The Scars of the Past
The idea about visiting an abandoned US spy station in Berlin was in my head for a long time. Finally in January, on a first day of the New Year, I had a chance to take a trip up the Devil’s Mountain, the Teufelsberg. Exploring the remains of that interesting Cold War’s relic was a slightly chilling, very exciting and even more memorable experience. What a way to start 2015!
Surrounded by the Grunewald Forest, Teufelsberg is a popular area to drop by during the weekend. It has its genesis in turbulent history of the 20th century though. The name of the hill is taken from the nearby Devil’s Lake and it was made out of the war rubble. There is also the never completed Nazi military-technical college buried underneath it. A layer on top of another layer of the past.
Listening Towards the East on Teufelsberg
With the Cold War’s tensions rising, the US National Security Agency built one of its largest listening stations atop the Teufelsberg. Construction of a permanent facility began in 1963 since keeping a finger on a pulse and an ear out for any communications coming from the Soviet bloc was absolutely crucial for the US government. The listening station known among the American soldiers as “The Hill” simply became a part of a landscape.
Although it stopped its operations after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the buildings and radar domes became the legacy of that spying era, leaving yet another mark on the hill. Since the 90s without any developments the station started to deteriorate.
Urban Art and Public Tours
It is possible to legally visit the site as it is now in private hands. I joined a guided walk that took approximately one hour offering access to a number of buildings and letting all members of the group walk around the radar domes. Finishing the tour in the radome at the tower was incredible. The acoustics sent some chills down my spine!
Teufelsberg can be seen as a bit of an alternative gallery since it has a high number of graffiti and urban art pieces on its premises and inside the buildings. Some simple and even simplistic, others very elaborate and thought-provoking. I really enjoyed the work of KEN aka Plotbot, who is famous for his dark nuclear graphic and post industrial atmosphere. I also liked a photorealistic piece by a talented American artist duo JBAK, James Bullough and Addison Karl.
How to Get There
S-Bahn Station Grunewald – A walk to the hill takes around 30 minutes.
All tours and guided walks start at the gate of the former US spying station. You can find out more about the timings and prices on the website.