Devil's In The Details – Teufelsberg Berlin
While in Berlin recently I took a trip to Teufelsberg (Devil's Mountain). It didn't seem to be on any of the standard 'Top 20 things to do in Berlin' lists but I wanted to do something slightly off the tourist trail, & this seemed like a relatively lazy way to do it.
Teufelsberg itself is West of Berlin, only about 40 mins on the S-Bahn from Ostbahnhof and a walk of around 30 minutes to reach the summit.
Standing at 120 metres tall it's a manmade mountain & the highest point of the city, but it didn't exist till after 1945.
Trucks moved what was left of the devastated city to the site near Heerstraße & over the subsequent years the mound of rubble got higher & higher until it gave a clean line of site into the Russian sector.
I say manmade but the remains of buildings in Berlin were broken down & loaded onto trucks, mostly by the local Trümmerfrau (rubble women) who were ordered by the Allies to help with the clean-up in exchange for meager wages & food stamps. The entire process of clearing the rubble from the city took 22 years.
As the Cold War escalated & tensions heightened the Americans recognised the strategic value of the artificial hill. Antennas & radomes (a dome which protects & enhances radar equipment) were erected on its hilltops for intercepting communications & the facility become known as 'Field Station Berlin', & although it was actually in the British sector became the centre for the US National Security Agency's electronic espionage as well as being part of the until recently disavowed Echelon spying network.
With the fall of The Berlin wall on November 9, 1989 the station essentially became obsolete & by 1992 the equipment was removed & the site was abandoned. It came back into use for a short time for civilian air traffic control until the site was sold to developers. Their plans however came to nothing & various other solutions were mooted, including an attempt by director David Lynch to buy it.
When I visited it was in its latest phase which is mainly a decaying curiosity, costing €5 to gain entry to the well-fenced off site which now has bars & food. Though the feeling when you get in is more that of a squat party that's in it's 5th day than a museum of any kind.
The main towers are currently closed for safety reasons, although I did hop the fence & get up on to the top floor but the entrances are all blocked off now.
I can imagine exploring this site previously would have been exciting, & a little dangerous. As the site continues to decay a safer commercial solution is probably needed at some point in the near future as corrosion will necessitate the site being torn down.
Despite my fascination with the cold war & that this rare visual reminder of a crazy world not so long ago there's a huge feeling of sadness too – when walking back down the mountain. There's the beautiful view of the current Berlin but with house bricks & roof tiles clearly visible in the sand & mud that covers the rubble I become aware that I was literally standing on the remains of the darkest time in the city's unique history.