In May of last year I took a two-week trip to Germany. My original plan was to stay in Berlin for just four days, but I fell in love so fast with the city that I ended up staying for double that time.
During that trip, I met two travelers from Tel Aviv, a couple—Yael and Andre—who I ended up spending most of my time with. One of their friends, Lars, was born in East Berlin before the wall came down. He offered to take us to an abandoned spy station or an abandoned hospital both of which were just outside of the city.
Andre and I voted for the hospital, but the idea of an abandoned hospital freaked Yael out, so we agreed to visit the spy station to spare her nerves.
It was nice to have a proper guide who knew so much about the city. Lars led us by train and through a suburban neighborhood until we reach a well-carved path up a hill.
A bit of info/history: Teufelsberg is German for Devil’s Mountain. We later learned that the hill is artificial and was built after World War Two as the rubble of the city was cleared out and heaped on the hill over the next two decades. Also, underneath the hill is a Nazi military-technical college that was never completed. After the Allies were unsuccessful in destroying the school, they decided just to bury the thing.
In the 1960s, the NSA took control of the hill for military purposes and the listening station was under construction shortly afterward. For thirty years they remained there, until 1992. Now, after an unsuccessful attempt to make the station into luxury condos, the building remains vacant and vandalized.
During our hike to the top of the hill, Lars told us how he had been to the spy station a few years earlier and there was always a hole in the fence that guarded it. I was excited. After years of looking up pictures of abandoned places online, I was finally going to get to do some exploring of my own. But when we reached the top we were disappointed to find that all of the holes in the fence had been diligently patched. We were even more disappointed to find out that now the station is open to the public…for a fee. This made the journey seem a few notches less exciting.
But we handed over 8 euros each and went on the tour. I hadn’t climbed all the way to the top of the hill just to turn around at the gate of the spy station. I was having my first abandoned adventure whether it was guided or not!
The tour was in German, but the tour guide switched to a German/English combo once he saw the confused looks on our faces and—best of all—he spoke and then left us to our own devices.
Almost every wall of every room and every stairwell was covered with graffiti, some of it incredibly beautiful.
The views from the top of the tower were perfect. In the top dome our voices echoed wildly. From a window, we could see the city in the distance.
Even with a fee and a tour guide, the spy station was fantastic. And…as a bonus, we had enough time to visit the abandoned hospital, Beelitz, that afternoon.