I was dubious about visiting Templehof but Phil has a genuine interest in Nazi architecture and really wanted to do this tour. While you couldn’t call it beautiful, it is awe inspiring and we had a terrific guide to talk us through the intricacies of the Nazi Germania vision and its eventual uses under US occupation.
Just like all the history I had to re-learn about Germany, the details of the incredible feat that was the Berlin Airlift was the most outstanding part of this tour. At the hight of the Berlin blockade there were over 1500 flights per day into this tiny inner city airport delivering more than 4500 tonnes of goods (Check out this Wiki for more). The fate of West Germany depended on it and they succeeded spectacularly much to the Soviets surprise.
One of the most beautiful stories from the airlifts is that of Gail Halvorsen with his “Operation Little Vittles” air drop. He promised the local children that he would drop little parachutes of sweets from his plane and they would know it was him as he would wiggle his wings – prompting the nickname Uncle Wiggly Wings. This little gesture was soon expanded throughout the airforce and children from all over the US donated their candy. Of course the other side saw this as propaganda and as it was eventually sanctioned by the powers that be, it must be the sweetest propaganda there ever was.
Today the Templehof buildings are multi use – offices, entertainment space, museum and refugee camp (somewhat controversially) but the runways are a park for the city as it is too small for modern aircraft to land safely. Any day of the week sees kids cycling their bikes, skateboarders and families enjoying the expansive space on their doorstep – yet another illustration of how Berlin is a city of the people.