Traveler's Tales

Do Not Break Into This Former Soviet Spy Station

by Jeralyn Gerba

While I was spending some time in Berlin this spring, a French photographer visiting from Milan asked me to join him on an early morning adventure to the Grunewald forest on the city's western edge. He had heard about an abandoned "listening station" erected by the U.S. National Security Agency (for eavesdropping on the Russians), and wanted to snap some pictures of the strange compound.

What makes Teufelsberg even more intriguing is that it resides on top of an 80 meter hill of debris from post-war Berlin. Grass, trees, and running paths now cover the rubble of some 400,000 buildings, including a still-standing Nazi military-technical college (so sturdy it was easier to bury than blow up). Weird trivia: David Lynch bought the property in a failed attempt to turn it into a Transcendental Meditation center and university.

The station and the hill were abandoned after the Berlin Wall fell. In the '90s, kids would break into the towers to party and vandalize. (Who could blame them?) These days, the walls of the ten-story tower are gone. The elevator's gone, too. The grounds are blocked off. But with a little ingenuity we were able to bypass a chain-link border and barbed-wire fence.

Then we disappeared. Onto the tower grounds. Up dark staircases. And onto the roof.


Nazi Banana Bunker Becomes Art Gallery
Almost in North Korea
A Bavarian Town in China

See Fathom's Guide to Berlin


David Wants to Fly, a German filmmaker, and Lynch fan, documents his attempt to meditate
"Coming Down From David Wants to Fly" (The Walrus)
"Why David Lynch Should Learn German" (TIME)

We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.