Monday, June 11, 2012

Berlin stag party: urban exploring

(Michael's first guest post!) As promised, here are a few photos from the urban exploring adventure I went on as part of an all-day, somewhat unorthodox bachelor party. Quite the contrast from Kathryn's potluck and clubbing bachelorette experience!

These pictures are from an abandoned sanitorium about an hour outside of Berlin.
The sanitorium is on a huge piece of land and includes several buildings. According to Wikipedia, the grounds include around 60 buildings. We were there for about 4 hours before we got museum fatigue--the overwhelming feeling after too many hours of trying to take in too much. Although we were there most of the afternoon, we only managed to explore the 3 largest, main buildings. (Each one felt as large as a small hospital--all 3 floors and hundreds of rooms.)  
All of the architecture dates back to the early 20th century. Originally the hospital focused on treating patients with tuberculosis. They thought at the time that being surrounded by nature would have salubrious effects. (Besides residing in the middle of the woods, some of this history is still visible today in now decimated garden and bathing areas outside.)

During the 20th century, the history of the hospital complex followed the ebb and flow of German history. During both World Wars it was transformed into a military hospital. (One of its infamous claims to fame among neo-Nazis, apparently, is Hitler's two-month stay in 1916 after being injured in WWI--we read warnings not to visit at night due to the rare risk of encountering neo-Nazis).

Then during the cold war, located in East Germany, the hospital fell into the hands of the Soviets who used it as a military hospital until 1995, even beyond reunification. The place was bought and sold and ultimately abandoned in 2000. 
The level of destruction and decay that these buildings have undergone in the last 12 years is astounding. Although it's not the safest place to explore--hoardes of broken glass everywhere, a few shakey looking structures, and our own paranoia of asbestos in the tunnels--little to nothing is done to keep tourists/explorers away. The fence one sees from the road in front of the building is only for show (one minute in either direction and you can simply walk around it, no climbing involved) and although several doors and windows are boarded off to the buildings themselves, several have been left, or subsequently forced open. In fact, we were surprised at just how many other people were also exploring this abandoned site on such a nice spring day! 

The highlight for us was the tunnel system. After some Indiana Jones style detective work in the first building we came to, we uncovered one tunnel which eventually split into several, until we were in the thick of a complex web of tubes leading from one building to another (although we didn't know that yet). We came prepared with flashlights (see above) but with so much overgrowth outside from the lack of care over the last years, we had no idea where any other buildings were, or if we might reach them, or where the tunnels led, if anywhere at all. So armed with some flashlights and several beers (it was a bachelor party after all :)) we made through the dark maze one tunnel at a time.

Two photos above you'll see one of the first things we saw down there. At the end of one of the first tunnels we turned onto, one which happened to be extremely long and thus which we were sure exited somewhere, we hit this wall where it simply, unexplicably ended. In front of the wall sits nothing but this chair and what looks like a blood stain behind it, approximately where somebody's head would be. We were all 99% sure that it wasn't really blood, just somebody's morbid joke, but the mere idea of it at the end of that dark tunnel managed to turn the atmosphere down there into more of a haunted house for a bit. Fun stuff.

Above a picture of the guys sitting in an auditorium in one of the buildings. Perhaps an old theater or a lecture hall, we couldn't tell. (as well, some of the more creative graffiti we encountered)

Above: one of the many fridges we saw. Not the easiest piece of furniture to move, I guess (not to mention that the models all looked at least 40 years old).

Some more creative graffiti. Along with being warned about neo-Nazis who visit the premises, someone had read about Satanists who visit the grounds as well, for whatever reason. I guess the allure of a decrepid building?
And another fridge!


  1. Tante MargueriteJune 12, 2012 at 7:13 AM

    Unglaublich! was entdeckst du!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Has to be the most unique bachelor party ever! AND, as Kathryn has mentioned about other things on her blog....something NEVER allowed in the US?! Very interesting, Michael...thanks for posting.

  3. Tante MargueriteJune 12, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    Katrine! Heute ist der fünf und zwansig Jahrestag von Rede wenn Präsident Reagan in Westen Berlin vor dem Brandenburg Tor: "Herr Gorbachev, Öffnen Sie diese Tor. Herr Gorbachev! Niederreissen Sie diese Mauer."

    Du kannst die Rede auf "You Tube" zu hören.