“The waterpark boasted several large pools, geysers, fountains and waterslides – one was 120 metres long and called the Great Slide. There was a water playground for kids and a sun garden for their long-suffering parents.”
There is a lot to love about Blub Spassbad even in its current rundown state.With its plastic palm trees, faux-Moroccan decorative motifs and vast (now empty) pools, this once-popular waterpark is a delighful change to Berlin’s abundance of abandoned hospitals, factories and other grown-up places. Blub is where people came, and still come, to have fun.
On the other hand, I can’t help but feel disheartened by the level of vandalism Blub has been subject to over the years. Surrounded by residential buildings on one side and the Teltow Canal on the other, the waterpark was always both blessed and cursed by its location in the busy Neukölln district. It seems unlikely that the destruction and mess could have been avoided in the long run.
Not gonna lie, the whole place so spoke to my Jurassic Park fantasies
“You stare at him, and he just stares right back. And that’s when the attack comes. Not from the front, but from the side, from the other two raptors you didn’t even know were there.”
Sure, I’ve been to enough abandoned places to know what they look like. I’ve even run into boys and young men nicely and discreetly working on real graffiti. What I hadn’t witnessed before though was this senseless destruction of property in action – by six kids no older than 12.
The kids were only some of the over 30 (!) people at Blub on that day. From adults to teens, young couples to small groups, it seemed like everybody wanted a piece of Blub. But nobody besides the kids was carrying a long metal pipe, beating whatever structures were still standing until they either gave in or the beater got tired and moved on to the next target.
Though the kids were not a threat to the other people at the site, having them run around in circles with their pipes and their incessant impulse to destroy while the rest of us were trying to take pictures was a very strange experience. There was a strong whiff of misplaced testosterone in the air.
“What’s so great about discovery? It’s a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores.”
Then again, one could argue that Blub Spassbad, like all Spassbads in the world, was always about indulging your impulses with full abandon (pun very much intended). From its opening in 1985 to its gradual closing in the 2000’s, Blub was where the good people of West Berlin would come for a quick and easy escape from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives.
The waterpark boasted several large pools, geysers, fountains and waterslides – one was 120 metres long and called the Great Slide. There was a water playground for kids and a sun garden for their long-suffering parents. The sauna area, which I didn’t get any decent pictures of because it was very dark and I didn’t have my tripod, was done in Oriental (or shall I say Orientalist) style.
“How can you know anything about an extinct ecosystem? And therefore, how could you ever assume that you can control it?”
Unfortunately, when Blub started to decline, it declined fast. Toward the 2000’s the visitor count had dropped. Local youth gangs – Neukölln was known to be a little edgy before its rapid gentrification in recent years – saw their opportunity and claimed the struggling waterpark as their turf.
I haven’t been able to find out any details on what happened, but apparently the new ”management” acted in very unpleasant ways, intimidating the remaining regular customers away. The pool area closed in 2005, while the Al Andalusia Sauna Department persisted for a few more years.
The final straw that sealed Blub’s fate was the infamous rat infestation of 2012, which the owner tried to pin on the closeness of the Teltow Canal. But, as you might imagine, knowing where the rats and rat feces floating about in the pools came from did not make anybody more inclined to swim amongst them, and so Blub went out of business for good.
“The world has just changed so radically, and we’re all running to catch up.”
Since then the complex has slowly but surely been wasting away. In 2014, the premises were bought by a real estate company with a plan to demolish the ruins and build luxury condos for the hip and wealthy Berliners currently flocking to Neukölln like it’s Williamsburg 10 years ago.
Just two weeks ago, these plans suddenly received new incentive as a fire broke out at Blub, destroying parts of it. Authorities quickly ruled it arson and slated the complex for demolition by the end of the year.
“Hammond, after some consideration, I’ve decided, not to endorse your park.”
You may consider Blub a case against sharing names and addresses of lesser-known and vulnerable abandoned places online – something the urban exploration community is quite vehement about. Nowhere has the debate been fiercer than in Berlin, where many of the city’s countless abandoned sites have already been vandalized beyond recognition after their locations have leaked and spread like wildfire in the social media.
However, it’s doubtful that the usual precautions could have saved Blub. Its central location alone makes it a target for unwanted visitors. Besides, as previously mentioned, the unwanted visitors had found and claimed it before it was even closed. Perhaps Blub was always fated to be destroyed by the hands of those it was originally built to serve.
I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy visiting Blub, because I did. It was simply a very different experience than what I’m used to: loud, social and full of confusion instead of quiet and contemplative. My only wish is that won’t be another incident before the bulldozers finally come.
“It’s a UNIX system! I know this!”
Berlin’s rat baths: inside the ruined swimming palace Blub – in pictures, The Guardian, 01/29/2014
Berlin’s Urban Explorers Don’t Want You To Know Their Secret Spots, Vocativ, 04/17/2014
Brand im alten Spaßbad “Blub”, Der Tagesspiegel, 04/21/2015