Slowly rotting away into oblivion in the middle of a forest just north of Berlin is the abandoned former Soviet military base of Vogelsang. The base and the small city built around it housed an estimated 15,000 people, both members of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (Группа советских войск в Германии, ГСВГ) and civilians. At various stages, part of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was stored in Vogelsang.
Following German Reunification in 1990 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the base was stripped of all purpose but remained there as a reminder of days gone by: as the ghost of the military presence of a country in another, both of which had ceased to exist.
The Soviet military base in Vogelsang (which means birdsong) was abandoned and left to decay in the forest in 1994. The government of Brandenburg is also intent on demolishing Vogelsang, competing in a senseless race against nature to physically eliminate this site. Thus, many buildings and murals are no longer there. As a man my friends and I encountered in the theater in Vogelsang told us, “there’s not much left” around there. Many buildings have already been reduced to rubble, and the marks left by the demolition crews an their equipment were still fresh in the barren ground.
Still, though its days are counted, there is a lot to see in Vogelsang.
I was very enthusiastic about visiting Vogelsang ever since I first heard about it. As a side note, I hold a B.A. In History and Slavic languages, and an M.A. in Eastern European History from the University of Heidelberg, in Germany. Don’t worry though, this is no boring academic essay—I’m just mentioning it to put my enthusiasm in perspective.
Last Sunday wasn’t as sunny as the forecast had predicted. I met up with my friends Mark and Daphne (who also wrote a great post about Vogelsang and some other abandoned places in and around Berlin) in Berlin-Gesundbrunnen at noon and took the train to Oranienburg. Not observing the German rule of kein Bier vor vier (no beer before 4 o’ clock), my friends and I cracked open a beer in the train going to Templin, in Brandenburg. To get into the spirit of things, I opted to drink Baltika.
As we approached Vogelsang, we hit the stop button, for the train doesn’t stop there unless you signal you want to get off the train—either because you want to go to the base or because you’re one of the 104 people who actually live there.
We left the station armed with the map we found on Abandoned Berlin (lots of awesome stuff there, go check it out!), eventually getting to the site after a 30 minute walk through a swampy forested area covered in brown leaves as though it were still fall. It was pretty bizarre because it’s now spring.
We eventually got to the old gates of the city. The first thing we saw when we arrived was a garage, a house, and some warehouses. All buildings were extremely run down but still stood somewhat firm—or at least appeared to. Vogelsang is something straight out of Resident Evil or a Zombie movie.
We continued walking, eventually getting to the cafe. The outside of the cafe was colorful. The facade was crumbling, the paint was peeling, and the windows were all shattered. Trees and weeds seemed to grow hastily and with angrily to reclaim the area before everything still standing is demolished by machines. Next to the cafe, a relief of Lenin and a Communist slogan reminded us of the state propaganda people were bombarded with even in their free time.
We then explored the theater and continued onto the former school. To think that people spent maybe even the happiest years of the childhood here in this place. What would they think if they saw it today? It was a weird feeling even for us.
The residential area was next. Some buildings had already collapsed. Some had been demolished. All were, by all safety standards, condemned. The worst was the one that housed the small gun. The kitchen was also in very bad shape, but a little fan above an empty door frame still functioned (even though there’s no electricity there and no wind).
Next to a bunch of concrete buildings and separated by a wall covered in Communist motifs there are four wooden Dachas, probably for the commanding officers. We walked around the whole city. Knowing we would miss the next train back to Berlin, we decided to walk back to the entrance and try to find the sports hall.
To get there, I recommend taking the RE 4356 from Berlin-Gesundbrunnen. Switch to the RB 61113 NEB going to Templin in Oranienburg and take it all the way to Vogelsang. Tickets are 6,90 EUR each way.
We spend a total of four and a half hours in Vogelsang. Birds sang the whole time we were there.
I got off the train at Oranienburg, grabbed me another Baltika, and rode back home to Berlin-Schöneberg.
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Now travel with abandon! Seb