6 December 2014

The Dinosaur Graveyard of East Berlin

They lie, dead, struck down where they stood by a global event they could neither forecast nor understand. Extinction came quickly: in a matter of years the dinosaurs were no more. Yet this is no reference to the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event which led to the extinction of the majority of dinosaur groups at the end of the Mesozoic era.

These dinosaurs (as you may have suspected) are rather more modern – as was their downfall.

The demise of these particular dinosaurs has more to do with the fall of communism than the earth fall of a giant asteroid. The impact event was the bringing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Kulturpark Plänterwald as it had been called until then was left to the vagaries of the market economy.

Quick, find a lemur and make a run for it! Image Credit Flickr User davidrush
The Kulturpark Plänterwald had been the only amusement park in the ironically named German Democratic Republic (GDR). To get a better idea, think of it as a kind of Coney Island for socialists. There was no real coordination and theme - it was a mix of attractions and rides. When the GDR collapsed Kulturpark Plänterwald quickly followed.

It enjoyed a brief renaissance, as the wonderfully named Spreepark and the age of the dinosaurs began. The original park was expanded and it reopened in 1991, moving towards a more western model of Recreation Park. A single entrance fee was brought in rather than individual charges for the rides and attractions. This one price fits all policy was the firestorm after the asteroid strike, as it were. The fate of the park and its dinosaurs was sealed.

Now, even the Tyrannosaurus Rex hardly feels regal.

Why was the park so singularly unsuccessful? The new single charge together with a lack of parking space saw the attendance figures plummet by two thirds. Only ten years after the park had reopened it closed, in 1991, with massive debts of €11M. It has remained closed ever since.

Slowly but surely, the dinosaurs have 'died'.

Yet even now, those still standing get the occasional visitor - such as this triceratops whisperer.

So the Spreepark has been left (more or less) to its own devices. Since we inhabit a finite universe which itself is an isolated system, the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that its total entropy is constantly increasing. So it is with the dinosaurs of the Spreepark, though it has to be noted that that their fall has quite probably been aided and abetted by a Germanic version of prehistoric cow tipping.

Image Credits
First Image - Flickr User Extranoise