Today, I would like to introduce you to the mountainous aspects of Berlin. Downtown there are of course some quite higher tops like Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg which make me thinking of the funny film dealing about an English man who climbed on a hill and came down a mountain (that’s also the film’s title).

Postcard with view from Kreuzberg in 1866

But the nearest and more well-known and highest elevation of Berlin is Teufelsberg / Devil’s Mountain in the huge municipal forest Grunewald and just 2 km distant from my home – even with rising sea levels a safe place due to an actual height of unbelievable 120.1 m, a location which also offers an interesting and surprising history.

Deceptive idyll on Teufelsberg in June 2018

Being geologically one of the youngest mountains worldwide, the 50th birthday of the location has just passed by, a critical age where a lot may change usually in the course of times as the following pictures of the site do clearly suggest.

Today Teufelsberg a center of urban art, the very last mutation of a bizarre place.

But let’s see what happened before here. At the end of WW II you would simply find a flat forest and the bombed rests of a big building formerly used by the German Wehrmacht as a military academy. This place was lying in the British sector of (West)-Berlin where no German army was allowed till the early 1990s when the special status of the city ended with the German unification. So nobody had any use for these military ruins left by the Nazis.

Ruins of Wehrtechnische Fakultät at Teufelsseechaussee

Vast areas of the town were also destroyed as a result of WW II, so this was declared as a place where all the debris and rubble of smashed houses would be brought till the late 1960s, in total 26 million cubic meters of waste material piled up to a new mountain getting the name Teufelsberg  because the site is lying at the road Teufelsseechausee leading finally to natural lake Teufelssee.

A truck transporting rubble to Teufelsberg, December 1951

Nature took quickly control of this dump, so today the mountain is covered by a wild nature and secondary forest. And the people of West-Berlin used the new mountain also for leisure like  snow sports as it was difficult to go elsewhere for quite long time due to the Wall of Berlin surrounding them till 1989.

Ski lift on Teufelsberg (120.1 m), Winter 1961

Down the mountain’s not too long slope, December 1981

But the mountain has also been the last listening post of the Cold War. In the years 1968 the American army seized the complete top area of the mountain and erected till 1969 a radar and monitoring station for intelligence purposes such as controlling telephone conversations in the former German Democratic Republic. The secret name of these constructing and supervising ambitions was Project Filman. The last and fifth tower was built and finalized in 1989 shortly before the political transitions and opening of the Wall of Berlin. With the unificiation of Germany this complex was no longer required, the American army left the place in 1991 changing the area to a mere ghost town.

Teufelsberg radar and monitoring station by US-army in the 1980s

Path around the complex through the secondary forest, June 2018

Pioneer plants conquered the place in the time being which grew in the cracks of the asphalt and even settled on roofs. Undemanding plants such as the evening primrose, the stonecrop or the elder have laid the groundwork that it is today very green on top of the Teufelsberg. The complex was sold to an investor who planned a hotel and luxury appartments on the mountain. But after getting many millions of loan for the project from the banks, he was never seen again in the city. Some years ago this area has also been declared as forestrial land making impossible such luxury projects in the future. 

One of the decaying radiation domes, August 2019

Colorful wildness of the ruins, August 2019

The abandoned and still militarywise fenced place attracted of course the urban art and graffiti community. So in the ruins you find today a vast diversity of amazing colorant works of any kind. The domes can no longer be visited due to their bad conditions, but the unique complex is huge and can be visited against payment of an entrance fee. Meanwhile another change, the city awarded this wild site the relevant status of a real protected monument. So history can be just fabulous sometimes!


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  1. What an interesting read (und bilder)! In the Ruhrgebiet, in Belgium and the south of the Netherlands they got this artificial ‘mountains’ made off the debris of coal mining. The Teufelsberg has a somewhat less peaceful origin. High for me time to visit Berlin and the surroudings again.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I can’t change the violent history, but most important that this is today a very special place of creative peace and wild nature right in a ontemporary metropole. When you walk thru the forest covering the steep Teufelsberg, you just enter a meditative tranquility. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. The special history has created many of such abandoned places in the town, but the number is anyhow decreasing. The future of this particular place not clear, there are some complicated legal issues to be resolved. May be a museum will be established here in the midterm future?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Your pictures stunning, and yet it’s the history you have given us that touches me. I visited Berlin as a child in 1970’s. So hard to understand everything at 10. I returned a couple years after the wall came down and just weeped to be at Brandenberg Gate. I love that you have brought us this piece of Berlin. Its a great city and to know this creative meditative oasis is there is fantastic. Great post. You should send this to your local newspaper or visitor center. 🤗

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Even when being 21 or older, the situation from 1961-1989 was a bit weird here in Berlin indeed. But from a certain point the Wall of Berlin was just quite “normal” for me while I had come to West-Berlin in 1978. Nobody would have expected what then happened in late 1989 which seemed to be somehow irreal and unbelievable in the beginning. Now, this special place of Teufelsberg really quite well-known and also popular. I had fun surfing thru history which sometimes delivers also a happy end. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences here! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this fascinating and thorough account. I was an exchange student in Giessen from ’71 to ’73 and spent a week in Berlin, the wall was only one decade old. Taking the S-Bahn over the wall, witnessing the dead zone with its layers of tank barriers, barbed wire, dogs… The soldiers in East Berlin still marched the goose step, visiting the department store, passing by displays of Trabis and Russian cars. Went back in 2013 and took the same S-Bahn four decades later to find a *slightly different* landscape. Yet, Berlin is always old and it is always new.
    Thanks again for the tale of Teufelsberg. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The division of Berlin is still a wound but the healing process ongoing continuously. So Berlin is on the trail to a normal capital like other towns but this will take more time, may be decades. For instance great parts of former infrastructure (railways and suburban train system) and also closed factories in the Eastern part are still just a deadzone like this site on top of Teufelsberg. Thank you very much, I really appreciated your comment. Cheers @ Ulli

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This story is one of hope for mankind that out of hate and war, something good may come. A very heartening story and one not many people outside Germany will know, so thank you for that.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, I am sure not even all people here in Berlin know the story in this detail! What I have not mentioned in the post, there was even a vineyard in the 1960s and early 1970s. Can’t say anything regarding the quality. So people were really always quite busy and creative at this special place built on and out of ruins.


  5. This was so interesting. I recently heard a radio program about the “rubble” woman – who moved areas on rubble in the Tiergarten area. Now I see a truck loaded with some of that rubble. I did wonder what happened to it. I had not heard of the domed facility, even though studying quite a bit on the goings on in the Cold War era made me not that surprised. I transited through Berlin once, and unexpectedly loved it so much that I went back some 5 years later. I love the palpable sense of history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your interest and comment. In fact there are two huge rubble “mountains” at this location, but only this one more wellknown due to its use in the Cold War, etc. pp. Rubble is only visible today rarely because all is covered by wild green and a thick secondary forest (not manmade). From the top you have also a nice view to the city or to the greens stretching till the horizon in the West (still part of the city). I am really very happy that military has left this place, hopefully this peace will continue!


    1. You are welcome 🙂 But please be informed that this place lying in the greens, so a little walk required (without bicycle or car) as the next bus stop or suburban train station in around 2 km distance. 👣 But it is worth a visit indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

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