In the northeastern portion of Germany, about thirty-six miles southeast of Berlin, a passenger train and shuttle service delivers men, women, and children to the door of one of the most voluminous structures on the planet. They arrive throughout the day and night, every day of the year. The enormous dome stands 350 feet tall, and encloses 194 million cubic feet of space. It was originally commissioned by CargoLifter AG as a hangar for their heavy-lift airship concept, but their dirigible was never developed, and the company went bankrupt in 2002. The following year, Malaysian Tanjong company purchased the gigantic building and filled it with something never before seen in northeast Germany: tropical paradise.
Tropical Islands Resort is an artificial exotic island environment which includes a rain forest, beaches, artificial sunlight, palm trees, orchids, and ambient birdsong. A large portion of the south side is is made up of transparent panels, allowing natural sunlight to help brighten the interior during the day. The internal temperature is always kept at a comfortable 77-82 degrees Fahrenheit with 50-60% air humidity year-round, regardless of the weather outdoors.
The resort's builders have engineered what amounts to a miniature ecosystem. About 80% of the resort's 66,000 square meters of floor space is used for "green space," which includes more than 500 species of plants, including palm trees, orchids, and other tropical vegetation. Water from the pools is reclaimed to water the plant life, which grows in a rich, custom-made soil made up of sand, organic waste, clay, and tree bark. The dome's transparent panels are also UV permeable, exposing the plants to natural sunlight and allowing the building to operate as a giant greenhouse. Some have said that the interior's high humidity causes water condensation on the inside of the dome, which collects for some time before finally falling. This produces light, spontaneous rain showers on occasion, adding to the ambiance of the place.
The resort includes a "Balinese lagoon" with whirlpools and a waterfall, a "south sea" with an 8,000 square meter sand beach, a tropical village, and a rainforest section with winding walkways. It offers all of the benefits of a Caribbean cruise without ever leaving port, including the tourist-tailored, stereotyped culture. You can't beat that with a palm frond.
If you happen to be in Europe already, the price of a train ticket and admission is probably considerably less money than flying to a real tropical island... of course a genuine island offers blue skies and full sunlight in place of gray girders and perpetual overcast, but this place seems to make for a decent substitute. Even if artificial tropical paradise isn't your cup of tea, it may be worth seeing just to marvel at the magnitude of the structure and the engineering.
The dome can host up to 7,000 visitors at once, and it has a staff of about 500. The resort offers restaurants, shopping, tanning, stage entertainment, and overnight camping on Paradise beach. Admission is 18.50 Euro (about $23) on weekdays, and 23.50 Euro (about $29) on weekends, which includes an unlimited stay including all shows. Much like a real tropical island, Tropical Islands Resort is open around the clock, every day of the year. They also offer two other services which make for a brilliant combination: a day care center, and seven fully stocked bars. Sign me up.