Teufelsberg (German for Devil’s mountain) is an artificial hill in Berlin, Germany. And just like the meaning of its name, there is something dark and mysterious about this mountain…
It rises approximately 80 meters above the surrounding Brandenburg plain – the north of Berlin’s Grunewald Forest. It was named after the Teufelssee (i.e. Devil’s lake) in its southerly vicinity.
The Teufelsberg was created shortly after World War II, by heaping the remains of the rubble left after the damage of the war (all 75,000,000 m3 of it!) And while this sounds amazing in itself, it is surprisingly not particularly unique, as there are several other man-made mounds across Germany and other parts of Eastern Europe.
However, what makes Teufelsberg unique, is that also buried underneath, is the remains of the never completed Nazi military-technical college (Wehrtechnische Fakultät) designed by Albert Speer (Hitler’s chief architect and also known as ‘the Nazi who said sorry’ after admitting responsibility at the Nuremberg Trials). The Allies tried in vain to demolish the school using explosives, but it was so sturdy that covering it with debris turned out to be the easier option. Teufelsberg has also been used as a ski slope designed by architect Heini Klopfer.
I heard about The Teufelsberg Listening Station after watching an interview with an electronic music artist from Berlin called Pantha Du Prince talk about the intense acoustics inside the main tower, and after doing some research, found that it is relatively easy to get to. So on our first day in Berlin, with blissful weather and a tummy full of currywurst, we set off to Teufelsberg!
Meandering through the beautiful Grunewald forest, the four of us stopped in amazement at the numerous signs warning of wild boar that freely roam the area and the amount of brightly coloured blue beetles that seemingly littered the forest floor. After coming to a clearing in the forest, high up in the distance we could see the dome of one of the listening towers, stark white in colour, contrasting with the various greens of the forest. Man and nature as one.
After arriving at the top of Devil’s Mountain, the Teufelsberg Listening Station finally came into full view. Beautiful huge spherical buildings, high in the sky dominated the surrounding landscape and skyline, decorated with abundances of graffiti as far as the eyes could see. We had read, and had been told by people we knew who had visited there, that they had climbed through the fencing in order to gain access to the station (it is private property folks, so technically you are breaking the law, so I do not condone this type of behaviour *wink wink*). However when we arrived, we found a few other people searching in vain for an entrance or way through as they had all been expertly sealed off!
Myself and a couple of other smaller girls finally managed to squeeze our way through a small gap in the gate, however my boyfriend and the other guys were too big and were left outside. As we all decided that we had come here to experience this place together I didn’t want to leave them so Elsa and I decided we should squeeze back through the small gap to find an alternative entrance. However, no sooner had we been on the other side of the fence, a man appeared from the inside and solemnly told us to leave. Teufelsberg is now home to squatters, and apparently, and I say this with a speculative tone, they are hired by the owners of the Listening Station to guard it.
As the group of us crowded around the entrance, more people from inside emerged, sliding down the slopes on wheeled chairs, walkie-talkies in one hand, cigarettes and beer in the other. We were then told that to access the Listening Station, we all had to each pay 7€. For this price we were to be given a guided tour by the inhabitants of the station, including information about the station’s history, its street art and shown around the towers to the views of the forest and Berlin below. We all decided that this was the only way in, and although it took away part of the excitement of breaking in alone, we were happy to pay.
We were asked to show our identifications, and to write down our e-mail and home addresses (fake of course) – this was apparently because the station is very dangerous in places, with holes in the floors and now weak supports and joists, and if any of us were to injure ourselves or even worse, DIE, we had signed our disclaimers!
You’ve got to love this homage to David Lynch!
Once inside, we were all astounded by how derelict and vandalized the station was. However, an abundance of street art (by some world renowned artists) sprawled across the walls and floors. Inside we saw a community of people, some crowding round a campfire, cooking food and playing guitar, others inside, their worldly belongings consisting of sleeping bags and clothes piled high. We meandered up high into buildings, all decorated with elaborate graffiti and stood inside the listening stations and gazed in awe at the views ahead. The forest below us looked like a carpet of green, with buildings interspersed here and there.
One of the best views of Berlin is from Teufelsberg spy station
At the top of the highest tower, the acoustics in there are otherworldly and alien. Each sound echoes and resonates for what seems like forever. No sound is lost. A whisper sounds like the voice of a ghost, floating effortlessly around the room, a clap sounds like thunder. A man with a guitar began to play and sing and people became silent, hypnotised by the transcendental qualities of its sound. We all knew we were experiencing something incredibly special.