Published on January 28th, 2015 | by Tamsin0
Once one of Europe’s best kept secrets, Berlin’s status as a capital of cool has long been out of the bag and young, adventurous hedonistic types have begun making pilgrimages to this former Eastern Bloc city from all over the world.
Thanks to its history as a divided city and the unique role its played in world politics, Berlin has more abandoned places than most metropolises and one of the favoured activities of these intrepid visitors is hunting down the empty structures spread throughout the capital.
From abandoned theme parks to cold war listening stations, it’s easy – and fascinating – to spend a weekend exploring these eerie spots. So if you’re planning a trip to the German capital or already hanging out in the city and on the lookout for something a bit different to do, here’s a quick guide to abandoned Berlin.
Teufelsberg, or Devil’s Mountain, is an imposing manmade hill located in the Grunewald Forest in the west of the city. Made from the rubble of bombed out Berlin, Teufelsberg was built on the site of a never complete Nazi technical college which was so sturdily built the allies found it easier to cover it up than demolish it.
At the very top of Teufelsberg stands an old Cold War listening station built by the NSA in 1963. Abandoned following reunification in the early 1990s, today the listening station is an eerie reminder of a bygone era, slowly disintegrating as the both the elements and visitors take their toll.
The legality of visiting the site has changed a few times over the years and for a while the only way to see inside Teufelsberg was to find a whole in the fence and climb through, however recent years have seen the introduction of organised, and presumably legal, tours.
If you do make the journey through the forest to Teufelsberg and find a way into the structure, be sure to climb to the very top of the tallest dome where you’ll be treated to some incredible acoustics and an unbeatable view over the landscape
Old Iraqi Embassy, Pankow
Following rumours of weapons stockpiles, the harbouring of secret agents and the protection of terrorists, the staff of the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin were finally given their marching orders and expelled from the country at the outbreak of the First Gulf War in 1991
Since then, the building, located in Berlin’s Pankow district, has stood empty save for a few adventurous explorers, the odd music video and the occasional all night rave.
Though entering the property is illegal, many people simply jump the fence or walk in through the occasionally open front gate
Though the halls, bedrooms and offices of the former embassy have been badly damaged by vandals over the years and many of the most interesting artefacts have long since vanished, the embassy still had a distinctive atmosphere and, with books strewn across floors and TVs, typewriters and desks still in place, it’s easy to see the former occupants left in a hurry.
At one point the only theme park in East Germany, Spreepark shut its doors for good in 2002 and is now one of the creepiest and most photogenic abandoned places in Berlin.
Located in Berlin’s Treptow district on the banks of the River Spree, access to Spreepark is sporadic with only occasional tours operating throughout the year. Many visitors to the park take entry into their own hands, jumping the fence or crawling below one of the damaged gateways (though we should point out this is not a legal way to get in and could result in you getting escorted off the premises by some burly security guards).
Inside you’ll find the old Ferris wheel, roller coasters (complete with terrifying feline-esque tunnels), swan rides, teacup rides, an old miniature train and some ageing dinosaurs, though many of these structures are quickly becoming more and more damaged as increasing numbers of people pay the park a visit.
After seeing all these abandoned, rotting and slightly eerie sights, it’s easy to think all Berlin is doom and gloom. However, right in the centre of town you’ll find Templehof Airport, one of the city’s biggest success stories.
Formerly the main airport of West Berlin, Templehof played a crucial role during the Berlin Airlift, connecting the city to vital supplies from the outside world.
Closed in 2008, for a few years the iconic building and huge runways stood empty. Though many plans were mooted (including building a mountain on the site) eventually the city planners chose to turn Templehof into a park.
Today, the former runways are used by cyclists, kiteboarder and roller bladers while the grassy areas around the tarmac are a favourite BBQ spot for local Berliners. The airfield is also home to a fantastic community garden as well as a baseball pitch, basketball court and a couple of typically Berlin ping pong tables.