I have seen plenty of abandoned buildings in Berlin, but they seem exponentially more mysterious in the winter: Walking across the grounds, the snow will crack beneath your feed. Sometimes it might have drifted in through the windows and left a skewed, white rectangle in the middle of a room. It must be even more surreal during snowfall, when the flakes slowly trickle in through the ceiling.
“Säuglings- und Kinderkrankenhaus Weißensee” was in operation until the nineties but is in a terrible state of disrepair – most likely because it just so accessible from the street. While most of these buildings hide in the corner of a forest or behind a large fence, this one overlooks a busy intersection and must have been explored by hundreds of people before us. Some of them very had meticulously smashed each and every single pane of glass in the building, we sometimes had to walk across cracking glass rather than snow.
Faced with this kind of decay and destruction, it is hard to imagine that the nurses’ office ever used to be staffed. Yet when I posted a picture of it on Facebook, a friend of mine commented that she had in fact spent a few nights there as a child – and could remember the bitter taste of the medicine they had administered to her.
Rather appropriately, the entire city district confirms that anecdote. Since trains don’t really go there, Weißensee it is a place we hardly ever visit. Each time we do, it seems to have fallen out of time: Old neon signage, odd businesses, a noticeably older population. It is the kind of thing my colleagues – who were born in this city and have seen it change – would refer to as “Old Berlin”. The past is very much alive there and they have the buildings to prove it.