European Urbex Trip - Germany, Belgium and Prague

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pumice

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European Urbex - March 2012

In March of this year I took a month out to embark on my first Urbex trip to Europe. Using planes, trains, bicycles, buses, trams, taxis and lots of luck, I managed to explore some of the fantastical sites I have seen on here and other forums. It has taken me an age to get a report up, so I have decided that I would collect the best shots of each location, a brief history and where appropriate a retelling of the peculiar stories involving access, drunken Germans and armed security. This may make for an overly long report, but I thought I would try something a little different and hopefully accurately portray one of the most elaborate and brilliant periods of travel I have ever taken. Before I do so, I would like to thank both TeeJF and Priority 7 for some sage advice and guidance whilst in the planning stages of the trip. Much obliged fellas...........................


Beelitz Heilstaten​

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Beelitz Heilstaten. What to say? A much frequented location and in my humble (and frankly novice) opinion a mecca for UE. One of the first explores I embarked on whilst away and a real pleasure. A sprawling and vast site spread around the centre point of the convenient and aptly titled Beelitz Heilstaten station. I stayed in an ace lodging house slap bang in the centre of the site (PM me for details), over the road from an outstandingly friendly bar. A bar where my pigeon German was truly slated by the locals who took great delight in getting the English guy wasted on myriad spirits and flaming shots whilst telling of the recent murder that took place in the lodgings I was staying in on my own.

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I am sure most of you will be aware of the history of Beelitz, but it is a former, ground breaking TB hospital on the periphery of Berlin, where even the architecture was enhanced to offer a holistic approach to recovery. The hospital is famous for being the place where a young Hitler convalesced after suffering a shrapnel injury during the first world war. Of course, the Russians took ownership of the facility after the second war. Leading to some fascinating Russian graffiti and remnants scattered ad hoc around the site. As seems to be the case with most German explores, the graffiti adorning the walls is generally of a magnificent standard.

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I was especially impressed by the bombed (RAF) female pavilion and loved walking around its dusty and broken corridors. On reaching the upper stories I was utterly gobsmaked to find an altogether established forest on its fourth floor.​

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Teuflesberg

After a thoroughly unsuccessful trip to Spree Park and after getting busted buy security who I managed to blag with the offer of 20 Euros to remain for an extra hours accompanied trip around the park and being allowed to keep my photographs, I embarked on trip across Berlin to Teuflesberg Listening Station. This is a former allied listening station that is located atop a huge mound of war rubble and is the highest point in Berlin affording fantastic (if not rather wind swept) views towards the city.​

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There were many visitors on the site, but the stories of rabid security was arrive periodically with dogs and demands of 150 Euro fines were confirmed by a Swedish photographer I met who was photographing the people visiting the site and had been chased of just days before.

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The site is perched on top of a very step hill, but access is ridiculously easy. The area it is situated in is pretty and the forest surrounding it oddly scary when you're walking back to the train at close to 11pm with a flat battery and only memory to guide you. The pub/restaurant by the station, is also well worth a visit.

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All of the pictures here were taken at night and the wind on top of the largest tower made it impossible to take any sharp shot towards the city, but if you want a more overall view of the daytime site, please check jnewstar on Photobucket​

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Kasserne Kampnitz

Built as a military barracks prior to the second world war and taken over by the Russians following. The Russians left in the early 1990s following the downfall of the USSR. The site is strewn with various references to the Russian occupation including some pretty awful wood paneling and stick on plastic veneers! The location is again massive and includes a stunning manor building that still contains some pristine Russian Communist pantings as well as some amazing spaces and defaced Nazi insignia. There is a pretty cool and rotten gymnasium, loads of enclosed lecture spaces that contain stages and theatre seating and a triumphantly kitsch bar. Its a great explore and well worth a visit during the summer months as the forest its contained within would be truly sumptuous at this time of year. The site has also been used as location for Inglorious Basterds and Enemy At The Gate.

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The infamous and most likely fake Nazi swastika, although still marvellously exciting to come across it towards the end of the day.


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Bear Brewery​

The Barenquell Brewery was opened in 1882 and closed after the reunification of Germany in 1994. That marked the end of 112 years of beer production on the site. Again, a vast and humongous site synonymous with street art. Like everything else in East Germany, the brewery came under state control after the war. Running close to a main road and not far from the S Bahn, the site is relatively easy to crack, but is dangerous in places. Many holes litter the large brewing hall which, as I recall rises to 4 stories. On an interesting note (and thanks to Abandoned Berlin), Barenquell apparently translates as "spring of beers". This was my first German explore and I am sure you can all imagine my abundant excitement as I stepped towards it on this bright and warm March day. The pictures..........

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Rapunzels Castle

Rapunzels Castle is a stunning abandoned estate in Germany. I will be honest and admit that I do not have much info on the history (other than where it was), but I do know that it has featured in a movie unsurprisingly called Rapunzel. This was a proper hard work explore after travelling overnight on a train from the Polish border (a failed explore in Gorlitz!), with 6 stops including a 4 hour stay in Leipzig station. I arrived at 6am with all my luggage, tired limbs and a desperate need for coffee that was unserviceable in this mountainous region at 5.45am. I lumbered through the woods along the tram track, climbed a couple of fences and was remarkably elated when I realised the front door was ajar. With eager limbs I skipped through in to a paradise lost and began photographing some remarkable features and rooms.

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Grabowsee Heilstaten


This stunning site is located on the shores of Lake Grabowsee in thick forest and was likely one of my most enjoyable and random explores of the whole trip. Cycling through the forest on a bike hired in Berlin, the enormity of my adventure hit home and despite the cold rain, a smile was permanently fixed to my face. The explore ended up as a permission visit after my trepidation towards dogs left me marooned in an attic room for an hour and I was startled by the appearance of an erratically driven Trabant that appeared after I had finally plucked up the courage to leave the attic and head towards the site. The owner (or new age hippy) Bernhardt is a legend and has plans to turn the site in to a school for kids that concentrates on practical subjects and caters for the less academically focused. He is presently raising cash and for a small donation, he will allow you total access including a handy map! I even managed to blag a cruise around the site in the Trabant with the huge, but friendly Polish sheep/guard dog! :)

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Grabowsee is another TB hospital that was opened in 1896 and taken over by the Russians in 1945. The Russians left in 1995 and the site has basically been squatted by the Kids Globe since 2005. There are 4 interconnecting pavilions built around a central (and massively overgrown) courtyard. An added single story Russian barracks runs parallel to some more established 2 story building in an avenue of the main courtyard and a large inaccessible water tower. The buildings aren't in a great a state, but are a pleasing site. The highlight of this explore is the exceptional and magnificent graffiti. Bernhardt arranged a street art festival here a couple of years ago and these phenomenal works of art remain in individual rooms in the aforementioned avenue. There are various pieces littered throughout the site and they are truly the best graffiti I have ever seen.

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Zeche Hugo

Zeche Hugo is located in the industrial and rather squalid Gelsenkirchen. Easily accessed, the mine began operation in 1873 and when the operation came to an end around 5000 people were employed. Most of the buildings have been demolished and the shafts filled, but the admin block contains 2 kaunes where most of the below pictures are taken. A kaune is a changing block containing thousands of cages on chains where miners kept there possessions in safely and offered an easy way to check that each miner had returned from their shifts. It is also a photographic paradise................

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After arriving in Gelsenkirchen on the day of the Schalke Dortmund derby and struggling to get myself of the packed and noisy train, I found myself lost on the tram system, arriving at the mine an hour before sundown and feeling anxious. The day before I had been busted at Kent School by the A Team. Burly security guards armed to the teeth with guns, hand cuffs, pepper spray and a skull motif on their shoulders. I was so surprised to see them busting out of the main building, guns drawn and shimmying along the wall like they were fresh out of military, I asked them if they were playing airsoft. Their grunted response of "nine" suggested I was actually in trouble here. However, after an hours chat and the visit of the local police officer, I was allowed to leave with only a stern telling of. This however, put me in odd spirits and when i heard voices emitting from the main kaune, I assumed the worst and hastily sought some shelter. I tip toed around the building, but was mightily relieved to find that the voices were just those of aspiring hip hop artists recording a video. This lightened my mood and continued photographing with renewed vigour.​

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Non exploring shot, but kinda sums up the ferocity of feeling towards Dortmund by the Schalke fans and was certainly a feature of the journey towards Zeche

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Miranda Castle - Belgium

This place has been photographed so many times and visited by so many people that a history doesn't really seem necessary. However, it is a truly wonderful site located in an extremely picturesque part of Belgium. As you stroll towards the castle from train station down the road by a babbling stream, the looming towers greet you and beg you to take the steep hill and cross in through its open doors. Well worth a visit if you're in the area and if anybodys found an odd looking black device that looks like an old school mobile phone in recent explores, thats my blood test kit! Could I have it back please. :)

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Stella Artois Brewery - Belgium

Another much visited urbex location in Leuven, Belgium. The Stella brewery dominates the town, which is truly a beautiful place and employs many people in the area. I will not write an extensive history on the place as it has been covered many, many times, but I loved this explore and was only disappointed that I missed the opportunity to see the tremendous staircase that I have seen so many times. I was running out of time and needed to get the train back to Germany to fly home (thats another story). However, it is spread over a large area and I feel the day I gave the site was just far to little time. Another visit? Yes please!​

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Best Of The Rest - Prague & Gorlitz

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Found this awesome building that I thought originally to be an abandoned bank in the heart of Prague. Searched for illicit access, but had no joy, so figured I'd attempt to utilise my newly acquired Google Translate app to ask the security guard I'd spotted if I could have a look around. To my enormous surprise he said yes and so began a very random hour in a stunning former palace taking pictures and communicating via my iphone. I found the overbearing presence of the guard very distracting and only got a few decent pictures and despite lots of questions regarding the building, only discovered that it was a former palace. I must say though, that it stands out as one of my favourite experiences of the trip.​

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This Juggenstill shopping centre was the reason I travelled miles across Germany. Unfortunately when I arrived I discovered that the place is no longer abandoned with just one shop occupying the space. Despite desperate attempts to blag free access from the shop manager and roping in my hotel manager to contact the English company who own the magnificent building access was not granted! However, Gorlitz is full of abandoned factories and town houses, so the trip was not wasted. Spent a good couple of days here and found some cool places. The pictures of the Gorlitz explores follow below..........​

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This was a factory I found close to the river. The houses you can see through the window are actually in Poland.​

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To finish it all of, a Trabant.............................​

Thanks for sticking with this and I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings, wanderings and the photographs. :) I have comprised a video of these, plus other images accompanied by a soundtrack here [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbdDJS5wp2c[/ame] and you can see more by checking out jnewstar on Photobucket. There is a lot more....................Cheers for looking!
 

Priority 7

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Superb bud I need to chat to you about BH and a few other bits when you have a mo....glad you got around everything ok and a great set of images :)
 

Ninja Kitten

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now that is just an amazing report with outstanding pics..blimey..thankyou for all the time you put into doing this report..i enjoyed every bit of it..big thumbs up to you.
 

Mars Lander

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Blown away with your really entertaining euro splore journal, the rewards of your hard works in terms of research, planning and obvious tenaciousness are so evident in your amazing images, which only give us the reader, only a fraction of the adventure, excitement and joy you must of felt yourself to experience it in the flesh and only serves to inspire me and no doubt others to get our arses out there , thanks so much for taking the time to put this together and sharing, EPIC!!!!!!!!!!! :D
 
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TeeJF

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That was nice, the German sites gave me a great feeling of fond remembrance because we were there last year. I liked some of the graf in Grabowsee especially because it's been done since we were there.

You had a ball! Well done.
 

LulaTaHula

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What an excellent report! It's helping to add to my excitement about my impending trip to Germany! :)
 

chris

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Very impressive stuff all the more so for doing it all on your own :cool:
 

UrbanX

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Wow, what a report! Looks like you had an epic trip!
Fantastic write up too, was a pleasure to read!
 

whodareswins

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Some incredible photos and truly gorgeous locations. Superb reporting and as such thanks for sharing.

P.S the nazi ceiling, I have seen that in an URBEX photo book. I assumed it was a genuine. Are you sure it's fake?
 

UEP-Wales

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As previously said here, fantastic report and photographs! Looks like you had an amazing trip! :)

Thanks very much for posting this up!
 

King Al

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Absolutely superb pics and write up that pumice! Looks like you had a great time :)
 

pumice

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Blown away with your really entertaining euro splore journal, the rewards of your hard works in terms of research, planning and obvious tenaciousness are so evident in your amazing images, which only give us the reader, only a fraction of the adventure, excitement and joy you must of felt yourself to experience it in the flesh and only serves to inspire me and no doubt others to get our arses out there , thanks so much for taking the time to put this together and sharing, EPIC!!!!!!!!!!! :D

thanks dude, yes, it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. Right now I am wishing I was back out there though. Oh I dont want to be at work!!!!:mrgreen:
 

pumice

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Some incredible photos and truly gorgeous locations. Superb reporting and as such thanks for sharing.

P.S the nazi ceiling, I have seen that in an URBEX photo book. I assumed it was a genuine. Are you sure it's fake?

Cheers matey. With regards to the ceiling, I can`t be certain, but I read on a few websites that it was likely added. The only thing I found at Kaserne Kampnitz that related to the nazis was the eagles above the fireplaces. They had been thoroughly chipped and battered, so my assumption is that they would have never have left such an ornate and prominent piece stand. Although, I may be wrong!
 

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