While Saturday had been a warm, sunny day in the city, Sunday wasn’t having any part of it. We were on the road to leave the city, passing a few yellow lights on our way out, when it started to pour. I looked over to Christian, who was behind the wheel and said “Look, now it’s getting even worse”. But we had decided to use this free day to finally visit a spot outside of Berlin, an abandoned Soviet military complex. By the time we had parked our car and made our way towards the rusty gate with the red star, the rain had stopped, but the sky was hanging low, wrapping everything around us in a blanket of grey.
It made the place look even stranger than it normally would.
When you visit a few of the abandoned places around Berlin, you see mostly decay and destruction. Time takes its toll, but so do some people who only come to destroy. Not here: The complex was rotting away in the moisture but was otherwise in great condition. Where the wallpaper peeled off the walls, it revealed old Russian newspapers that had been layered beneath it. On them, the Soviet Union was alive in all its glory.
The place is absolutely huge. We walked from building to building, inspected room after room and found everything from the remnants of the Nazi government (that used to run the place) to old soldier’s boots. There were torn world maps, a broken alarm clock, exercise equipment, red stars and books. And rows and rows of empty hallways.
I have trouble explaining the strange atmosphere there. It kept us whispering and sometimes crouching in dusty corners. The snow was slowly melting, making for a constant dripping from all the barren trees that had sprung up between the buildings and doorways. Otherwise there was a deafening silence. When a door creaked, it was the loudest sounds in the area. When I tripped over a metal lamp, it was louder than anything you can imagine. And yet not a soul was in sight, save for the occasional tire tracks that criss-crossed the area. We briefly saw a car drive by, but nobody else ever showed up. We wouldn’t have been surprised to turn a corner and face a pack of wolves. I think it all added to the sense of mystery.
By the time our shoes and gloves gave out, when Anika’s toes were already freezing off and my camera lens was fogging up from the humidity, maybe three hours had passed. And we had seen perhaps 30% of what there was to see.