The spying globes on Teufelsberg are the not-so-secret insider tip for Berlin’s urban ruins and interesting freak show architecture. Even if you’re reluctant, one thing’s for sure: the “Devil’s Mountain” is just plain awesome. The torn-up globe structures of the former military territory are just waiting to be conquered by lomographers… so what are you waiting for?
Teufelsberg is the dump site of around 15,000 rundown houses that were bombed during World War II. Well, the debris had to go somewhere, and the location in Charlottenburg seemed fitting: it was there that Hitler planned his Defense Department. It turned out that the rubble of history was to pile up over the land in the end. In total, 26 million cubic meters of debris were dumped in the area in 1972.
From the ’50s up until 1991, the Americans and Brits used Teufelsberg as a communications intercept station in West Berlin for air transport security to spy on relevant places within the territory of the Warsaw Pact. Of course, the field station globes weren’t all too secret, but were possibly to rather pose as a sign of strength during the Cold War.
After the withdrawal of the Allies, the land made its way back into the possession of Berlin, which first sold the 4.7 hectare area to a Cologne real estate firm for about 3.5 million DM. They wanted to build a hotel and spy museum at the location. But between resistance from the German people and staggering building costs, the company went broke. Between 2005 and 2012, the future of the land was uncertain, but that didn’t stop people from discovering the intriguing ruins and exploring the area. Many residents wish to see the land bought back from the senate and let develop into a forest. Nope, not gonna happen. The mortgage on the land is currently at about €33 million!
A year ago I, visited Teufelsberg. I was inspired by the amazing portraits by @andrejrusskovskij and wanted to take @kathepalacio back with me to the area. In the end, it was kind of a random trip without much planning. I had no idea what I was doing. As we arrived at the mountain, we tried to find a way to get onto the land, but the former military territory was fenced off multiple times. Fail! But we had a little kite with us at least, which Kathe sent off to the sky with great pleasure. Given that it’s the second highest elevation in Berlin, Teufelsberg is a well-loved kite flying area. Paragliders and mountain bikers also seem to take a great liking to the mountain.
Since 2011, daily tours of Teufelsberg have been available from 12 to 2 p.m. and then from 4 p.m. until sunset. Of course, I was thrilled when @lomodirk spontaneously asked if I’d be interested in going. You can book either a historical intensive tour or a photo tour for €7 an hour. Just show up at the designated times at the gate with your money and you’re good to go. You should show up on time as the tours can be pretty full when the weather is nice. Of course, jumping the fence and exploring the land in solitude also has its own kind of charm. But that’s for each to decide for themselves – legality is a fluid term, anyways.
To get to Teufelsberg, take the tram or subway to Olympiastadion and walk in the direction of Teufelsseechaussee. As soon as you’re facing the mountain, it becomes sort of a scavenger hunt. But if you aim for the highest point and the globes, you can’t miss it. But you can’t show up at the last minute – leave enough time for the long search. You could also choose to start at Grunewald. There are enough parking spaces if you want to go by car.
Find out more about the tours here.
Teufelsberg isn’t that far from the Olympic Stadium, so I would recommend pairing your visit with a Hertha football match, the local Berlin team. That’s how I chose to do it. If you’re already going to the middle of nowhere, you can try to get the most out of it.