FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The last days of Tempelhof

Posted in Berlin, Germany by folkestonejack on October 3, 2008

After leaving the giants of the steam age behind I headed out to Berlin Tempelhof, another legend soon to pass into history. Tempelhof opened as an airport in the 1920s and feels like it belongs to a different, more glamourous era of aviation even whilst it is in use today as a commercial airport. Indeed, most of its peers have long since vanished – such as Croydon airport near me.

If I had any regrets about my trip it was that I didn’t think to arrange my itinerary so that I flew into Tempelhof and that chance has pretty much gone now – the airport is to close at the end of the month. I don’t really understand the logic of the closure, but then maybe I am biased as I am a complete convert to the benefit of small city-centre airports like London City.

Anyway, I had to settle for a walk around the perimeter instead – walking to the gap in the apartment blocks that landing planes descend through on their way onto the runway. It’s a spot that has seen many iconic photographs from the time of the Berlin airlift (such as the shot of Berliners watching a C-54 land at Berlin Tempelhof Airport, 1948). I stood on a small mound and felt a tingle of excitement as I watched a passenger jet approach through the gap, pass overhead and land.

I made my way round to the main entrance and took a look inside the near deserted terminal building. I wasn’t alone in soaking up the nostalgia of the last days of Tempelhof as a functioning airport. I had followed the progress of the campaign to prevent the closure (see: Apathy dooms plan to save Tempelhof, site of Berlin airlift – Independent, 28th April 2008) and felt rather sad that no means had been found to retain some element of active aviation. I don’t think it would feel quite right without the sound of a plane – in the same way that the banking at Brooklands only really comes alive when cars return to the small surviving section of the circuit. Maybe time will prove me wrong.

My wander took me round the other notable elements of the area – the famous Tempelhof eagles and the memorial to the Berlin airlift – before I headed back underground.