Get out while you still can

The 3rd of October is a very important day.

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Would you believe that there was a near sheer drop just outside this frame?

 And by that I mean, I was sitting outside, basking in evening sunshine, actually grateful for a cold marble table under my arms, and checking our little old thermometer in disbelief – autumn isn’t normally defined as a balmy 20-degree day where I come from.

This must be fate: many moons ago, I went on a stroll with a friend to Teufelsberg in the ‘last’ days of summer. The very next week, it was already cold enough to be wearing two layers of knitwear. The weather gods decreed: thou shalt not blog about doing outdoorsy things. I thought my Grunewald post’s days were numbered.

But the Indian summer god of Berlin has been vicious to the mean Siberian winter gods of Berlin. They let their guard down for a week and – DING! – scorching sunshine. Well, almost. Good enough to give me a second chance to tell you: get yo’ ass over to Grunewald before those Siberian gods come back.

The original reason for choosing Grunewald was because of the infamous abandoned spy station. Anyone who is young and seeking cool points knows that Berlin is great for abandoned and not so abandoned but still pretty shabby places. There’s my old local park, the former Tempelhof airport; some imaginative individual has made a public swimming pool into a club; and people exchange stories (and lies) about how they bribed the police into letting them keep on snooping around the creepy old fairground, Spreepark. And those are just a few. There’s enough abandoned places in Berlin that there’s a whole blog on the subject:

Abandoned is always cool, but imagine the appeal of extra mystery with a spy station. This is what my friend and I were lured in by, and so we got the S-Bahn out to Grunewald, took a naively quick glance at a map, and strolled off into the woods.

If you ever look at a map of Grunewald forest, you’re immediate thought would be: simple. Grids everywhere. Not a winding fairytale footpath in sight. But those with experience will (hopefully) nod their grisly heads in wise agreement with me: it is always possible to lose yourself in a grid. In fact, we lost ourselves so badly, that for at least an hour we excitedly followed every slight upward incline, thinking we were on the trail of the spy station, which is sat on top of the hill, Teufelsberg (literally meaning ‘devil’s mountain’). Guess what was at the top of the hill? Just the top of a hill. And lots of people flying kites. And a pretty nice view. From the plateau of the mystery hill next to Teufelsberg (somehow we had thought that Teufelsberg was the only hill in the forest), you get a pretty good panorama, and miraculously the ratio of cranes to tall buildings is pretty low. You can see the top of the Olympiastadion, the tower at the Messe (trade fair) complex, and the Teufelsberg spy station. “Waaaait a second,” says my friend: what the hell is a spy station doing on top of a hill, with blinding white hexagonal globe-topped towers, right where everyone can see it? Guess we know why it’s abandoned now.

So we had no choice but to go down this hill, and then up again to reach the top of Teufelsberg. Again, starting from our high vantage point, this seemed pretty simple. But at a certain height up what really was Teufelsberg this time, we came to a scary-looking wire fence. Worryingly promising, but also worryingly hard to get around, we circled it twice and only found one gate, which seemed suspiciously populated for an ‘abandoned’ location. Well, of course it was suspicious: we walked up to a lady behind a desk – yes, a desk in the forest – and she said there was no way up to the spy station without a tour guide, which would have made our purses 7 euros lighter. Whatever happened to exploration and danger and alternativeness? Were we even still in Berlin?!

This is the same question which we asked ourselves after another half an hour’s stroll. Winding our way around the hill, we came to a bench and started on our picnic stash. We feasted our tummies on rolls and cheese, and feasted our eyes on this sweet view:

 

Trees, trees, sky, trees, more sky, heaven.

Living in Berlin, you don’t often notice the slightly claustrophobic nature of constantly being surrounded by blocks of flats. The streets are wide, and it’s pretty much the same everywhere, so it doesn’t noticeably bother a city-creature like me. Berlin is flat, and mostly grey or graffiti-coloured. The best it gets are some tree-lined streets. But if you take 20 minutes to get to somewhere a bit more green, and with just one extra hill, your little compartmentalising brain won’t be able to take it – this is way beyond any top-floor balcony view. This is nature, dude.

So what we kids learnt that day is that discovery isn’t about rediscovering some old shack that you’ve heard about a million times before (though that might still be fun if you aren’t going to get charged to do it). We discovered the mystery hill all on our own, and we felt proud taking those eye-popping views home. Go us.

And go you. Go before the winter gods get you.

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