This past week comprised of lots of fun, adventure, and my first trip outside of Germany! This is going to be a longer post because I thought I’d describe my academic program here at CIEE so you all know what I’ll be working on for the next few months (and because I’m finding my program to be really interesting). I’ll also share photos of my trip to Vienna, Austria.
The specific academic program I’m in is called “Global Sustainability & Environment.” It’s a small, intimate program with students from a variety of academic backgrounds, which presents a very unique opportunity for collaboration.
The classes very much revolve around a central research project. This semester, the project is focused on a local “park” and how it can be developed in a sustainable and beneficial way. However, this park is extremely unique in that, until fairly recently, it used to be an airport. The airport (Tempelhof) shut down in 2008, and then in 2010 it was opened as a public park. The result is an undeveloped area larger than NYC’s Central Park, right in the middle of the city. Not only that, but the airport building itself is absolutely massive; built by the Nazi regime, it was the largest building in the world at the time of its construction. After the Nazis were defeated, the Soviet Union turned control of the airport over to the U.S. as part of the American occupation sector or Berlin. During the Cold War, the airport was the site of the Berlin Airlift, which occurred when the Soviets blockaded all supply routes into Western Berlin in an attempt to get the Western Allies to give in to Soviet demands by starving the residents of West Berlin. The Allies responded by delivering supplies by airplane. Over the course of almost a year, an average of one plane landed every three minutes at Tempelhof airport in order to deliver the necessary amount of supplies needed, eventually forcing the Soviet Union to abandon the blockade efforts.
(hover over the images for captions and click to enlarge)
The opening of this space to the public has had so many interesting results. Thousands of locals use the paths and runways for jogging, rollerblading, biking, and “windskating.” They use the land for picnics, urban gardens, and more. The site hosts events, festivals, and was even used as a filming location for the most recent Hunger Games movie. Numerous companies and organizations occupy parts of the airport building. And now, the building is also hosting over 2,000 refugees, with room for many, many more. There is also a lot of conflict surrounding Tempelhof park because there disagreement about what should be done with it. The government had planned to build housing and commercial spaces on 25% of the cite. But, a referendum by the public halted the government’s plans, and instead mandated that the park must remain exactly as is. The refugee shelter is also a subject of debate as many think it will go against the referendum if the government expands the housing.
So, in my sustainability classes we will be focusing on the issues surrounding Tempelhof and on generating ideas for how the site could be developed in a sustainable way that is beneficial to the community. I’m also taking an intensive beginning level German language class which I very much enjoying.
In other news, a friend an I decided to take a short trip to Vienna this weekend, because why not? It ended up snowing for most of the day Saturday, but it actually resulted in some beautiful moments. Here are some pictures of the trip: (again, hover for captions, and click to enlarge for better quality)