Spy Towers & Punk Houses: The Other Berlin

Another must on the alternative side of Berlin is the array of punk squat houses that offer live heavy metal, hardcore, and punk music at a very high standard.

berlin
PHOTO DANIEL COOKE

While Berlin is home to many beautiful landmarks, museums and galleries it is also host to some wonderfully perverse subsections of society, both new and old. With a little bit of forethought and planning a stay in Berlin doesn’t need to be just another standard stop on your Euro trip, it can be so much more interesting. Rather than drinking expensive German beers in delightful cafés in the city center you can be exploring abandoned US spy stations and huge dilapidated punk squats that offer free punk-centric entertainment, awesomely cheap German beer and Ping-Pong.

Teufelsberg, known by some as ‘Devil’s mountain’, is an abandoned US spy station located a few miles from the heart of Berlin. The internet tells you that it is easy to get to on the S-Bahn – just jump on the S9 or S75 to Heerstraße, or S1 to Grunewald and walk or cycle from there – however for me and my brother the walk was more of a trek and the road/track that apparently leads up to the gate was both unknown and unfound by us. Instead we donned our raincoats and slid through some terrifically wet and long grass until we reached the bass of the man made mountain, that was comprised mostly of war rubble and fear, then we started our ascent.

berlin,pingpong
PHOTO DANIEL COOKE

Also unbeknown to my brother and me at the time, Teufelsberg is now in the hands of certain collectives who are charging visitors, artists, and vandals alike the small price of 5 euros to wander between its wavering walls. For this price you can enter on a dry road, stroll around the many levels of broken building, gaze at the graffiti (some of which is rather good) and spoil yourself with the views. However we, instead of taking this route, spent a good old while searching for a break in the now rather secure layers of perimeter fencing, we eventually found our way over only to be confronted on the first of many abandoned rooftops by some German men dressed in all black who shouted, upon recognizing our blatant Englishness, ‘LEAVE! NOW!’ We, believing them to be the contemporary offspring of the SS, scarpered to the safety of the bushes before returning somewhat more sheepishly into the depths of the buildings and towers.  It was only when we bumped into a rather normal looking German man with a particularly nice camera that we realized something was amiss and soon enough we found ourselves being escorted to the front gates to pay the five euros. No harm no foul right. Indeed just after a spot of nice and cultured painting we soon found ourselves among a strange mixture of Berlin’s resident hippies and hipsters as they set up for a low-key music festival. We hung around for a while to check out the arranging of some simple and elegant sculpture and the opening of the makeshift bar, and then we were on our way; our wet coats and our story in hand, both now seemingly surplus as we wallowed our way back to our hostel in the evening sun.

berlin
PHOTO DANIEL COOKE

Another must on the alternative side of Berlin is the array of punk squat houses that offer live heavy metal, hardcore, and punk music at a very high standard. One of the most famous and the one we happened across is named Koepi 137.

We entered through a causeway of bizarre and wonderfully vulgar collaborations of artwork and collages of discarded paraphernalia and tat. We arrived quite early, which I wouldn’t recommend, instead I’d suggest to aim to arrive just on the lighter side of midnight to avoid waiting around, all too sober and politically vulnerable amidst some people who are so many levels of radical above you. However, things soon pick up as the drinks are mightily cheap due to their communistic pricing standards and the people are crazy nice, despite looking a tad frightening. Graffiti stained anti-fascist Ping-Pong got the night going before the music really picked up. A great set which sadly we had to cut short due to our only means of transport back to the hostel. I’m sure however that I will return one day for a more thorough exploration of this scene, and the many others dotted around this intricate city that so many travellers seem to miss out on or pass up for the genial wonders of a usual breezy stay in Berlin.

Article written by Daniel Cooke.

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