We’re standing surrounded by police cars, eyes locked on the very angry Rottweiler rolling its eyes around and routinely lunging at us between foaming snarls, as the Berlin police copy down our information. Our mission had been relatively simple: a routine jaunt over a fence into an eerie abandoned theme park, to lounge about on decapitated plastic dinosaurs or try to get stuck at the top of the big creepy Ferris wheel like one nostalgic 90-year-old woman did in the summer of 2013. (source)
The Berlin police, however, don’t take so kindly lately to these harmless fence-hoppers, as evidenced by their unleashing of the killer dog, which chased us through a field and was called back just before it tore a man’s asscheek off.
This summer Shitty Guide went out and about to discover what sort of shit lies beyond, in the obscurity of the European ether. Turns out there’s lots of shit to choose from.
Berlin, for example, is the notable historic home of lots of really bad shit. Fortunately there’s some left over, and it probably won’t get you killed anymore (police dog chases aside.) Perhaps due to the flourishing fascism and division that once held Berlin and its inhabitants so firmly by the proverbial balls, the city has since rebounded in the opposite direction and helixed itself into a graffiti-covered, anti-fascist, punk-rock, electro-hipster paradise. It is often stupidly, unsufferably cool, crammed with freshly-tattooed youths and bad-but-hip conceptual start-ups, fancy clubs that fire off confetti and darker clubs where you can bone for as long as you like on the sofas, but of course, these things require access to money, and for this visit we shot for some shit of lower cost.
The Kulturpark Plänterwald was opened in 1969 to celebrate the German Democratic Republic’s 20th birthday, but the fall of the Berlin wall and the dissolution of the GDR eventually dropped it into the hands of one Norbert Witte, a carnival operator with an unfortunate history of accidentally killing people with cranes.
Unfortunately, the park failed to perform as Norbert had expected, and he moved his operations to Lima, Peru in 2002. This ambitious venture evidently took a turn when he was imprisoned for eight years for attempting to smuggle 181 kilos of cocaine back to Berlin inside the ‘Flying Carpet’ ride. (source)
The park went up for sale on ebay (seriously) after Witte went to prison, but in the end it was purchased back by the city and, as evidenced by our very brief visit, security has since been ramped up. Fortunately, the German police don’t have many options for prosecuting trespassing offenses by non-Germans, so we were released with little more than a slap on the wrist, fond memories of the eerily murmuring park and near-death by murderous Rottweiler.
Atop the Grunewald Forest on the crusty rim of West Berlin suburbia, there lies a cluster of white globes struck up on the horizon like a suspicious crop-up of warts. These land-warts are the towers of Teufelsberg, German for “devil’s hill” – a man-made hill reaching 120 meters above sea level, constructed from 75 million cubic meters of post-war rubble lugged out of Berlin and dumped over the incomplete remains of a Nazi military-technical college -- making Teufelsberg essentially just a really, really massive pile of shit.
Due to the superb listening abilities atop the shit pile, in the 1960’s the U.S. National Security Agency chose to set up shop and construct one of its most massive listening facilities to monitor Soviet and East German military operations, thereby forcing the shut-down of two massive ski jumps that had opened on the hill (depressing both deviant Soviets and ski bums alike.) The remaining globes are military radomes that comprised a NSA spy station, though the rest of the facilities were broken down and removed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Teufelsberg Field Station has since been unofficially adopted by the Initiative Kultur-DENK-MAL and reconstituted as an urban graffiti wonderland/artistic shit zone. The raised woodland property is lined with trails and alcoves sometimes occupied by squatters or artists. The shit pile has become the collective brainchild of innumerable artists and muralists, littered with sculptures and discarded home fixtures, freestanding bathtubs (for lounging, we suppose,) deconstructed furniture, pallets, plantlife, recyclables, and piles of bare materials owed to unknown projects in the works.
In the center of this maze of half-realized creative structures are the towers themselves, rearing up to 80m above the forest, comprised of multiple exposed floors devoted exclusively to graffiti and murals, and capped with three massive white globes of peeling white plastic canvas. The top tower is mostly intact, so after a climb of six to seven flights up a pitch-black staircase above the roof, you emerge in the darkness of the top radome. The radomes are impressive echo chambers and notably bad places to pass gass. Save the grumpy old dude at the gate that wants seven euros for entry (though there’s beer and chocolate cake on donation) and quite a few lost-looking Germans wandering around on acid, the site is nearly bare of touristic traffic. Plus the view is nice or whatever, if you’re into that shit.
Every Sunday at 3 PM, Joe Hatchiban treks his massively powerful portable sound system out to a stone amphitheater in Mauerpark, a large stretch of park behind during the flea market. This has become one of the largest public karaoke sessions in existence, meaning a massive horde of people gathers together to make each other suffer in unison at the same time every week. Sounds a lot like church! Maybe Sundays just aren’t supposed to be good. A crowd of hundreds crams a stone stadium on the backside of the Berlin wall and is generally fairly supportive of its victims, though bad performances notably get preference. The spectacle is apparently a Berlin tradition, all thanks to Joe and his unmatched passion for shitty singing.
The market itself is crammed end-to-end with Berliners selling all their old shit, ranging from boxes of rummage and detritus from innumerable dead grandparents to more upscale small business owners hawking their wares to tourists. We found a bunch of plastic dinosaur skeletons for 5€ and a paperweight in the shape of an ass with ears for 2. Whatever strikes your shitty fancy.
We owe a notable shout-out to a not-so-shitty guy named Alexandros, who helped us get around the city for next to nothing.
Alex loves shitty bikes. He was the neighborhood repairman for upwards of twenty years in Neukölln before he saved up enough to buy himself five shitty bikes and start renting them out to people for four bucks a day. Now, he owns hundreds of shitty bikes and rents them out daily on the basis of trust, with a host of helpers from eight different countries. Yunus, his right-hand-man on the day we stopped by, explained Alex’s ascension from neighborhood handyman:
“I think this should be mentioned – he didn’t have the ten or twenty thousand euros to start the business. He started piece by piece. He was working from the opposite, from the cellar. This is our first year where we have the rental business in priority, before it was a mechanic – like a repair store.
“Today we have 230 bikes. That means Alex made something good, and now we are not only colleagues anymore, we are also workers for this – well, let’s say good guy. My deepest respect, you asshole,” he says, kicking Alex in the leg. “But he lost all of his hair during the time – look at that.” Alex doesn’t say much, rolling a cigarette and smiling. Up rolls an older woman on a commuter bike, and she stops to talk to Yunus in German, clasping his arm affectionately.
“That’s our grandmother,” Yunus says when the woman rides off. “She’s 82. She can’t walk, but she can cycle. It’s her mobility. She says without that shitty bike, she’d be dead.”
For more information about abandoned shit in Berlin, check out the excellent resource www.abandonedberlin.com