Teufelsberg Berlin

Teufelsberg BerlinPhoto: Michelle O’Brien | http://michelleobrien.net

When traveling to Germany, the quintessential Berlin checklist includes must-sees like the Brandenburger Tor, TV Tower and the Berlin Wall, but those who are interested in something more than hopping on-and-off a bus or navigating a public transport system can definitely indulge in another type of urban attraction. When in Berlin, one can visit abandoned places, and Teufelsberg Berlin is just the example.

Teufelsberg,  German for the “devil’s mountain” and named after the nearby “devil’s lake”  Teufelsee, is located in West Berlin and was once home to NSA Field Station Berlin Teufelsberg. Interestingly, the Americans who owned it were just guests at the highest elevation in West Berlin, which technically belonged to the British. There, they enjoyed unobstructed views and excellent reception from all directions, allowing them to detect the most elusive of radio bands, making the listening post one of the best during the Cold War.

At 114.7 metres, Teufelsberg Berlin became the highest point of the city, a title ironically awarded to an artificial hill made of rubble from roughly 400,000 buildings during WWII.  Once a Nazi military education institution, then a dumping ground during reconstruction, then home to the American listening station, whose five radar domes can still be seen today, Teufelsberg has had quite a history and a colorful present. Since the fall of the wall, it has been a preferred mini-getaway for Berliners to hike, skate, enjoy a picnic, or simply escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Albeit gutted and covered in graffiti, Teufelsberg Berlin has also emerged as a popular alternative tourist spot where breathtaking vistas of the city can be seen. Word of warning: getting there is not so straightforward, with opportunistic locals charging money from unknowing tourists. News is that Cologne-based investors who are Teufelberg’s real owners have entrusted “security” of the property to some Berlin locals. For now, we can’t really say how much the “entrance” fee is, as it is as ambiguous as the information it once intercepted during its Cold War days.

*Thanks to Martin who commented below: There’s a guided tour of Teufelsberg that extends beyond what is mentioned above – a group of historians, artists, and interested people conducting tours in Czech, English and German. Unlike going on a “tour” without commentary with the aforementioned Berlin locals (for seven euros, it seems), Martin and his colleagues have done their research on the hill’s history, conduct tours the proper way, and are active in the preservation the Cold War relic.

When up for something different, a visit to Teufelsberg is only one of the many things to do in Berlin. Teufelsberg Berlin guarantees a unique adventure. Located in Grünewald which is easily accessible via the S-Bahn, follow the unmissable, unmistakable radar domes once you’re there.

2 thoughts on “Teufelsberg Berlin

  1. hi germany travellers!
    as a member of “initiative teufelsberg”, a group of artists, historians and interested people in t-berg, I find it very sad that – especially in english-laguage blogs – one finds the story of “opportunistic locals ripping off tourists” very frequently.

    i myself am a historian, doing very profund tours with a duration of 2 hours on weekends through the field station (as other well informed guides such as a former american soldier who served on t-berg). i spent/d a lot of (not paid) time in libraries and archives doing research for the tour and developing a photo exhibition to be shown during the tours. during those long tours, every aspect of the hill’s history, present and future will be explained to the visitors. this tour costs 15 euro (8 reduced).

    the other possibility is to do a guided tour on weekdays without comment (1h, 7eur).

    why only guided visits? its a dangerous site, authorities obliged us “no public, only guided tours”!
    why does it cost? we whant to keep what’s left of the FSB and to make it safe, so that we might be able to satisfy the authorities (“bauamt”) and can open it to the public in future. that means reducing vandalism. that means keeping the fence closed. we have already expirienced destruction of recently renovated structures. that means expenses we have to pay.
    we didn’t choose this, but it simply is officialy forbidden to the public to enter the site. only legal possibility is doing the tours. so we make it possible to see it, rather than blocking the public of. but: telling people “go through the fence!”, as you do, means to inivite them to commit a “breach of domestic peace” which legally is a criminal act, as the invitation is.
    be quite sure: noone gets “rich” by working for the place! and most important: there is absolutely nothing “dubious” or “ambiguous” about this, noone gets ripped off! we are nice, friendly people doing a good thing! you can get all informations on berlinsightout.de. you can even join in and do what you are able to do for the future of this unique historic monument!

    again, it is very sad, that my commitment – and that of many others – to the place and our work on keeping the place itself and its history in the minds of the people is dismissed in a way you do it in your article.
    grettings from the hill,

    • Hey Martin,

      Thanks for the really insightful comment. When I was doing research for the blog article (arguably not as extensive as yours), I only read about the general status quo of Teufelsberg – that certain “Berlin locals” are often seeming to be more authoritative than they actually are, and are now charging money for tours. I never condoned jumping the fence in the article; I mentioned that it was not straightforward because I couldn’t accurrately quote the fees to officially enter.

      With this said, it was unbeknownst to me that a comprehensive tour of Teufelsberg such as yours existed, and for this I apologize. It is the sustainable way of maintaining the site, instead of having the real opportunistic locals milk the destination for what it is on the surface. Thank you for providing a visit to Teufelsberg its substance. I have revised my article to include this alternative.

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