For a city filled with neighbourhoods named after hills, Berlin is a flat place. It is great to walk and cycle but it might be a little boring from time to time. Maybe for that reason , some postwar authorities decided to build Teufelsberg, one of the highest mountains in Berlin.
Teufelsberg, german for Devil’s Mountain, is a man-made hill in the middle of the Grunewald forest. It stands about 80 meters above the city and it got its name after the Teufelsee, a lake close by.
When you think about the fact that Teufelsberg is a Cold War relic standing abandoned on top of a mountain of rubble that was built on top of a Nazi college that was too hard to destroy after the Second World War, you feel like you need to visit the place. But, I never did go there.
I like everything about Teufelsberg and I still have no plans of going there. You may be asking yourself why and I’m here to tell you.
For many years, after the end of the Cold War, Teufelsberg was a paradise for urban exploration and street art. I still remember seeing pictures from this man-made hill when I was still living in Brazil, but everything changed after I moved to Berlin and started researching about the place and the city.
It was back then that I found out about the amazing Abandoned Berlin. It was also there that I read the stories about physical abuse and harassment. Go for the comment section, it’s filled with weird stories.
It all started to become something I didn’t believe in when Hartmut Gruhl, the Cologne-based architect whose company owns Teufelsberg, leased the area to Shalmon Abraham and Berlin Sight Out. They do “tours” of the place and keep it clean. But, in reality, they ask you to pay to enter the place and that is it.
You are paying a fee to not be harassed by them and walk around the place. The tour guide says nothing to you about Teufelsberg’s history unless you ask. In a way, it feels like urban exploration for dummies and I don’t like that.
Again, it feels like everything that made Berlin a cool place to visit and to live in is being overpowered by people with money. You can see this happening in Kreuzberg, on Warschauer Straße and everywhere else that seemed to be cool somehow.
If I pay a fee to enter an abandoned place, I would expect this money to be used to keep the place in shape or to improve what is there and I don’t see this in Teufelsberg. Everything that I read about this place points into the direction of the money some people are making while they explore a place that could be so much more than what it is now.
Teufelsberg has a history closely related to what happened in Berlin after the Second World War. Since most of Berlin was in ruins after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the streets and the buildings needed to be cleaned and the debris needed to go somewhere. In the early days, they were deposited outside the city boundaries but everything changed during the Berlin Blockade.
Since West Berlin didn’t have the fuel to bring the debris far from the city, they started dumping it on the city boundaries. One of those places was Dörferblick in Neukölln, another place was Teufelsberg.
One of the things that makes Teufelsberg quite unique is the fact that there is something buried underneath it. Designed by Albert Speer, the Wehrtechnische Fakultät, should have been the place to teach the new military elite of Germany, but history wasn’t on their side.
After the war, the Allies tried to use explosives to demolish the building but they realised that it would be easier to just cover the place with the debris of a destroyed Berlin. From June 1950 to 1972, the rubble and debris from 400,000 buildings were dumped there and ended up creating Teufelsberg.
In February 1955, Heini Klopfer designed a ski jump on the hill and an even larger one opened there a few years later in 1962. While there was still some debris being dumped onto the hill, you could see ski jumping happening there. Everything was over by 1969 at the request of the US Government and the jumps were removed in 1999.
Teufelsberg Listening Station: Field Station Berlin
The buildings on Teufelsberg have a lot of history as well. It was there that the NSA built one of its largest listening stations, rumoured to be a part of the global ECHELON intelligence gathering network. The listening station had unobstructed reception of signals from all directions and enjoyed the excellent reception in most radio bands. This made Teufelsberg a great place for listening to Soviet, East German, and other Warsaw Pact nations military traffic.
Have you ever been to Teufelsberg? If you have and want your pic featured here, tag it with #fotostrasse! We will pick our favorite and repostit here on instagram
“Have you ever been to Teufelsberg? If you had and want your pic featured here, tag it with #fotostrasse! We will pick our favorite and reposted here on…”
After German Reunification and the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Teufelsberg was emptied and there are rumours that a group of investors bought the listening station with the intention to build hotels and apartments. There are even some weird rumours that point out to a Yoga School planned by David Lynch. But, today, there is nothing there besides some security guys asking you to pay to walk around.
Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Teufelsberg became one of the most popular areas of Berlin to watch the sunset. The view from this hill is unbeatable, but I don’t have any plans to see the sunset from there. Unless the security guys go away or I finally read any plan to preserve this historical place overlooking Berlin.
Until then, the pictures I have here are from when Marcela went there together with Visit Berlin. Maybe one day, I can update this article with my own pictures. Who knows?
Teufelsberg, The Devil’s Mountain
We already mentioned Teufelsberg here before and you might need to go there to see the great video from NY Times on the place.
If you are looking to do Urban Exploration, Teufelsberg is not the place for you but we have some tips for you.