Thursday, September 10, 2015

Day 28: Teufelsberg

Halfway through my walk to work with Chris, I realised I forgot my Bahn ticket at home. Doh! The problem of going back and forth from a purse, to a backpack, to an exercise pouch, and back again... I left it in "my other purse". I had no Bahn ticket. I am walking home.

I have been interested in visiting Teufelsberg, an artificial hill, an abandoned "listening post", and now the largest display of graffiti (in Berlin or the world... I don't know). I've been waiting for a day when it's not too hot, as there is a 30 min walk up to the hill (so and hour round-trip) and I want cooler weather so we don't bake on the walk.

This morning, I confirmed with Chris that he wouldn't be too sad if we went without him, then I emailed the Teufelsberg "people" that I wanted to come for the 3pm guided tour (it's only an hour versus the historic tour, which is two hours). The website gives information on pricing and times, but then says to email them to register to come. Well, I don't know what that means? I emailed them (as best as I could in German, saying I'm an English speaking family of 3) and never heard back. So, by 2pm, it was clear we wouldn't make the 3pm tour. So I emailed again (this time in English) that we could make the 4pm tour and asked if we just show up or if we need to hear a confirmation? No response.

A little before 3pm, I decided, "What the heck, let's just go for it!" If we get into the tour, great. If not, we'll know more than we do now and have a nice afternoon jaunt under our belts. So, off we went with a little more than an hour to travel (train should only take 30 min and then 30 min of walking), plenty of time!


The Grunewald Forest
Well, we took the Bahn to our destination and looked around. There were no clear signs on where to go. But, we are smart enough to see city-life on one side of the tracks and forest-greenery on the other, so we headed towards the forest. The only sign we could see said, "Private land!" Um... but it's the way we're supposed to go. And everyone else is walking through there... I couldn't read the rest of the sign, but it did talk about visitors... so I assumed visitors were welcomed, but I don't know what is expected of us, as I can't read anything else.

I used Google Maps a lot, but I had to save battery-life. So, I'd launch, see where we were, where we wanted to go, and we'd go for 5 minutes and then I'd repeat. I had to do this, because, once you were in the forest, there were a ton of paths and NONE OF THEM ARE MARKED. And, when you look on Google, for better or for worse, there seemed to be many paths you could take. Some paved, some dirt, some for cars (with no sidewalks, so we avoided these).

At one point, I saw the towers up high and indicated that's where we were headed. Venice looked up through the trees and was a bit concerned with how far we were going to have to walk to get there. But remember, the website AND Google Maps said only 30 minutes of walking!

Well, the hour of 4pm drew closer and closer and we still weren't there. I checked my email a few times and no reply from Teufelsberg. So, we just came to the conclusion we weren't going to see the tour but that we could climb the hill and see if we could get any views and/or information.

The abandoned area says, "no," to being developed into luxury apartments,
but says, "yes," to allowing artists to create and display art there.
Most of the hike was flat, until the end, then we climbed the hill. We were 25 minutes late (our walk took 45 minutes). But, hey! There's the gate! And there's some tour-looking people standing in line paying money! AND, the guide said, "Hi, this is by tour only." I asked if there was room. Yes! So, we jumped in line, paid and started the tour along with everyone else (who must have been waiting 30 minutes before starting, suckers!)

A view of the grounds as we entered (top left)
Examples of wall art (middle left, right)
Perhaps a piece done by the artist we saw the other day
painting the "mechanical horse" at Mauerpark? (bottom)
As we began the tour, the guide said, "Today's tour is normally a silent tour, but I will answer questions when ever you have them." The guided tour, is really just that. A guide takes you around the areas, but that's it. If you want talking, you better take the historic tour. Well, this is actually perfect. Because the talking he does do, is 90% in German, so we don't understand much of what he's saying anyway.

We were able to see a lot (but not all, there's so much) of the graffiti artwork. I asked if artists are invited here, of if they just come. I'm not sure I understood his whole answer, but I did understand that the artists have to explain what they plan to paint before they paint it, and (I'm not sure I heard this part right) the old artist has to be ok with his/her art being painted over. I have no idea how long one piece of art is there before it's painted over. I have no idea on a lot of stuff. Do you get the theme? I don't know squat. We are here just to see the graffiti and the views.

The main building seems to be several floors of wide-open concrete layers. A 3-4 floored parking garage, is the best way I can think to describe it. I supposed it could have been office space, but at this point, it's gutted with nothing but concrete floors, no walls, no dividers, etc. Just large opens pace. Then in this space, are 30ft-long by 6ft-high concrete wall sections. It's on these wall sections that the artists paint. Some are on bigger walls, and there are some enclosures (all concrete) that are painted on too. Here are some examples:

This painting took 50 hours to paint, or 15, my German is bad (left)
This boy picking his nose made me laugh (right)

Some of our favourites. Venice (and I do too) likes the one on top.
We all thought "This is a photo opportunity" was funny. Xander likes the "Snake"
I like the colourful building (this was the outside of the building, so it's several stories high)

After seeing a few of the walls "in the building', the guide took us to the roof, via a small, very dark stairway. We were blown away. The views were stunning and we were up close and personal with the empty radar towers. The guide said this was always the case... people are, "cool, nice art," but when they get to the roof, they're, "WOW," with very happy faces. And we were no different.

He gave us 20 minutes to roam around and take photos. The views were magnificent. The empty radar towers were echo-y. The sound of the broken sides (the white-flappy material that "canvasses" the outside) flapping in the wind, sounded like thunder.

Stunning views with forest as far as you could see.

You can see the flapping canvass on the tallest tower (left)
Posing with the forest and another tower behind them (right)

Many views of the empty radar towers.

Inside the empty towers.

One of the doorways to a tower.

A window from an "inside" floor (left)
A doorway-frame on the roof (right)

The kids giggled at the many works of art that included naughty words or sentiments.
This one was very "American" - Fuck Yeah! What you may not be able to see, is the
eagle saying, "Comin' again to save the motherfuckin' day, yeah!" is carrying/letting
go of a golden hand grenade. Fuck yeah, I get the artist's intent.

After enjoying ourselves on the roof, the guide guided us back to an "inside" floor. His English left me confused. I heard him say, "Here's the flat I want to build." And we went to an area in the far corner. He said, "Here's the bathroom, the kitchen, and just imagine how they were sitting here with a big screen TV. And the view is right there!" I think he was saying, "wouldn't this be an awesome place to live?" But some of the subject and verb tenses confused me (as some were "they" and some were in the past)... but I can't imagine after WWII, people were living here with big screen TVs, so it must be that this area was where some lived. But he was thinking it would be awesome to live here now, with modern amenities and this amazing view.

Missing walls on an "inside" floor (left)
Weathered glass on a broken window (middle)
Xander enjoying the view from an "inside" window (right)

Then the tour was over. And now is when the rain begins. I thought I was hearing more "thunder" from the flapping canvas, but Xander said, "No, that's REAL thunder." He was right.

After huddling under an overhang with the rest of the tour folks, in an awkward "ending" (the tour guide never said, "That's it, good-bye!" so we all just hung out for a while), until we realised the tour was done and some were just waiting for the rain to pass. We heard others asking, "Where is the nearest S-Bahn?" We listened to the guide's answer and decided to run for it following those who asked.

The guide said, "20 min" to the nearest S-Bahn. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Not funny! It took us another 45 minutes, damn it! AND, it was raining hard. So hard, that anytime we were under the trees, we were still getting soaked. Puddles appeared. Lightning struck. Thunder clapped. We ran. We laughed. We DIDN'T cry. We trudged on (what other choice was there?)

Beautiful sun-lined clouds (left)
You can't see it, but this is a downpour (middle)
These? These are drowned rats (right)

We took a turn, different from those we were "following", but we thought it was the way we came and thus a good way to go... we were wrong (I was wrong). We ended up on a trail that was less traveled, and thus we did a little weed whacking as we went. I figured, as long as we were going down, we were ok. But we did stop every 2-4 minutes to check our progress on Google Maps (as my phone was getting wetter and wetter... NOTE: iPhone finger touch won't read thumbprints if the fingers are wet!)

It started out warm. But now it was getting colder and colder. I got a text, at one point, from Chris saying he'd be home a little later due to a phone call he had to make. I couldn't even text him back my fingers were frozen, my phone was wet, and we HAD to keep moving to get to somewhere dry.

After many, many, many turns and twists, we saw traffic, lights, civilisation in the far distance (about 5 blocks away) and we cheered! We saw an M Tram go by, we cheered! One way or another, we now knew we'd get home, we didn't care how many transfers we'd have to make!

Xander had directed us (on one of our last Google Map attempts) to a different S Bahn station than the one we arrived on. It looked closer to our current position, so we went for it. When we saw the S Bahn station, we cheered!

We made our way to the platform and saw the others we were "following" and they looked as wet as we felt. I felt good that they must not have been far ahead of us after all, even with our wrong turn.

In the dry of the Bahn, I texted Chris we were on our way!

Peel off the wet clothes. Everybody takes a warm shower. Cozy clothes all around.

When Chris got home (he was dry, dry, dry, I guess 30 minutes west is a very different climate than here). We had dinner and, yay, warm cookies. Now, from the warmth of our apartment, it was possible for us to ENJOY the pouring rain that, finally, made it to the east side of Berlin.

P.S. You'd think I'd have learned by now. Always keep an umbrella in my backpack? I just didn't think it was going to rain. There was a small chance at 7pm, but not a crazy storm at 5pm!

P.P.S. The kids were CHAMPS. They stayed positive through the whole ordeal. Congrats to them!

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