One of the benefits of living in the heart of Europe is the proximity of exotic travel destinations. Why not take a quick beach trip to one of many nearby islands?
Why not to the closest of them all?
We hopped on a silent German train for a short ride through Brandenburg, zipping past the forests and barren, snowy plains of the economically-depressed state in former East Germany.
Our destination soon rose from the haze before us, and our train pulled into a station with smashed glass and weeds reclaiming the brickwork. Picking our way across the icy platform under a bleak winter sky, the vacation jitters set in. Our experience was about to begin.
All aboard this jarring bus service for a transfer to Tropical Islands, the best beach getaway within 40 miles of Berlin! If you thought building a tropical-resort theme park in the dead of German winter was impossible, you didn’t consider the option of putting it inside a dome tall enough to fit the Statue of Liberty.
The colossal structure was designed as an airship hanger and, following the company’s insolvency, snapped up by a Malaysian corporation that clearly knew a thing or two about crafting an otherworldly adventure. Even the establishment’s name speaks of untold wonder and exoticism for its predominantly German and Polish patrons.
Under the austere steel beams, there’s a sandy beach with warm water, tiki bars serving radioactive-coloured drinks in plastic pineapples, and cruise-ship style entertainment with miserable dancing performers and clowns. The whole premises is heated to a temperature that makes for a delightful stroll in your swimsuit. Paired with a (literal) backdrop of blue skies, it’s enough to forget the fact that outside looks like the woodland set of a horror film.
On top of the obvious necessities of a tropical island, there’s also mini-golf, a shopping boulevard, and three water slides. True to its original incarnation as a blimp hanger, holiday makers can go for a ride in one of several hot air balloons.
The dome houses its own biosphere, a labyrinthine rainforest with real flamingos, butterflies, and peacocks, all contributing to a soundscape of buzzing insects and chirping birds… at least in part.
And what exactly qualifies as tropical? A helpful map at the entrance indicates anything within a few thousand miles of the equator is fair game for cultural appropriation, so the interior decor ranges from sitting Buddhas, to African women wielding spears, to Havana-esque kiosks. Plenty of carved snakes, leopards, crocodiles, and so on.
Visitors who can’t get enough have the option of staying overnight (or all weekend, or forever!) in a themed bungalow or a tent village reminiscent of Jakku in the new Star Wars film. At night, looking up at a massive disco ball conjures up distant memories of Alexanderplatz, as the spinning silver globe casts stars across the purple-gradient sky.
Tropical Islands has earned a special place in my heart, joining the likes of shopping metropolis Karstadt and the night club Salon zur Wilde Renate on my list of post-apocalyptic hideouts in Berlin.