I love this city. I love living in this large of a city. It just keeps going and going and there’s always something to do. Running around the various districts in Berlin reminds me of playing video games set in sprawling cities; but now that I’m experiencing what it’s like living in a large city, those levels and cities in the video games seem so limited. There is just so much character and detail to every little part of town around here. I love riding the S-bahn as it zips above the streets and though neighborhoods. Some of the trains in the underground (U-bahn) are one long continuous cabin. You can see all the way down the train. When it’s underground and all you can see is the light of the train, it’s like riding inside a giant subterranean worm. You see it snake up and down and around corners. Whole sections will disappear as it rises and falls in the darkness. You feel as if you’re perfectly still and the rest of the train is contorting around you, but this is just your frame of reference. To all the other passengers, you’re also moving.
Like all cities, Berlin has it’s share of homeless and crazies, and street performers. I think the later really give the city some flavor. It’s not uncommon to be walking down the street, or in a train station and hear the area flooded with music. Sometimes people even get onto the subway cars and play in between stations. It really makes the place feel alive, even though sometimes I’d rather just continue to listen to my audio book while on the train. Sometimes though you’ll get people like this guy who hangs outside the station near my school. He’s playing a harmonica in conjunction with his boom box, but he’s not keeping with the song on the radio at all. I don’t think he even knows how to really play the harmonica in the first place. Nonetheless, he’s really into it.
The homeless people in Berlin are bottle collectors. It’s a common site to see people rummaging around in the trash to see if they can collect glass bottles. They then take them to the supermarket and turn them in for about 8 cents a bottle. Often people will just leave their empty beer bottles outside of the trash cans on the street. They’re not trying to litter, they just know that sooner or later a homeless person will stop by and pick them up.
But speaking of being homeless, I finally got a new apartment, albeit only till the end of the month. It’s so nice to be out of hostels. For three weeks I’ve been living in hostel bunk beds. There’s no privacy and the internet/showers are hit or miss. A Romanian friend of mine was leaving for the rest of the month and offered to let me rent her room out for cheap. It’s amazing. The room is beautiful and it overlooks Tempelhofer airport. The airport was closed in 2008, but was one of the longest continually running airports in the world until then. It was also a major site in the Berlin airlift. Now it’s a public park. You can go run around on the tarmacs and grass and have picnics. Each day hundreds of people are out there biking, running, flying kites, or just relaxing. There’s even a garden area set up. I got together with some friends and we went and had a picnic out on the air field.
This place is heavenly right now. It’s windy, cold, and wet outside, but I’m warm and dry inside, looking out, on my laptop, just a few dim lights on in the room, with jazz softly playing in the background. Damn it feels good.
The big adventure I had this week was exploring an abandoned children’s hospital in the middle of the night. It was gusty, misty, and dark, which only added to the creepiness of the entire endeavor. My friend S said to meet him at the train station at 11pm. He had been there before with some other people earlier in the week, but now we were going at night. We invited 3 other people, but only one of them showed up. Together we made our way down to the hospital. It’s right in the middle of town, but is nonetheless abandoned. It’s not just one building either, but an entire abandoned campus. I believe there are five buildings in total. It was closed several years ago and has since been utterly trashed. There was no security and we easily hopped the fence at a low point concealed by some bushes.
Once on the other side of the fence we stopped and listened for guards or dogs. We didn’t hear anything, but we moved quietly and quickly as we were out in the open, exposed. We closed with the building and peered around a corner. “Shit, there’s a light on at the guard house.” We didn’t see movement though. S figured it was probably the old Irish guard he had met with the first time he came. The guy let him and his friends in and just asked that they don’t further trash the place.
We moved away from the light and started looking for an entrance. We saw a series of basement windows running along the bottom of one of the buildings and decided to try that. We pushed one open, shined our light in, and saw that it wasn’t too far of a drop. One by one we got down on the ground and slid in through the window. Once inside we shut it behind us and our lights flickered to life. It was pitch black otherwise, and the wind was howling around the outside of the building. I was instantly reminded of every horror movie and game I’d ever played. This was like the setting to many of them: A desolate hospital with pitch black corridors, many of it under ground, with open and closed doors all around you. My pulse began to rise.
We kept together, watching the corners, keeping our lights low and pointed down, trying to not make too much noise. We were in the basement of one of the buildings. We came across some elevator shafts with the cars still in them, and a repair manual on the desk.
As we moved from room to room, we found a shaft. It contained a ladder and went down about two or three stories to an even deeper subterranean lair. We decided to go for it. I held the light and my friends made their way down. Eventually I was the last one up top, surrounded by darkness. This is usually the part in the horror movie where the monster kills me and my friends hear me die up at the top of the shaft. I quickly and carefully scurried down the ladder after them.
I made it down safely and we moved on together. We discovered a conveyor belt which we used to lead us to what appeared to be a massive heating and water system for the building. The room was cavernous, filled with pipes of all sizes.
As we moved further down past the boilers, we entered another layer of the hospital. We found what looked to be giant refrigerated rooms. They could have been used just to store supplies, but the doors were really wide and the rooms were fairly large. For all we know, we were standing in the morgue, deep underground, engulfed in darkness.
We found a makeshift bar and club in one of the rooms. It looks like it was host to some party at one point, but that someone then set a couch on fire.
We entered what appeared to be another HVAC room and slowly weaved in and out of machines to get to a big red door at the end of the room. I tried to push it open, but it wouldn’t budge. “Give it a hard shove, it’ll open, I promise you.” S reassured me. He had come this way once before. I put my shoulder into it and the door yielded with a grown and a cry of joints badly in need of oil. It opened up onto the room of the building. The wind and the mist swirled around us as we stepped out. There was an access ladder that we used to climb a level higher. The view was amazing. From up here we had a perfect 360 panorama of south east Berlin.
After enjoying the view for about twenty minutes, we decided to make our way back in side and work our way down the various floors of this particular building. We stopped for a quick chocolate break and enjoyed some of the local artwork.
As we made our way down to the main floors, we had to be careful about walking on glass. It was everywhere in some places, and was unavoidably noises as we stepped over it. To add to the eeriness, sometimes the windows were broken on both sides of the building and the wind would flood into the hallways, moving things around and generally creating noise. We weren’t expecting to see anyone, but we kept together just in case. I made sure I was always within 1 room distance of both my companions. Still, I was dreading turning around and seeing the glint of eyes at the end of the long dark corridor.
We eventually came across the skull room:
After working our way back down the building, we decided to head outside and then home. We searched for an exit, but some of the windows lead out to steep drops. Eventually we did find a door and some stairs and made our way outside where we found what appeared to be an old ambulance garage.
Body in a body bag, or just trash?
The garage had a basement as well, and so we worked our way down there:
After exploring there we went back up topside and casually strolled to the perimeter fence. It was around 4am. We had been in the complex for just under five hours and had no idea. I guess time flies when you’re navigating the pitch black corridors of some undead nightmare complex. We hopped the fence, turned off our lights, and casually strolled down the street. Success. We eventually made it back to the train station where one of our companions parted ways with us and S and I went to go find celebratory beers.