Berlin has become something of a Mecca for urban explorers (urbex-ers). Its rich historical past has thrown up a slew of abandoned spaces – from factories to funparks, breweries to power stations – to the point where it can be difficult to decide where to explore first.
Thankfully one of our favourite websites, Abandoned Berlin, has done the hard work for us. Not only has its author, the Irish Berliner, been way beyond the usual abandoned places, he also gives detailed instructions on how to get in and comprehensive histories of each building. Each place has been given a difficulty rating, meaning there’s something for every level of exploration expertise.
We threw a few questions at the site’s author and selected ten compellingly derelict spots (below) from his website…
LH: When and why did you start AB?
AB: It started in 2009, when I finally plucked up enough courage to hop the fence and enter Spreepark. Some friends had told me about this old abandoned fairground rotting away in a forest beside the river and I simply couldn’t believe it. I had to see it for myself, but chickened out on a few occasions before finally gathering myself to go over. It was amazing, incredible. I was so impressed by the experience that I had to find out more. So I researched the story behind it and wrote up a little guide so others could discover it too. Then someone told me about Teufelsberg, someone else about Krampnitz, then the Iraqi embassy, and before long I had a few abandoned places on my own personal blog. That’s when I decided to lump them all together on their own site. The main driving factor behind it was to share these places with others who might not have known they were there.
LH: What was your main inspiration/s in terms of starting the site?
I’m inspired by the stories behind these places, their histories. It fascinates me how a building – and some of these ones are architectural beauties – can be just left there, rotting in a forest or wherever. Some of these sites are places that people want to forget. So my main purpose is to document the places before they’re gone. Through pictures of their current state, and stories from their past, their “previous lives” when they weren’t shunned by society. I like to tell their tales. They always have tragic endings.
LH: Were you an Urbexer before berlin?
AB: I’m not sure I’d call myself an “urbexer” now. I’m nosy, and interested in history. That’s why these places are so fascinating for me, especially in Berlin, due to its unique, fucked-up history. Of course I get a thrill from snooping where I’m not supposed to be, from dodging security and watching out for nosy neighbours. When I was a kid in Ireland we used to rummage around old derelict houses and run through people’s gardens, so I guess that part of me was always there.
LH: What makes Berlin so exciting for this kind of exploration?
AB: Its history, as I touched on before – the morbid fascination of its dark past. So much has happened here that is stranger than fiction, there’s hardly any time to go back over it all. The city is a treasure trove. Sure, it’s diminishing as development takes hold but even that is cursed to end in ruin. Look at the ongoing Berlin airport saga. I look forward to documenting that some day.
LH: How do you choose or find the spots you cover?
AB: I get a lot of tips now from considerate readers and people who are curious about abandoned buildings they’ve seen while out and about. To be honest, I’ve more tips than I can handle. I’ve a long list of places still to explore and document.
LH: What’s one of your fave places and why?
AB: Spreepark was one of my favorites, I guess the “first love,” but there are others too of course. Vogelsang has a certain fascination for me – a lost city in the middle of nowhere – while Heilstätten Hohenlychen was stunningly beautiful. Buzludzha in Bulgaria was my most exotic adventure, one of the most unforgettable.
LH: Don’t you ever worry about getting caught?
AB: Sure, you worry about it, all the time in fact. But what do you do? Worry and see things or stay home worry free?
LH: One bit of advice for newbie urbexers?
AB: Don’t worry, ha ha! No seriously, just be careful. That dodgy looking ceiling is not deceiving you, and stairs that give way after one step should not be pursued.
LH: Any future plans for the site or exploring in general?
AB: The plan is to keep visiting, snapping and writing about these places before they’re gone. Once I’ve run out of places, if I run out of places, I’ll come up with a new plan.
Rapunzel’s Stasi castle: Schloß Dammsmühle
There’s a sting in this fairytale but let’s start at the beginning, when but a humble mill occupied this picturesque site in the 16th century. A hunting lodge was built here in 1650, though it wasn’t until Berlin leather manufacturer Peter Friedrich Damm bought the land from Andreas Grüwel in 1755, nine years after another watermill was built, that the story began to take shape…READ MORE
Haunted by history: The ghosts of Beelitz-Heilstätten
Beelitz is where Hitler and Honecker were treated for injuries/ailments sustained in World War I and East Germany’s last days, respectively. The huge military hospital complex is abandoned now, shrouded in mystery, haunting, eerie, waiting to see what fate holds for it next…READ MORE
Krampnitz: Nazi and Soviet military complex
Suddenly a bang! Clanking! Creaking from below. What the fuck?! I freeze. Listen. Dare not breathe. It must be a Russian soldier coming up the stairs to reclaim his jacket! A door slams. Carefully, I inch my way back out of the room, back into the hall. I nudge open the offending door across the hall. Creeeeeaaakk!!! I peer in. An empty room. A vodka bottle the sole inhabitant. READ MORE
The spirits of dead clowns had been mocking me long enough. For weeks they had been goading me, taunting me, deriding me for not venturing in. Finally I confronted them, stared down my fears and faced the creepy carnies. Getting over the fence was easier than I thought. Almost as if they had been expecting me. They wanted me to come in. READ MORE
Bunkers for Russian nukes, lost city of Vogelsang
Shadowed by fear, consumed by guilt, somewhere in the contradiction of nowhere lies a forgotten city so secret only darkness and light know it’s there. A whole city without a soul. Curtains flutter nonchalantly through broken windows, backs turned on hollow rooms and impotent corridors, while outside stand giant empty hangers shellshocked and still, doors creaking forlornly, their stash of deadly nuclear missiles long gone and with it their raison d’être. READ MORE
Teufelsberg (Abandoned spy station)
A Cold War relic lies abandoned on top of a mountain made of rubble, built over a Nazi college that couldn’t be destroyed after the end of World War II. The gates of the former US spy station are locked and secure; its perimeter sealed by an uncompromising high fence, an angry crisscross mesh of wires that clearly imply: “Eintritt Verboten!” READ MORE
The Forbidden City: Lenin’s last stand at Wünsdorf-Waldstadt
Lenin is a lonely man. He’s the only one left, gazing forlornly across the overgrown lawn, abandoned by his comrades after they all departed in a hurry on a fateful day in August 1994. Loneliness prevails despite the fact there are two of him. READ MORE
Colossus: The abandoned chemical factory of Rüdersdorf
OK, you’ll have seen the picture already so perhaps the element of surprise was ruined, but still, pretty amazing. It stretched out below me in majestic decadent glory and I just gazed down, mouth probably open, goosebumps on my arms and legs as I surveyed the sheer giganticism of it, the bulk, the improbability, the stillness, like something from another world. READ MORE
Olympic effort for an abandoned village
Almost too knackered by the time I got there to do any exploration at all. Cycled over 40km from Friedrichshain to Elstal, wind against me all the way, efforts compounded by several unforeseen diversions due to the slightly optimistic tactic of simply pointing the bike west. “Who needs maps anyway?” I won’t be doing that again. And then I still faced the prospect of cycling back! Jaysus, I was wrecked. READ MORE
Party at Saddam’s house (The abandoned Iraqi embassy)
Papers are strewn everywhere, files, important documents, letters, photos, names, addresses; mountains of them ripped from folders and filing cabinets and just scattered around. Chairs are overturned, sofas gutted, desks ravaged, walls blackened, shards of glass lie on the floor. Dirty curtains billow in the nonchalant breeze through broken windows. READ MORE
The Abandoned Berlin book is out now and can be purchased through the website’s online shop.