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Bicycle on grounds of old Tempelhof airport
Bikes instead of planes are rolling across the tarmac nowImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Tempelhof transformation

May 8, 2010

Once the focus of the famous airlift to save Berlin from the clutches of communism after World War II, Tempelhof airport has been transformed from "the mother of all airports" into a public park.


Eighteen months after ceasing aviation operations, fabled Tempelhof airport in the heart of Berlin re-opened on Saturday as the German capital's largest public park.

The historic airstrip, once described by star architect Norman Foster as "the mother of all airports," underwent a clean-up to transform the 380-hectare (950-acre) aviation hub into an expansive urban oasis.

Although roughly the size of Central Park in New York, Tempelhof Park does not boast the hills, dales, ponds or leafy copses of its American counterpart. Instead, it presents open vistas of treeless, but breathtaking expanses, otherwise unheard of in an urban environment.

The old airport terminal is still intact, but the typical aeronautic paraphernalia - the landing lights, signals and other gear - have been removed.

Key role in German history

As an airport, Tempelhof was the leading figure in the first chapter of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union after World War II attempted to strangle the life blood of West Berlin with its now notorious blockade.

historic photo of the Berlin Airlift
Tempelhof will be forever remembered at the focal point of the Berlin AirliftImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

US and British pilots flew countless missions to airdrop supplies to the trapped residents of the free, but isolated, western half of the city surrounded by the Soviet Red Army.

West Berlin's gateway to the world saved the city from Soviet domination.

After reunification in 1989, the city decided to build a new and modern international terminal at Schoenefeld on the southeastern outskirts of former East Berlin.

But the bulldozers aren't finished with Tempelhof just yet. Starting in 2013, the new park will undergo a four-year, 60-million-euro ($48 million) facelift to become the home of the 2017 International Garden Exhibition. By then, it should look a lot more like its storied New York counterpart.

Editor: Kyle James

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