Urban Exploration in Berlin Take Two: Teufelsberg and Maltzfabrik

Nein, man! Ich will noch nicht gehen. Lass’ uns noch ‘n bischen explorieren.

  • After the successful trip to Bernau bei Berlin I was hungry for more action and wanted to make the most of my stay in Berlin. A few other Eintritt Verboten buildings were on my bucket list.
  • First on the menu was Teufelsberg, a US listening station in the middle of Grunewald forest. Last on the exploration chart was die Maltzfabrik, an abandoned brewery in Schöneberg.
  • I had a really great time in Berlin and felt that I was able to sharpen the saw. The start-up experience can be best described as a reality distortion field in which I was sucked and had to compete with Ian Thorpe to keep my head above water.

Another sunny day. I met with my partner in crime and we pedaled to Grunewald forest to explore the Teufelsberg. This abandoned listening station of approximately 5 ha was once operated by the US’s NSA (National Security Agency) to spy on the Soviets in the east. However, its history goes back to the times of World War II. The Nazi architect Albert Speer drafted the plans for the Wehrtechnische Fakultät or Nazi military college. This college was never fully completed and after the Nazis were chased, the Allies wanted to get rid off most Nazi buildings including the college. After multiple attempts it proved to be easier to simply cover the college with the rubble and debris  produced by WWII. And there was a lot to cover with.

In total 26 million m3 of debris, which is the equivalent of 400,000 houses, were dumped on the Nazi college. This work took 22 years from 1950 to 1972. Quick comparison: Palm Jumeirah, the artificial island and self-declared ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ in Dubai took 94 million m3 of sand and was completed in less than 6 years.

The mountain (hill might be more accurate) performed a range of functions. Ski jumps were installed after 1955, but since Berlin was at the center of the Cold War also the Americans showed keen interest. The US decided to install a listening base on top of the mountain in the framework of their ECHELON network.

In the 90s the base was sold to real estate developers. However, the planned apartments and hotels were never constructed and the project was aborted.

We followed little paths to the top that rises about 80m above the forest. After making the top, we found a hole in the surrounding fence and ascended stairs to the base.

Although Teufelsberg literally means Devil’s Mountain, it didn’t live up to my expectations. We quickly found out that the base wasn’t exactly an undiscovered gem.

Apparently some misguided soul leases the site during summer, recruits a couple of crabby security guards and tries to break even (desperately I guess – revenues can’t be spectacular) by charging an entrance fee (€5) and offering guided tours to tourists (€15). I personally find this disappointing and think it takes away the charm of urban exploration. It’s a bit like the famously secretive iPhone 5 that was released yesterday. If you already know all details (specs) in advance, where’s the fun? But as with everything, change is inevitable.

We climbed on the of the radomes (radar+dome) for a panoramic view over the site. The station is in decay and has attracted a couple of squatters and graffiti artists.

Eventually we were expelled from the site after playing (and losing) the cat and mouse game with the security guards. Maybe winter keeps away the tourists and can reproduce (together with snow and grey sky) a more genuine Cold War feeling.

Since we were in no rush we finished with a swim in the nearby Teufelssee. At dusk we decided to finish with a more serious Eintritt Verboten abandoned building in Schöneberg: die Maltzfabrik.

There’s something really nice about this old malt building: not only is it unexplored yet, a huge smiley has been placed on the roof.



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