Berlin to Beelitz-Heilstätten: exploring the abandoned hospital

In Adventures, Berlin by Claire

Beelitz-Heilstätten is a strange place, as a lot of abandoned buildings are. True, is made to feel slightly more normal by the fact it is a pretty-well known spot and there’s a number of dog walkers that find their way through it. But it remains weird as you wander round the decaying buildings and up and down destroyed staircases, thinking that Hitler and Honecker both stayed here. We rode out there for 50 mile ride and a bit of an explore around abandoned buildings and a wood we got a bit lost in.

Abandoned Berlin, dedicated to detailing most of Berlin’s semi-destroyed and unkept buildings does a better job of describing the site than I will. “Beelitz is where Hitler and Honecker were treated for injuries/ailments sustained in World War I and East Germany’s last days, respectively. The huge military hospital complex is abandoned now, shrouded in mystery, haunting, eerie, waiting to see what fate holds for it next,” it says.

To quickly paraphrase its history: The hospital opened in 1902, then following the Cold War, passed between German to Russian hands. It was one of the largest Soviet military hospitals outside the USSR (the Berlin health authority who originally planned it in 1898 snapped up 140 hectares of forest real estate for it). Hitler and Honeker had a stint in it, but around 2001 there was some kerfuffle with investors hoping to save it and a spate of not-good-things happened. Finally in 1994, the last people left it.

And so we went.

From the front, it wasn’t particularly promising. There was a bunch of locked gates with some sort of inhabited building looking very much lived in and looking not at all like we should vault fences near it. We found ourselves muttering “We came all the way for this?” But, around the side, the fence disintegrates to my person level of breaking and entering, which involves trotting through a nonexistent fence.

The abandoned buildings are lovely, strange and full of graffiti, furniture and dumped stuff in places. Poking around them is super.

In semi-related cultural news, the neighbouring town of Beelitz is also known for its white asparagus at this time of year. A side effect of living in Berlin and coming from England is that events I’m attending get thrown up into Facebook’s newsfeed sometimes. A lot of friends from home find the ‘Fahrtwind’ events hilarious. Particularly when there’s a springtime event involving a Fahrtwind trip to explore Beelitz’s on a Spargel Ride (asparagus ride) coming up next month.

Back to the point, the bike ride out to Beelitz, via Potsdam is lovey. It’s through a sunny Grunewald and into Potsdam for coffee and a quick look at Dutch Quarter buildings. Several quick stops to make sure Dom’s chainring wasn’t falling off later, we were off the roads and into the woods. Route map at the bottom.

Heading down a suspiciously smooth concrete path through the woods, via a tatty looking train tracks with some abandoned trains on it, the route pops you out onto a miscellaneous road and suddenly there. True, just around the corner is the train station with dog walkers trotting around, but come at it from the other side and it feels a bit more like you’re in the middle nowhere.

Then on your way back, feel free to decide that the train takes far too long and you’ll just hop it to the next station using Google Maps’ helpfully suggested woodland route. An hour later, sliding and laughing through weird woodland paths, covered in sand, tree roots and the beautiful sound of silence – ruined only by my loud giggling and some high-pitch squeaking every time the bike slips – you have yourself an unexpected #tracklocross session. And a quick lesson in why Google Maps isn’t the best for directions off road. But it was very very fun.

Here’s the route we took. There’s also a Strava route, which I’ve helpfully titled Berlin to Beelitz and the sandy woods of doom route. You might only want to use the first half.

ClaireBerlin to Beelitz-Heilstätten: exploring the abandoned hospital