cause we were let out on the runway. We walked up the stairs and our luggage was right there – waiting and I was so shocked by the fact we didn’t have to walk for miles to get to it. In fact I think the people that I might be crazy because I was so excited.

Then we walked in to this wide open area that looked very 1950’s like – I thought they might want to update things just a little. There were hardly any people around and no stores.

Then we were going to take the metro to the hotel – this is the only airport that has an underground stop. However we could not find where it was and jumped in a cab. Joe was all concerned about how much it would – normally the airport is far from the cities but it was a very short ride for 8 euros. Well worth the price of me not lugging my bags and dog up and down stairs in metro and being exhausted before we even start our trip.

As you all know we had a wonderful trip to Berlin and we headed back to the airport by taxi!!! As we entered the airport again nobody in there and kind of felt like you had the whole airport to yourself. I looked at the departures board and saw it only flew to Brussels and little towns in Germany.

Then Joe said I think this airport is something…I can’t tell what but give me the camera so I can take some photos. Yes after I go to the restroom.

OMG the bathrooms scared the pee right out of me…I have never felt the presence of the cold war more in the whole trip. First you walk into a small cement room then enter through another door where the stalls are. The door made this really loud noise as it closed behind me and echoed for a long time. I hurried out of there so fast and ran back and told Joe that the bathrooms were terrible and no wonder nobody is in this airport. (Now I know they really were designed by the bad man himself and if nothing else the feeling I got from the bathroom was worth the trip for a historical moment) Also my friend Anne had the same feeling when she was in there the couple days before us, I found out when we were comparing our trips.

As we blinked our way though the shortest and quickest security line Joe and I have every seen post the 9/11 heightened security. I might even say shorter than I have see in International Falls ever. Then we were off to our gate examining the lime stone walls that you could see the fossils in.

Walked down the stairs outside to the plan and then we were off down a long runway with people along the fence outside watching and waving.

So when we saw the article in the paper that this lovely airport (besides the bathrooms) that was so convient for visiting Berlin was going to close we both were sad that we didn’t take more time to check it.

The airport is scheduled for closure at the end of October 2008. A non-binding referendum on the level of the Land Berlin was held on April 27th 2008 (yesterday) against the close-down but failed due to a very low voter turnout.

I would really like to fly into this airport one more time before it closes.

Here are some facts about the airport:

· Tempelhof, Adolph Hitler's showpiece airport built in the 1930s, is said to be the third-largest building complex in the world.

· It played a crucial role in the 1948-49 Allied airlift to save West Berlin from being strangled by Russian forces at the start of the Cold War.

· One of the airport's most distinguishing features is its large, canopy-style roof that was able to accommodate most contemporary airliners, thereby saving passengers from the elements.

· The main building of the Tempelhof Airport is the 18th largest building on earth. Tempelhof used to have the world's smallest duty-free shop.

· In 2007, it served fewer than 350,000 passengers

· The airport halls and the neighboring buildings, intended to become the gateway to Europe and a symbol of Hitler's "world capital" Germania, are still known as the largest built entities worldwide, and have been described by British architect Sir Norman Foster as "the mother of all airports".

· With its fa├žades of shell limestone, the terminal building, built between 1936 and 1941, forms a massive 1.2-kilometre long quadrant yet has a charmingly intimate feel; planes can taxi right up to the building and unload, sheltered from the weather by its enormous overhanging canopy.

· American engineers constructed a new 6,000-ft runway at Tempelhof between July and September 1948 and another between September and October 1948 to accommodate the expanding requirements of the airlift. The last airlift transport touched down at Tempelhof on 30 September 1949.

· Soviet forces took Tempelhof in the Battle of Berlin on 24 April 1945 in the closing days of the war in Europe following a fierce battle with Luftwaffe troops. Tempelhof's German commander, Colonel Rudolf Boettger, refused to carry out orders to blow up the base, choosing instead to kill himself

· With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, the presence of American forces in Berlin ended. The USAF 7350th Air Base Group at Tempelhof was deactivated in June 1993.

· Templehof was commissioned by Albert Speer, Hitler's chief architect. The building formed an integral part of Speer's master plan for Berlin. (explains the bathrooms )

· Every 90 seconds, an allied aircraft touched down, carrying food and fuel for local residents after Stalin had closed off all supply routes between West Berlin and the other zones controlled by the Western powers. More than two million tons of food and fuel were brought in to supply Berliners.

· During the airlift, Mr. Halvorsen - known back then as "Uncle Wiggly Wings" - used to wiggle his plane's wings in a salute to children waiting below in the rubble of Berlin. He'd then drop Hershey bars, chewing gum and other goodies with parachutes made of handkerchiefs.


Kate G. said...

Does Foxy have a clone? I thought she stayed with us when you and Joe went to Berlin!

Jill, Joe & Foxy said...

You know I have memory problems and I forgot she wasn't with us...too much french in my brain now.