Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Urban Exploration: Beelitz-Heilstätten (Sanitorium)

According to Wikipedia, "Beelitz-Heilstätten, a district of the town, is home to a large hospital complex of about 60 buildings including a cogeneration plant erected from 1898 on according to plans of architect Heino Schmieden. Originally designed as a sanatorium by the Berlin workers' health insurance corporation, the complex from the beginning of World War I on was a military hospital of the Imperial German Army. During October and November 1916, Adolf Hitler recuperated at Beelitz-Heilstätten after being wounded in the leg at the Battle of the Somme. In 1945, Beelitz-Heilstätten was occupied by Soviet forces, and the complex remained a Soviet military hospital until 1995, well after the German reunification. In December 1990 Erich Honecker was admitted to Beelitz-Heilstätten after being forced to resign as the head of the East German government.

Following the Soviet withdrawal, attempts were made to privatize the complex, but they were not entirely successful. Some sections of the hospital remain in operation as a neurological rehabilitation center and as a center for research and care for victims of Parkinsons disease. The remainder of the complex, including the surgery, the psychiatric ward, and a rifle range, was abandoned in 2000. As of 2007, none of the abandoned hospital buildings or the surrounding area were secured, giving the area the feel of a ghost town. This has made Beelitz-Heilstätten a destination for curious visitors and a film set for movies like The Pianist from 2002, the Rammstein music video "Mein Herz brennt" and "Valkyrie" from 2008."

Some friends and I decided to take a trip out to this Sanitorium on Easter Day, one of the (hopefully) last snowy days of the year. It's about 45 minutes on the regional train from Berlin, so quite an easy and cheap journey if you get the Berlin Brandenburg Ticket!

Here is the entrance to the first building we entered, the campus is HUGE, so we only had time to check out the Northwest corner.

As soon as we enter we were greeted by these stairs...

...and this long, creepy corridor.

Inside this big circular room there was a lot of interesting graffiti.

We also found a surgical table and all this surgical equipment, including an IV fluid container, a syringe, gloves, tubes and scrubs. We're not sure if these were legit, or if maybe someone brought them in and left them there as part of a film project, as we didn't find this stuff anywhere else, but it was a bit creepy.

More graffiti in the room.

We continued wandering, but clearly we were not going up THESE steps!

Since the hospital was run by Soviets, all the official text all over the buildings was in Russian.

Maybe not the most comfortable sleeping space. I'm not sure what these rooms were for, but it looked like people had been squatting here at some point, as there were lots of mattresses strewn about the floor.

Someone left their mark.

Possibly the most uncomfortable-looking sleeping space. Note the egg containers?

No more electric.

Stained glass windows have seen better days...

Outside the entrance to the building, these buildings had lots of details and must have been absolutelz beautiful before nature took its toll.

Sometimes there was no real floor.

My urban exploring crew!

Must have been the children's room.

The Worst Toilet in Germany?

More Russian, this was above what must have been sinks or bathing basins.

We found an elevator removed and just left in the middle of the floor. We decided it was now a time machine. This is what you do in a time machine, clearly.

The boxes from some old drugs were still there and strewn about.

This room had tons of lists of drugs in Russian, charts and this old fridge, which I imagine was used to keep the medicine cold.


The lists of what we imagine must be drugs, but it's in Russian, so your guess is as good as mine.

I never claimed to be mature.

Some old wallpaper clinging on for dear life.

The ceilings of another building. The architecture of the buildings was really quite fantastic.

We went in another, likely older building. It looked like it had been through a significant fire. What was interesting, though, is that while all the other buildings had graffiti in German or English, the graffiti here was all in Russian. I imagine it must have been abandoned earlier while the Soviets were still using other buildings. If you look the dates here are 79'-80. I imagine, in that case, it was already abandoned then!

More Russian graffiti, 1972, 1977 and 2008.

This building was definitely quite decrepit.

This is what I meant by a significant fire. Parts of the hallway were totally black.

We're not sure what this room was, maybe a ball room, as it would have been quite fancy.

Antifa: Smash Facism

I found this entrance to a tunnel. No one wanted to go with me, but eventually Cathy and Karla came, and we realized the tunnel only led a short distance to the other side of the outside area.

The first room we stumbled upon after entering the older building where everything was in Russian. Lots of people were here!

There you have it. We definitely want to go back and explore the other sections, but with so many buildings and so much area to cover, we didn't have enough time in one trip!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Thirteen Schmerteen

It's February, but I was always a procrastinator, so here you have it. So, what will 2013 bring? I hope to manifest some more employment so I can travel more and save up for another big travel adventure in a year or two. I accomplished most of my resolutions from last year, I got a bike and used it, stopped working with kids, made traditions, cooked a lot, though I didn't do so well studying my German flashcards. Deutsch.

This year my goals are also relatively simple:

#1 Go check out the women's rock-climbing group

#2 Make more alone time for myself (the opposite problem from last year)

#3 Write in my journal at least once a month

#4 Visit a new country (Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria, Israel, Iceland? I'm looking at you…we'll see)

#5 Find a cafe I can work in that's not on the other side of the city (needs free W-Lan, soymilk, power outlets and at least one vegan snack)

#6 No really, study German more. Memrise at least once a week, sign up for a German class (Spring?) once I get my act together.

#7 Finally get a library card here!

#8 Stop going places and doing things I don't really feel like doing just because everyone else is doing them. I am a victim of peer pressure, it's true.

I need to also write in here more. When I lived in Prague, the words seemed to just flow out of me, but somehow I find that in Berlin my head is always just filled with noise. I disallowed Google from finding this blog again so I can pretend it's safe to whine about my more personal woes as I please, ja? Okay!

How is Berlin? It's complicated. I hopped an impulse flight to Brighton last weekend, however, and as soon as the plane took off I felt calmer than I have in a long time, so now I'm feeling the urge for another longer solo travel adventure. I woke up there and sat in my favorite old cafe, where I used to write all my psychology essays, and wrote in my journal for two hours, wandered around my old city, looked at the sea and had a really nice and calm day, some much needed alone time with no fear of being interrupted by any sort of unpleasantness. I love Berlin and logistically it makes sense for me to stay here, but I need to change some things and I'm working on figuring out exactly what they are.

With such a huge party culture, it's pretty easy to feel isolated when you find, one weekend, that you're not interested in getting totally wasted, again, to head to the weekend's coolest party. Sometimes, with exceptions of course, I worry that maybe I have a lot of drinking friends and not so many friends who know who I actually am, or care. Of course, on the other hand, it's also partially my responsibility to let people know who I actually am, but hanging out drunk in huge groups all the time doesn't always allow for so much personal connection.

Berliners are really busy people, there is an endless amount to do here, to discover, lots of people to meet, and that is both awesome and totally overwhelming. It's hard to commit yourself to staying in on a Saturday night when there is always some once a year event every weekend, that you really just don't want to miss. So you go, and you go the next weekend as well, and then you realize you've been on the go so much you really haven't had the time to think about anything that's happened for more than 5 minutes in a long time.

I'm out of survival mode for the first time in 6 years, and that means I've achieved something. It means I have a job, I have a visa, I have a flat, a group of friends and some sense of security for all the things I need to live. It also means that my mind isn't taken up by these urgent survival needs, no moving plans, no visa applications for awhile, no flat viewings, Fulbright essays, German classes, or new jobs to get used to, etc., for the first time in a really long time, so now I actually have to think about LIFE. Oh dear.

Let's not get too emo though, friends. I've reached a turning point. Things are a lot better, existential crisis-wise, than when I used to write in here when I was 22. Life doesn't feel quite so unknown and scary, I feel a bit more confident in my ability to make decisions and have collected a lot more life experience. I generally know who I am, now, I know roughly what I want (or at least what I don't want) and I'm learning to realize my mistakes...maybe not always before I make them, but at least more quickly into the impending mess.

A lot of the things I've been spending my time on are not so mentally stimulating anymore. When you get unhappy it's just a sign you need to change something, stop lying to yourself, stop saying "should" and get your shit together. I made a pledge to myself that I will learn how to stay in one place for awhile and make things work. IT WILL HAPPEN.

The world is ripe with possibility?

Na ja, at least there are these big ducks down the street from my apartment.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Berlin By Boat

Over the summer one Sunday I got to go on a dinner boat cruise around Berlin with my job. It was a five hour trip and we went all the way from Moabit out past Treptow towards Köpenick in the former East Berlin. I had never been out on the Spree River and it was a really nice new perspective of the city and a beautiful day. Here are some of my photos, so you can see Berlin from this angle as well!

 Pulling away from where I work in Moabit.

 We say this old school ship on the way

 Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the main train station. I don't usually see it from this side!

 People chilling by the river. Once spring hits Berlin, every green surface looks like this.

My favorite bridge, the Oberbaumbrücke separating Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain, the former West from the former East. I especially love that at night the sides are continuously playing Rock, Paper, Scissors against each other via light up signs.

This is also a regular occurrence. I am totally getting my own blow up raft for next summer. Love it.

 Insel, a venue on a small island where various parties are held.

 The view sailing towards Treptow.

 It's getting dark and we've turned around. The view of the Oberbaumbrücke from the other side.

 Here is the outside of one of the big clubs, KaterHolzig. This was funny to sail by as it was around 8 or so Sunday evening and the outside was PACKED with drunk dancing people. Oh Berlin.

Taking a break while they bring us back to the correct water level. Different parts of the Spree are at different levels, so sometimes they hold you in a small section while they add or take away water to level you with the next part of the river.

Berliner Dom

And that's that! One of the nicest boat cruises I've been on! I recommend everyone take a chance to see Berlin by boat if the opportunity ever arises!