On our last full day in Berlin, Goethe Institut arranged a tour for us around an old spy station at Teufelsberg. I must say, it’s not your usual tourist destination. There were no information centers or big ticketing offices around it. In fact, it’s like a hidden treasure that’s only visible to people who seek it. If not for Goethe Institut, I would’ve probably never known that it existed. You see, I’m not really big on the whole spy thing. (I’m sorry to disappoint, Agent 007!) However, I must admit, seeing an actual spy station was pretty cool.
Teufelsberg has quite a unique history. It literally means “Devil’s Mountain” in German. And after learning about its history, I can say the name is fitting. Teufelsberg is a 114.7 meter-high hill (West berlin’s highest point), completely made of Berlin rubble gathered after the bombings around the city during the Second World War. While there’s nothing special about this (since most of Germany has plenty of man-made hills made of rubble gathered from WWII bombings), what makes this hill interesting is what lies beneath all its rubble. There’s an unfinished Nazi military-technical college underneath this hill. Because it was too sturdy to destroy, the Allies just covered the entire building with rubble. By the time the Cold War started and spying and surveillance between East and West Berlin became the name of the game, a NSA listening station was built on top of this man-made hill of rubble by the Allies. Our guide said spies could hear almost anything in Berlin from this station. Creepy! Of course, it was abandoned shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Fast forward to now, this abandoned space has become some sort of a graffiti paradise, some of which were painted by world-renowned artists even. It was definitely far from what I expected to see but I don’t mind. This is part of Berlin’s many charms really–turning historical places like this into something else while still maintaining its roots. It’s what makes Berlin so fascinating.