“Even stones have a love, a love that seeks the ground.”
“Even stones have a love, a love that seeks the ground.”
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!
A labyrinth means always the dream of getting lost and finding oneself again in the transparent catacombes of life’s varied anticipations.
RAISING THE RIGHT HAND GENTLY AS A WORDLESS SIGN
YOU WILL SURELY KNOW: MAY PEACE BE HERE WITH US
Franz von Suppé, 1800
Especially in spring an irresistible desire for yet another unknown land emerges suddenly at dusk somewhere in the nowhere. Time for a small picture story of Berlin through enigmatic shallows and at multiple urban shores.
Word War II and the later division of Berlin have led to a lot of unused infrastructure, railways, empty factories and abandoned places till today. So there are really many possibilities getting lost in the labyrinth of the town.
The city is changing quickly every day, but the spirit used to be indeed much more rebellious here in former times. Some wild street art reflects these eternal inflammatory ambitions sprouting from undergrounds.
Large urban areas are covered with lakes and endless woods on sandy soil left by glaciers of the last ice age. Here the approaching predatory and brutal gentrification of many city districts does not play any role so far.
The journey is not yet over here – just a short excursion of my homeland today, thanks for reading.
In early June 2019 we spent again some days on the varied and ancient island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea which is connected by two shorter bridges with the German mainland being separated from the island only by the river Peene and huge coastal backwaters.
Anklam Gate in the old Hanseatic City of Usedom
Rural countryside near Mellenthin Castle
Usedom lies in Western-Pomerania (Vorpommern) and on the European Route of Brick Gothic architecture. In German there exists an old lullaby featuring Pomerania and sounding in fact more like a nightmare: “Maikäfer flieg, der Vater ist im Krieg, die Mutter ist im Pommernland, Pommernland ist abgebrannt.” The besetting content most probably goes back to the Seven-Years-War (1756-1763) when the Swedish army devastated great parts of Pomerania. Why this dramatical song is used for making children sleep, likely remains a secret for me.
Abandoned barn near Grüssow
Hiking on the coastal path from Grüssow to Warthe
Today however, the island of Usedom means just a real nice and peaceful place at the wild shores of the Baltic Sea. In hot summers it is usually much cooler than on the mainland. You will find there long white beaches and spas, big forests with inland lakes, dreamy villages, old castles and beautiful natural reserves.
The medieval church of Rankwitz
Wildness at the natural reserve Lieper Winkel
We did some hiking on bikes which allows very well to reach the remote and original sites of this island. Some of these amazing and stunning places are featured here on a few photos which require to return sometime in the very future.
Ancient blue fisher house with a thatched roof at Warthe
Bathing area of Dewichow with view on the backwaters