Dicing with death - some post-wall wilderness

As I begin gathering my things so I can leave, clouds are gathering to cover the sun. It's not enough to deter me though, even if the temperature does start to drop once the sun's gone in.

Just a few minutes' walk from the busy Leipziger Straße lies this piece of urban wilderness:


A piece of wilderness in the centre of Berlin


Why is there this piece of waste ground so close to the city centre? A closer look at the path gives a clue:


A sandy track with traces of tarmac


It might look like just a sandy dirt path at first, but there are traces of thin tarmac there too. Tarmac which hasn't been replaced for at least 20 years...

This is the remains of an East German 'Kolonnenweg' (patrol road), which border guards used when patrolling the border. This sandy wilderness was part of what's often known as the Todesstreifen (death strip), the space between the wall on the western side and a second wall on the eastern side. This space between was what made escaping far more difficult than just climbing over a wall - by the 1980s, the Berlin wall was one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world, a far cry from its beginnings as a barbed wire fence on August 13th 1961.

The area between the two walls was covered with sand, which was regularly raked and sprinkled with weedkiller, not because the SED were fans of Japanese rock gardens, but to ensure there was nowhere for escapees to hide. The area also often contained anti-vehicle defences, barbed wire, dogs on long chains, signal fences and watchtowers, making the chances of getting across unspotted very low indeed.

Further along, just off Kommandantenstraße, someone seems to have set up camp:


A dwelling made from an old skip


Your eyes don't deceive you - that's a skip with windows, a solar panel and a satellite dish on it. I don't know if there's anyone living in it, though.

There's more of the Kolonnenweg here too:


More Kolonnenweg


There's something equally strange on the corner of Beuthstraße, even if it's less anarchistic in nature:


A single show flat


It seems this area isn't going to stay as waste ground for much longer - a developer is planning on building several blocks of luxury flats. They've built this single show flat to attract orders; it looks rather lonely out here on its own though and actually seems more out of place than the skip/spaceship hybrid over the road. I have to say that, considering the current economic climate and knowing the issues Berlin as a whole has faced with attracting new money in, I'd rather be taking orders for the skip.

U-Bahn: 
Spittelmarkt (U2)
Location: 
Former death strip 10117 Berlin

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