13 Moments From the Tempelhof Airport Garden

I've been back from Europe nearly a week and I'm just now getting settled. I return refreshed, with a full memory, and a fuller memory card. I am seeking ways to unpack it all.

There was champagne at the Eifel Tower. The massive treasure chest of modern art that is the Pompidou Centre. The Salvador Dali Gallery. The old rail yards of Berlin. The midnight bike-ride through a pitch dark drug park. The beer steins and lederhosen of Munich. There was just so much. 

When I feel this sort of overwhelm, I know I need to focus–to zoom in on just one moment. So let me take you to Berlin's abandoned Tempelhof Airport.

I am wandering, jaw dropped and wide-eyed, through the most wild and beautiful garden I've ever seen. The Tempelhof Airport is an abandoned city-centre airport, like our own. It was slated for redevelopment, like our own. Unlike Edmonton's Municipal Airport, Tempelhof is a war hero. It was here that the US would drop off supplies and aid. This patch of grass and concrete and asphalt has worked its way into Berlin's heart. They love it here.

Tempelhof is now many things to many people. It is a sprawling runway for bicycles and skateboards, rollerblades and scooters. It is a place for children to race on foot, with start and finish lines painted out. It is hopscotch and chalk drawing. It is a place to picnic by the little old airplane. A spot to play baseball. A place to watch and learn about birds. A dance school. A bike-repair training centre. A refreshing hand-in-hand walk. A community garden.

In middle of this public park, now reclaimed by Berlin's citizens (I am told they will never develop it now), there is a community garden.

And I am wandering through this garden, taking photos. The first visit I just gawked and wondered aloud how this could happen. There are, seemingly, no rules at the Tempelhof garden. Respect your neighbours, of course, but build what you wish with whatever you wish. A pile of trash waits just at the edge to be transformed into the waking dreams of gardeners. I am back today to capture this–to feed my lens a kaleidoscope of imagination. To try and bring some of Tempelhof back, for you.

I need to try, because this remains my favourite memory of Europe. There is something about such ragged beauty–it's absolute freedom granted to the human spirit–that is a pure joy. This place, so far from perfect, is just perfict. 

Here. Let me show you as best I can in thirteen images.

Be sure to click each image for a description, my thoughts, and a larger version.

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