It was 2pm by the time I stumbled out of Berghain and rode my bike home along the Spree-side still-standing section of the Berlin Wall, veering between the tourists snapping away at its murals. Hopefully they got a good shot of the bleary-eyed girl in the see-through dress. (Tag me!) Luckily, once you've steered clear of the hordes there is plenty of fun to be had in Berlin that had nothing to do with techno church and tawdry dark rooms. Here's four of my favorite free spots in the city to check out when the clubs close, from naked lakes to repurposed airport tarmacs and abandoned Ferris wheels.
Close by Berlin's Schöneberg neighborhood (where one can stride amidst blocks of leather stores and spendy gay bars -- it's the Castro's sister swisher), a venerable European airport wades into a new era. Tempelhof Airport is one forboding arc of concrete, so feel free to lose yourself in its defunct fascist embrace and bizarro history. But then turn around, because the tarmac now serves as park land. It's vast grassy fields are perfect for getting lost, its runways are currently being used by bicyclists and breakneck windsurfers, and over a dozen public art projects are being developed in various corners. These include an incredible DIY community garden where one can sit placidly atop a hammered-together lifeguard's chair, surrounded by sprouting greens. The sun can get a little intense at times, but to the side under a few leafy trees stands a perfectly German beer garden where you can take a load off.
"This is where all the Grimm Brothers fairytales took place." Quite an introduction to the forest that will soon see your naked ass -- it's lake time! Lake Teufelsee, that is, which you can easily reach with a nice walk from the metro stop. Teufelsee is one of the shady dells in which Berliners take advantage of Freikörperkultur, or the area's longstanding tradition of free body culture. On our recent visit to Teufelsee, we posted up next to a multi-generational family of nakeds -- grandpa, kids, parents, tossing a ball around and generally feeling good about not having tanlines. No one wears clothes. Bonus: looming over the Grunewald Forest surrounding the lake are the Epcot Center-like remains of an abandoned Soviet spy tower. Follow your nose up the hill to them for good old-fashioned Berlin pastime of exploring falling-down beautiful structures.
... Speaking of, how about an abandoned amusement park? Amid whirling rumors of cocaine trafficking and out-of-control debt, Spreepark closed in 2001, leaving such tantalizing treasurs as a brackish moat-encircled Ferris wheel, Viking ships, and tunnels shaped like roaring rainbow lion's mouths. It is easy as pie to hop over the fence (walk to Spreepark from the Treptower Park metro stop), and when we visited any fears of being apprehended by the guard that is supposed to be patrolling the area were quickly alleviated by the shrieking Germans attempting to sway the rickety Ferris wheel. If beheaded dinosaur statues and belligerant graffiti ("Who cares? Be poor") is your thing, you need to come check out this ruin-kitsch wonder. Americans recently bought the property to start up a multidisciplinary community art project -- so go quickly while it's still deviant. If you're on your way out there, you might want to swing by the revisionist history explosion that is the stately Soviet War Memorial. A 39-foot tall statue of a blonde Soviet soldier cradling a lost German child and crushing a swatiska beneath his feet presides over the complex.