Brandenburg in tropical fever

Start with beauty mistakes for the Tropical Island Resort in the marrow heath, in which the Malaysian investor Colin Au wants to lure the masses with superlatives

Expectations are high: For days now, there has been a lot to read, hear and see in the media about the "most ambitious leisure project in Europe" in the world’s largest cantilevered hall with Europe’s largest indoor swimming pool. The Sud Sea and the rainforest are to be simulated at the same time in the former CargoLifter hulle in Brandenburg. A trip to the artificial tropics in the middle of climatically cooler Central Europe will create a vacation mood just an hour away from Berlin – let’s hope the Asian donor and the Brandenburg state government. But the "VIP opening" at the construction site raised many question marks.

Brandenburg in tropical fever

All photos: Stefan Krempl. More photos from the opening of Tropical Island Resort can be found here

It wasn’t just African guests who left their thick winter jackets on at the grand opening of Tropical Islands Resort on Saturday afternoon in the new Mochtegern-Sudsee. Also a Brandenburger Parchen tried the couch chairs at the "Bali lagoon" only with Wollpulli dressed from: "Too fresh here", the invited guests froze for the first few hours until the huge condensation air systems managed to warm up the 5.5 million cubic meters of air in the 360-meter-long, 210-meter-wide and 107-meter-high hall by the evening.

From the promised 25 degrees continuous temperature, which is supposed to drop slightly to 23 degrees only at night, the approximately 1.500 official first-time visitors to the new "tropical paradise" little. In general, they felt more like they were at a topping-out ceremony than at a gala inauguration of a 70-million-euro megaproject. After only eight months of interior design, the island still resembles an extremely dusty construction site in many areas: Not only the air conditioning system, which is important for the basic atmosphere, is not yet running smoothly. Generally speaking, the outer areas of the hall, which were once a "paradise beach" with beach volleyball courts as well as a Malaysian fairground a.k.a "Event Center" is to be settled, still completely a concrete desert, which becomes only by Bauhutten a little more colorful.

Also with the light atmosphere it does not work yet. During the day, the opaque membrane of the CargoLifter hall (innovative mammoth project or Luftschlob?) prevents the sun’s rays, which are rare in Brandenburg in winter, from hitting the visitors and the plants. Carl von Gablenz, the founder of the company that went bankrupt in 2002 and was responsible for the shiny "Ufo" wanted to build gigantic zeppelins there and not a temple for the browning and bathing of people dissatisfied with the Central European climate. The membrane is being replaced stucco by stucco with a transparent Teflon film. However, the eagle temperatures, which the resort is fighting against, are delaying the renovation, so that artificial light will prevail until spring. And that, too, needs to be tweaked: The coarse floodlights above the tropical forest and the lagoon still have the icy charm of a soccer stadium at a game in winter.

Brandenburg in tropical fever

Rainforest in the dry season

in general: the "rainforest adventure" is at least in the semi-finished state quite an exchange. The artificial mountain in the center of the imposing site, inside which there is a high-tech facility for airing, water treatment and sewage purification, as well as changing rooms for bathers, is supposed to be filled with over 10,000 plants of 500 different species, according to the advertising brochure.000 plants of 500 different species "for lush green" . It is said that some of the trees on the hill are up to 14 meters high. The flora is only watered underground, because it is not allowed to rain on Tropical Island. "Rainforest in the dry season", is the motto.

But so far the plant landscape has similarities with the German forest, which is getting sicker and sicker, because not only bamboo, but also trees tower bare and durr towards the still very distant sky of the hall. A few orchids set at least already colorful accents. But who actually wants a "jungle rally" will have to get on a plane after all.

Brandenburg in tropical fever

Tropical village turns out to be a food temple

Also the "tropical village", in which, according to its creators, great importance is attached to authenticity, is not to be confused with an open-air museum. The fact that Borneo longhouse, Amazon hat and Kenya clay hats are wildly yet forlornly lined up here may be fine for a postmodern leisure center. If you climb the stairs in the Thai House or take a closer look at the Bali Pavilion – which somehow resembles the Chinese Tower in Munich’s English Garden – you can at least come across finely crafted carvings or wonderfully kitschy altars.

Brandenburg in tropical fever

But in the end, the 13.80 meter high Bali Gate, which forms the entrance to the Tropical Village, does not open the way to the Gotterberg, but to the multicultural food temple. Because if you turn the corner, you inevitably end up in a fast-food restaurant with typical American touches. There you will at least find Asian food, but also the "Insalata Garda Tropicana" for 2,50 Euro and the Pizza "Paradiso Italiano". In general, consumption is very important at Tropical Islands: "Everything you see at Tropical Islands, you can also buy", it says in the "tour guide" perhaps a bit hasty. "We will gladly quote you a price".

5.5 million of water for the Sudsee

So that leaves the water and beach facilities. Here the Bali Lagoon and the "Sudsee". The latter alone covers 4.000 square meters with 5.5 million liters of Lusatian water. The paddling pool area corresponds to the coarseness of four Olympic swimming pools. A somewhat bare beach with sand from Saxony-Anhalt and sun loungers nestles around it in front of a wide restaurant terrace. In the background towards the Aubenhulle, a large canvas wall creates the atmosphere with a blue cloudy sky during the day and an orange-red sunset in the evening. If you like, you can rent an igloo tent and spend the night on the beach.

Brandenburg in tropical fever

The "Sudsee" also forms the backdrop for the spectacle "Viva Brasil" every evening, for which the name "musical" the passion play with scenes from the early days of Sudamerica with conquistadors and slaves was allowed to be similar to many a small town theater.

The Balinese lagoon on the other side near the entrance is enriched by a waterfall, a grotto, several fountains, two whirlpools and two slides through the interior of the tropical mountain with disco lighting. It is probably one of the most successful facilities on the tropical island, decorated with monkey figures and mystical masks in the mountain staircase. The view up into the vastness of the steel construction has something to it when dreaming in the bathtub-warm water.

Brandenburg in tropical fever

Colin Au

Deckchairs instead of slot machines

Whether the bathing and beach pleasures will be enough to attract up to 8.000 visitors a day to the Lusatian Einode, about 60 kilometers outside Berlin? Optimism naturally prevailed at the opening ceremony. While the workmen were still hammering away in the background, Colin Au compared his creation, co-sponsored by the Tanjong Group, to resorts such as Bali, the Fiji Islands, his native Malaysia, and the rough-and-tumble amusement hotels in Las Vegas. "Our slot machines are the deck chairs", he declared against the blue-white sky of the "Sudsee".

Besides the "hardware" of the resort with its "idyllic features" the diminutive 55-year-old also enthused about the "software" of the resort, which lay in the friendliness and service of the staff – largely German, of course: "We taught our staff to smile", stressed the tourism manager. Au wants to spend the next three weeks helping to get the future flagship of a whole series of other artificial tropical islands up and running.

Brandenburg in tropical fever

Brandenburg’s Minister President Matthias Platzeck was also confident despite the bad experiences with rough projects in the marrowy sand. With the hall "had already been associated with high hopes", which, unfortunately, turned out to be "lighter than air" had proved, he did not give to mention. For the idea "winter in warmth" he could, however, warm up – especially since a small snowstorm passed over Brandenburg during the opening: The recreational facility is to become a highlight for the SPD politician "Highlight" of the tourist attractions of Brandenburg. And no, this will of course not be a "Paradise for the unemployed", as one broadcaster has already asked him. In order to give the project a future, the insolvency administrator of Cargolifter AG, Rolf-Dieter Monninger, sold the hall and the surrounding area of a former military airport to Au and Tanjong for 17.5 million euros with the government’s approval.

(K)ein Paradies fur Arbeitslose

However, the tourist project is not without controversy within Brandenburg’s SPD party. For example, Esther Schroder, a member of the state parliament, warns against investing disproportionate government funds in the "oversized" plant. The foreign investors have applied for 13 million euros for the project, which have not yet been approved. But according to Schroder "millions more" in the development of the theme park and its surroundings. This includes almost 2.2 million euros for the construction of the bridge at Brand station, in which the federal government, the state and Deutsche Bahn each want to contribute one-third.

Even environmentalists are frowning at the energy guzzler and heat radiator not far from the Spreewald wetland biotope. The Berlin Institute for Futures Studies and Technology Assessment (IZT), for example, believes that Tropical Islands "is absolutely unacceptable in view of our energy and climate situation". The management of the facility has prepared an energy report, but refuses to submit it, according to the "taz" even to an expert committee of the state government. The annual operating costs amount to 30 million euros.

Few observers believe that the facility, which is open around the clock, will attract 2.4 million visitors a year, as Au has calculated. With 15 euros per person for a four-hour stay on weekdays, the entrance fee is not cheap. But at least there is free WLAN for surfing on the beach. By the way, the bill will be paid at the very end: The Tropians should be able to enjoy the paradise without having to worry about money. They will be given a credit of 50 euros for the additional pleasures on a chip card or a wristband equipped with a radio chip, which at the same time opens the lockers in the changing rooms. ()

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