Originally published 24 December, 2016
At the base of one of the domes, at the formerly top secret Teufelsberg!
We've had trouble getting out of here in the morning.....we haven't fully adjusted to the time change but we're doing okay. It doesn't help that it doesn't get fully light until around 9 am. Things also are open way late.....Berlin is a city that stays up late. We got in bed around 1 am last night and coupled with the fact that we're still adjusting to the time, and that everything in the city seemed to be open, we slept late.
We woke up this morning, made our breakfast (ham sandwiches with cream cheese on fresh bread), ate, and hit the road. Our destination today was in the "suburbs" of Berlin, about a 30 minute train ride from where we were staying. We took the S Bahn (surface train) to a stop west of town and headed towards a place called Teufelsburg.
The literal translation of Teufelsberg is "devil's mountain" or "devil's castle"....like I said, my German is rough. It is a literal mountain made of the rubble from Berlin after the bombings of World War two, millions upon millions of cubic yards. It is the size of a small town and one of the tallest places in Berlin, if not the tallest. The mountain (technically a hill) is built on the site of a technical school built by the Nazis. Turns out it was so well built it was easier to bury than to tear down.
The structure was actually clad with special panels to deal with radiowaves and such. The materials are gone, but the frames that held the panels remain.
When West Berlin was cut off and surrounded by East Germany, the allies had listening trucks that roamed about eavesdropping on the East Germans and the Russians. They found that the best reception was on top of the rubble pile, the tallest point in the city (at that time at least). They eventually quit using the trucks and built a sophisticated listening and tracking facility on the mountain.
The facility consisted of multiple domes, housing special antennas for tracking and listening. It was decommissioned at some point after the wall fell. It's no fun to have a listening post and nobody to listen to.
We exited the train station and headed off on foot into a nature preserve. We walk what is probably a couple of miles down a road then through the woods on a paved trail. We eventually run into the fence line and are trying to figure out where to enter at. We end up talking to a family and find they are from Minnesota and the daughter in the group is a student in Berlin. We all wind up wandering the facility together.
When you enter the gate, you pay a guy 7 euros and sign a waiver of dubious legality. After that, you're free to roam. The story I've heard is that it was bought by developers, then the crash came and they had borrowed more than it was worth. At present, it is inhabited by a bunch of artists who are using the entire facility as their canvas.
Laurie climbs one of the stairs inside the towers
They are working with recycled materials scavenged on site, spray paint, things they find, all matters of stuff. Graffiti is big here and a lot of the art is that. We wander through and find wall after wall of huge artworks, and a view of Berlin that can't be beat. One does have to be careful as there are places you could fall many stories to the ground. We wind up climbing all the way up the tower to the top.
It feels rather odd to be in a place that not too long ago was so secret and so well guarded. Now it is just a hull, stripped of all that made it worth such secrecy and protection. All that's left is the box it came in.
We eventually wander back down and walk off the mountain to the entry road. We walk back to town and we all catch the train. We bid our new friends goodbye and head to the east side gallery, a section of the wall that was left and is an open air street art exhibit.
We walk the wall, and it's not that big a deal to me....but Laurie really likes it. After that we pick up a train back to our area of Berlin and have dinner with the boys at the Rosenthaller Grille! It's Christmas eve here and there are quite a few places that aren't open. I don't think these guys ever sleep, much less go home. Dinner was wonderful as always, and now we're back at the hotel in the bar having a drink.
It's been an interesting day with a LOT of walking...my guess is at least 7 miles. At least I'm walking off all that great food I shouldn't be eating!
Below is Laurie's take on things.....Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah (yep...it starts tonight) everyone! More from us tomorrow. Goodnight all!
There were multiple domes covering the top of the hill
The Spy Domes, as they are called in English, were eerie as abandoned sites usually are. Aided by the grey and drizzly weather, the site had an energy that was both compelling and repulsing. The art that covers nearly every vertical space was raw and emotional, vibrant and uncompromising in its message and visual appeal.
Nobody lives there during the winter but the space inside the dome is used in the summer for movies and events. The young man who was heating up some gluhwein for visitors said he hangs his hammock in the dome structure and greets the sunrise over Berlin in the mornings when he stays there to work on projects. I could picture the place alive with people during the summer months, but in winter it was dormant.
After this we went to the East Side gallery. Had we been there first I would have been much more impressed. It was cool, though, and another testament to the sentiment of so many to end war and fascism on the planet. I hope they can continue the project, it is much more accessible than where we went this morning.
It was great fun talking with the family from Minnesota. The kids were all doing their own things as they were on the road to becoming adults. Mom was interesting too and when her kids get a little more mature, they will appreciate more what a cool person mom is. But they seemed to genuinely be a close knit group with the ability to befriend others. I have had some interesting conversations with a number of people on this trip. Because people to people contact is what its all about.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and may everyone find a way to be joyful this season in spite of, or because of their circumstances.
Berlin Slide show day three
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