People have been coming to Brandenburg for a short vacation under palm trees for 15 years. Our author tried to decipher the Tropical Islands myth.
In the middle of the Brandenburg Pampa there is a huge dome. It looks like the fog on this monster has taken over from Bauwerk. The scenery is surreal. The lower half of the former Zeppelin Hall protrudes from the swaths and is reminiscent of the Death Star from "Star Wars". The Tropical Islands are the final boss among the fun pools. The largest of its kind in Europe. Alien, threatening. And somehow auspicious.
I'm supposed to spend 24 hours here. I bathe, slide, eat, get hit on, smoke and freeze under this strange dome. This is where the house man from Prenzlauer Berg meets the landscape gardener from Cottbus. The Berlin hooligan relaxes next to the Polish family. The steel bell combines the seemingly incompatible: Brandenburg and crowds, mild summer evenings and late November, real beach holidays and Germany. It is a place of longing and vice. A place that says more about our vacation behavior than we would like to admit.
Already on the way from the parking lot to the entrance I notice that I'm the only one who comes with a backpack. Rookie mistakes. The least is big travel bags, the ambitious visitor pulls a trolley case with an inflatable plastic unicorn behind him. One thing is already clear: this is not a fun pool. It is serious business. A club vacation.
"Can you locate the children with the chip bracelets?" Asks a concerned mother at the check-in counter. Can not you. But would be very helpful. Because the steel and outer membrane construction is not only 107 meters high, but also 360 meters long and 210 meters wide. Lots of space for superlatives. On 66,000 square meters there are twelve different bars and restaurants, the world's largest indoor rainforest, Germany's tallest slide tower and two balloons that transport people inside the dome. A large outdoor area also opened in 2016.
The special thing about the Tropical Islands is the opening hours. Visitors can bathe here 364 days a year. The day ticket is valid until one in the morning. Overnight guests have access around the clock. There are hotel rooms and tents under the dome, and there are additional bungalows and a campsite near the complex. The hall is closed only on Christmas Eve.
"Europe's largest tropical holiday world" celebrated its 15th birthday in December of last year. In 2003, a Malaysian investor bought the former airship shipyard and converted it into the Tropical Islands within a year. But the water park was in the red for a long time.
Brandenburg's tropics have only become profitable in recent years. In January 2019, the plant changed hands. Since then it has belonged to the Spanish theme park company Parques Reunidos. More than a million people visit the Islands every year. On a Saturday there are 5000 guests. Most of them come from Berlin and the surrounding area of Brandenburg. About 20 percent from abroad, especially from Poland.
Evil tongues claim that the only way to make a profit was to lower the temperature in the hall over the years. And indeed, after the promised 26 degrees, the air in the dome doesn't feel.
Nevertheless, I get euphoric on the first tour. Rainforest, water slides, all-you-can-eat buffet. My 14 year old I want everything at once. But first you need a couch. The only problem: It is eleven o'clock, and there are almost only Germans here. Everything is occupied.
There are two large beaches within the hall. The lagoon in the rainforest, which reminds a little of the rocky beaches of Thailand with the lush vegetation and the dim caves. The South Pacific, on the other hand, is a long stretch of sandy beach with a bar, restaurant and sky canvas in faded light blue behind the shallow water. This is what the Copacabana of Brandenburg looks like. Here I try my luck.
After 30 minutes of searching, I discover an insider tip. There are wooden terraces above the beach restaurant, which are apparently so unpopular that there are still plenty of loungers available at this time.
At a height of three meters, with a view of the steel girder and dome membrane, the tropical islands suddenly feel more like a provincial indoor pool. Don't worry. Loungers are more of a status symbol than a place to stay. In addition, there is a shortcoming in every vacation that you have to come to terms with. Better than diarrhea.
The next disappointment is the water temperature. South Pacific is different. You would have to swim a few lengths to get up to temperature. Just stupid that there is no room for it. The cold season is high season in the Tropical Islands. But lonely beaches are rare in August, even near the equator. Especially not for 45 euros.
So get out of the pool. Everyone knows that meals determine the daily rhythm on vacation. Along the promenade it goes through a small tunnel towards the Fressmeile. In a kind of cave there is the classic swimming pool food, in the Thai pavilion opposite is the buffet. I go for the familiar and enter the deep fryer cave.
The pizza costs 7.50 euros, and because the plates are just out, the Margherita is served directly on the tray. Straightforward and greasy. At the next table two teenagers are sitting in front of their schnitzel. With a full mouth, one says to the other: "Somehow I feel a bit like on vacation." Schnitzel eater two nods in agreement. Malle isn't just once a year.
Seen in this way, this place is what comes closest to our ideal idea of vacation. The setting may change, but the new is only wanted to a limited extent. In the Tropical Islands there are no annoying beach vendors, no language barrier, and payment is made with a chip bracelet instead of foreign currency. Forget Rimini, El Arenal or Lake Balaton. This is the tropical Teutonic beach.
As I scrape the last pieces of cheese off the plastic tray, I look at my potential holiday acquaintances. Most are tattooed. Odin instead of Jesus. Honor and Pride. Lilies and compass. There is even an airbrush station on the shopping boulevard next to the entrance, where non-tattooed children can temporarily emulate their parents.
When it comes to men's fashion, the East German label Yakuza is clearly ahead. On the homepage, the tattoo-style designs are advertised with the slogan "For real guys". That fits. Philipp Plein comes right behind the martial shirts from Bautzen. This was also a direct hit. Plein is, so to speak, the exclusive men's outfitters of the prominent Mallorca. Lots of rhinestones, lots of skulls, proud prices. Yakuza for the top ten thousand. Some of the pieces are likely to be souvenirs from the Izmir bazaar. Given.
The Tropical Islands are not a bargain. The day admission for an adult is 45 euros without access to the sauna area. The cheapest room under the dome, including admission and breakfast, costs 120 euros per person per night. A week's holiday in Brandenburg is therefore more expensive than an all-inclusive hotel in Rhodes in early summer.
Excursions are part of every good vacation. The best way to do this is to climb into a basket in the Tropical Islands. An employee on the ground is connected to our helium balloon by climbing harness and rope. He pulls us through the facility 20 meters above the action and is likely to be the only one in the hall who doesn't get cold in the meantime.
Everything looks like a model above the artificial system. The bathers wave below and the condensation drips down from the ceiling. In between I am waving back. Somehow feels decadent. Whatever, you treat yourself to something on vacation.
That's the point. It is as if the creators of this dome of experience intended mediocrity. Because if something is missing on vacation, you spend money until you are satisfied. Be it for snacks, excursions, souvenirs, inflatable bathing animals, sunscreen or Hawaiian shirts that you will never wear again. Vacationers are primarily consumers. They understood that in Brandenburg. If you are booked in for three days, you cannot change the water temperature, but you can borrow a bathrobe. Of course, for a fee.
We are finally doing what we are here for. We slide. In addition to the tire slide – highly recommended – there is a rather long and lame yellow slide and a blue high-speed tube.
As is so often the case in life, the most spectacular variant is the one that hurts the most. Here you can go down the stream at 70 km / h, but you also have the stream in your eyes. Those who like fun and pain in just a few seconds will get their money's worth here.
It dawns. I stand in front of the bar. "Laaaadiiie", an obviously drunk woman in her mid-20s, wants supplies. I'm in front of her and order a coke with a mug. "5.90 for a cola !? Their helmet is burning! ”I have to agree with her. A second later I have her hand on my back. She is hooping. "Samma, are you going to Malle too?" I say no and pull out of the affair.
The question is obvious. Ballermann-Schlager is running in the background. The evening program for all children who still have energy. "Däpp, Däpp, Däpp, Johnny Däpp", it sounds from the boxes. Parents dance with their children in the children's paradise. In the middle the animator. "It doesn't matter. I want Malle back ”, the song continues. The kids like it.
The music briefly conceals that something has actually changed. It is dark. For the first time there is a holiday mood. For real. The tiles and sand are warm thanks to underfloor heating, the dome so high that you can hardly see them. Life in Brandenburg is suddenly beautiful. It is 7 p.m. Day guests are slowly leaving the facility. The women now wear long beach dresses, the men polo shirts. On vacation you make yourself chic for dinner.
The time has come. We step to the Asian buffet. Almost every dish tastes good. It is the first time on this day that expectations and experience actually coincide. The beautiful consumption works. Money makes happy.
Alcohol too. The further the evening progresses, the more insecure the step of some visitors becomes. A few couples still swim, some stagger into their bungalows. Nevertheless: The Tropical Islands are not a place for party holidays. There is no disco, loud music is the exception. The big beach party does not take place.
Bathing makes you tired, which is why an acoustic cover band now plays all songs at half speed at the cocktail bar in the “Bora Bora Lounge”. You inevitably sink into the deep armchairs. Nobody talks anymore. The operators seem to know their Pappenheimers. With Helene Fischer, the dome would probably go up in flames.
At around 10 p.m. the system comes to a complete rest. I climb into the lagoon. The water is still not warm, but the place to swim is finally here. The best time to travel to the Tropical Islands is after sunset. The whirlpool, the waterfalls, the jets, I have almost all of that now. The lagoon is mine until shortly before midnight. The darkness makes forgiving.
I'm going one last lap. On the South Seas, a few teenagers hold their feet in the pool. The smoking lounge is half-staffed. The trigger is booming hypnotically and my beer is slowly becoming stale. A day in paradise comes to an end.
To sleep, I drive a few minutes to my bungalow outside the dome. The television receives Sky, peanut flips are on the table and a grill on the terrace. Nice here, in the German tropics. At least as long as you stay inside. I set the alarm clock to eight o'clock. A South Sea lounger in a prime location is waiting for me. I make sacrifices for that. After all, this is club vacation.
This text is part of the new FOCUS. Would you like to read more exclusive stories from issue 04/20?
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