Pen-F visits Field Station Berlin

Ghostbuggy

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Yesterday I finally got around getting to a place I wanted to visit since quite a while, the abandoned Field Station Berlin on top of the Teufelsberg. While it's been photographed to death and there are tons of better pictures out there, I still would like to share my point of view.

A short historic background: The Teufelsberg (devil's hill) is an artificial hill around 120 meters high located in the former British sector in West Berlin. After the end of WW2, Berlin was destroyed, the debris and rubble was used to fill the shell construction of a former Nazi military academy. In the early 50's the US already used the still growing hill as a place for a mobile radar site, after some negotiations with the UK, a permanent base was constructed at the top of the hill. The Field Station Berlin was used to spy not only on the GDR, but the Soviet Union as a whole, with the unique vantage point of having territory right inside East Germany thanks to West Berlin and now a fairly high hill towering over the rather flat region to the east.
The listening and radar station for air traffic was used by both the USA and UK until Germany (and Berlin) got reunited and the USSR collapsed. With most equipment being removed, the site got modernized in the early 90's and was used for controlling civilian air traffic until the late 90's. After it was finally given up, an investment group bought the place to construct a hotel and some high-quality apartments, the plan never worked out and the group went into bankcruptcy. The city of Berlin was still financing security to have an eye over the whole area in the early 2000's, however that was too expensive and security got canceled - needless to say the place soon became a target of heavy vandalism.
Today the Field Station Berlin is a protected historical site and the area is declared as woodland - preventing any new construction by law. It's a kind-of tourist attraction and a meeting place for graffiti and street artists as well as creative people of any kind. You can legally visit and explore the place, a ticket costs EUR 8, which some people think is too much, but for maintaining and securing the place I think it's fair.

One of the first views right after you got onto the ground. The graffiti seems to change every few years.
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The whole place seems to be in a much better shape now, visitor reports from a few years back stated it was essentially post-apocalyptic with junk, debris and shattered glass being everywhere.
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Besides graffiti, there are also some art installations and right at the entrance there were some former military trucks on display, but it was too dark already, so I didn't bother photographing them.
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While some buildings are closed off, others are, at least partly open. Bring a flashlight however, there are is no light inside the flatter buildings.
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I have to admit I'm not too much into graffiti, however that one caught my attention and watched it a couple of times. A warning about the dying bee population not only here in Germany, but all over the world.
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The largest radar tower is closed-off. I am not sure if you can climb up during a guided, historical tour, as there are some photos taken from inside of the tower. Until 2007 the tarp of all structures was still in, more or less, a decent and complete state. Today the ripped tarp with the bare skeleton structure give the tower a haunting appearence.
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The roof of the US Radome Unit building, housing the tower as well as two radomes, is a high as you can get today. In fact as high as you can get again, as authorities closed off the roof due to fire regulations, it has been reopened for the public just earlier this summer with new fire exists being installed.
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You can enter both domes without problems, graffiti and some other art is visible there, also the remains of the former ventilation (?) points.
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I guess it's the base of the actual radar unit inside one of the domes.
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Despite the entrance fee, the place is actually very popular and is said to be fairly crowded especially during the summer and on sunny weekends. Being a rather dull fall afternoon, not too many other people were around.
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The atmosphere on top of the roof was quite eerie, the wind howling through the the steel skeletons, the ripped tarp banging against it - sometimes it sounded like faint thunder.
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Besides different kinds of graffiti...
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...you also have a great view in all directions. A view on the Search Dome to the city of Potsdam.
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The sun was gone and I'll close with just some last, random impressions:
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Ghostbuggy

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I decided to take my Pen-F, which I'm again using more and more lately instead of my Fujifilm gear, not only because of size and weight reasons, but because of the IBIS benefits. As for lenses: I only scouted the area using Google Maps and judging some other photos. I took my 12 f2, 17 f1.8, 45 f1.8 and 75 f1.8 - which provided a fairly flexible setup, out of all lenses I could've left the 75mm the most out of my kit: It was only usable for some close-up shots of the tower as well as some shots of Berlin. Instead the 9-18 would've been a better choice, as I've found the 12mm actually being too tight at times.

As a fun sidenote: It's been a long while since I've seen so many dedicated cameras in one place. When I entered, two guys were just packing their medium format equipment. An Asian looking gentleman was hauling around a sturdy tripod with a large format camera. On the roof a family was shooting with some seemingly expensive Sony FF equipment, the parents must've been either professional photogs or enthusiasts, as they gave their two children their cameras and let them handle them, posed and danced for them, all while explaining different photo techniques, exposure, the challanges of wide angle lenses and portraits. The kids were very enthusiastic and interested and they all had some quality family time together, it was fun to watch. Other people carried some entry level DSLRs and I also spotted one very odd digital camera, which seemed to be connected to a smartphone. The latter were actually outnumbered, with just a few people actually using their phones to take some quick snaps or group selfies.
 

WRay

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Vielen dank für alles! Since I was stationed there in the mid sixties I find these both interesting and nostalgic in a way.I have fond memories of both the City of Berlin and my time working on Devil's Mount. By the way, back then as you looked at the site from the main gate to the right and down a bit were two sled runs. If there was snow on the ground and we were working the midnight trick (shift) some of us would sneak out with a small sled and go down the runs! Thanks again for your fine photographs!
 

Ghostbuggy

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Gern geschehen!:th_salute:
I never thought somebody who actually was stationed there would read this, let alone have a look at the photos. Sometimes it's odd how small the world can be, maybe especially here on the MU43 forums. The sled runs you mentioned are actually closed down completely and today they are covered with trees, there is a downhill track for mountainbikers on the north-eastern area of the site though and a new snow slide has been constructed also in that direction, I guess 200-300m away from the base. It's small anecdotes like yours which bring these places back to life and give imagination a spark, personally I wouldn't have thought the personnel would have some winter fun on the job. ;)

I don't know if the name rings a bell, but a gentleman named Christopher McLarren, has also been working there, today he still lives in Berlin and, at least still a few years ago, offered guided tours of the place. I've got two questions if you don't mind though:
1. The building complex in my last linked photo, that one was completely different from the rest, with the large windows I actually thought it would be newer and part of an actual plan to construct some high-quality appartments after the place was abandoned, but it's present on much older photos. What was the purpose? My best guess would be for socialising, like break areas or maybe a cafeteria?
2. On essentially the most central building of the site, there is a concrete ring on the roof which suggests some sort of (radar) installation was once present. However on all historic photos I managed to check, that ring was always empty. Do you know the purpose of it? Here is a photo of the building, you can clearly see the ring I'm talking about on the roof. The photo was taken from the top of the most northern building which houses the three radomes.
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Antikytherapy

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Fantastic photos, descriptions and background info! Every time I've ventured out there, it's been closed to the public. Doesn't seem to be very consistent with opening times. Might take a half day in the coming weeks to get a few hours out there while I can..
 

Ghostbuggy

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First off, thanks for the kind reactions and interest in both the topic and my photos! :th_salute:

Fantastic photos, descriptions and background info! Every time I've ventured out there, it's been closed to the public. Doesn't seem to be very consistent with opening times. Might take a half day in the coming weeks to get a few hours out there while I can..
I have read about that in a couple of comments around the web, I referred to their website:
https://www.teufelsberg-berlin.de
When I was making my trip there, they had two dates in October listed as closed due to maintenance, on was actually the week prior my visit. However I don't know if they keep it up to date on shorter notice. They still seem to open daily at 11am until sunset, in my case the sun had already disappeared when I left and they were actually closing.
 

jhawk1000

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I was in the Army Security Agency and was stationed in Germany during the 60s. Although I was stationed in the West Germany area, I was there once along with several other surveillance sites near the border. Thanks for shaking the memories out of hiding again.
 
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