Once upon a time in 1985 there was a swimming complex in the Neu Köln area of Berlin called the Berliner Luft- und Badeparadies, or BLUB as the locals called it. This 35,000 square meter recreational water park offered an extensive variety of pools and water slides, in addition to saunas and other facilities. It was the place to unwind, meet up with friends, and enjoy life in a part of town that was already renown for its lifestyle.
Little by little, the visitors diminished and in 1999 some of the pools were closed down for hygienic reasons. By 2002 the entire complex was locked down by the Health Department. The following year the owners filed for bankruptcy and the complex abandoned, waiting for new investors to renovate the place. These never materialised, and in 2013 BLUB burned down. Two other fires followed. in in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
I am working my way through the list of most popular Lost Places of Berlin, realising that many of the items on the list will no longer be around, as they are being replaced by new building projects. There are contradictory reports and rumours flying around regarding BLUB, so I finally decided to check it out once and for all. It did not disappoint – and I am certainly glad I wore closed shoes, and not sandals.
Champagne (the cat) on my back was intrigued by this peculiar place, probably wondering why I didn’t let her out to explore. The burnt car in the former parking lot was the perfect indication of things to come… and they certainly did.
The thing to keep in mind about exploring lost places is that
a. they are dangerous so you should be on full alert
b. always carry a flashlight
c. don’t bother with a tripod
d. wear sturdy shoes
e. I don’t recommend shorts
f. make sure your tetanus shots are up-to-date
g. if it looks shaky or wobbly, don’t step on it (or pull at it)
Finding the way in was the first challenge, and it took several attempts before an entrance could be spotted. I ran into a few others there as well and they seemed to have come in through other sides, so it depends on how you access the complex to begin with. In any case, the first thing that struck me was the darkness. Not wanting to fall through anything, I pulled out my trusty maglight so I could see what exactly the flooring was like and whether there were any holes to avoid, like I had seen outside.
Once I made my way to what used to be the main hall, the most stunning sight emerged. I love bridges and staircases, and the romance of an old abandoned staircase just tugs at my writer’s heartstrings. For the graffiti fans out there, this is graffiti heaven. If you have the time to look at the artwork on the walls you will find some masterpieces. Not all the scribblings are nonsense, though the grammar-obsessed will cringe.
The further in I went, and up the stairs, the amazement and awe increased. There is no way of describing the size or extent of the complex.
You only get a feel for it once you are at an elevated vantage point, and then once your eyes adjust to the stark contrast between light and shadow, your heart breaks. How could such a wonderful place fall into such ruin? If you look a the Wikipedia page of BLUB you will see what it used to look like and be horrified at what I saw today in comparison.
It is clear why there are no investors lining up to buy the place. After three fires, the only recourse would be to completely tear down the structures and start from scratch. I couldn’t find the source anymore, but I do recall reading about the property still being tied up in a convoluted legal battle, and I am pretty sure the insurance companies are still busy.
I suppose you could still use some parts of BLUB for a scene in a thriller or the backdrop for a shady deal, but if you intend to do so, you better hurry up. Even if you are not into photography, and simply love a quick thrill, this is definitely the place to be.