Bunkers for Russian nukes, lost city of Vogelsang

Shadowed by fear, consumed by guilt, somewhere in the contradiction of nowhere lies a forgotten city so secret only darkness and light know it’s there. A whole city without a soul. Curtains flutter nonchalantly through broken windows, backs turned on hollow rooms and impotent corridors, while outside stand giant empty hangers shellshocked and still, doors creaking forlornly, their stash of deadly nuclear missiles long gone and with it their raison d’être.

Welcome to Vogelsang, where the Russians once had atomic weapons earmarked for Western Europe’s consumption, ready to launch at a moment’s folly in retaliation for a pre-emptive strike or pre-emption of an imminent retaliation.
Construction at this 7,000 hectare site began in 1951 (one of the few complexes purpose-built by the Russians, most likely off plans seized from the Germans after the war) before the garrison became home to around 18,000 soldiers and civilians, a shit load of tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, tactical missiles and the most fiendish missiles of all – nuclear missiles.
Soldiers carried out manoeuvres at night to avoid American surveillance, and locals had no idea what kind of shenanigans were going on behind those guarded walls.
R5-M (SS-3 Shyster) missiles were brought here by the elite 72nd RVGK Engineer Brigade in January 1959, and allegedly aimed at London, Paris, Brussels, the Ruhrgebiet and Bonn (where an atomic bomb would actually be an improvement). These things were HUGE, weighing 29.1 tonnes and reaching 20.74 meters, and much more powerful than those dropped on Nagasaki or Hiroshima.
The East Germans were not informed, and the missiles were delivered under cover of darkness using back roads so they wouldn’t find out.
The Russians withdrew the weapons in September, as part of a disarmament pact Nikita Khrushchev agreed with the Americans in return for the removal of US missiles in Turkey.
However, another sneaky deployment – this time with R-12 (SS-4 Sandal) nuclear missiles – was sent here in 1961 during the top secret Operation Tuman.
It was so damned secret even the soldiers did not know where they were being deployed.
“Officers and career servicemen for a long time had no clue that the road ahead of them crosses the western border of the USSR and transited to the GDR,” reported the commander in charge, Colonel Vladimir Aleksandrov from Smolensk.
Col. Aleksandrov’s forces waited for the order to fire. “Everyone agonized from the suspense. But the command to load up never came,” he said. “On several occasions I reported to division command ... but each time I got the same answer: ‘Wait. Increase the regiment’s training and combat readiness.’”
In the end, the Soviet Union’s production of the R-14 Chusovaya missile (SS-5 Skean) with its much greater range eliminated the need for armed nuclear missiles in Germany, and Col. Aleksandrov was given the order to disband on July 12th, 1962.
Of course, there was still enough going on through the Cold War and beyond to keep Vogelsang busy. The Russians didn’t leave until 1993.
Now the Germans want to wipe it from the face of the earth. It’s not so secret that they can leave it alone. Mechanical rubble makers are slowly making their way from the north, gobbling and grinding their way through history, while the forest does its best to reclaim the 4,000 hectares of woodland cut down before construction began.
I entered through the south and promptly found a corpse. In the middle of a dark shed. A ram ravaged by wild dogs or a forgotten soldier. Teeth bared by lack of flesh in a permanent grimace, bones poking awkwardly toward the ceiling reaching for the spirit which left it behind.
Hordes of mosquitoes attacked to keep me from venturing further – must have been under Khrushchev’s orders – but there was no way I could turn back now. Bunkers, bombs, battalions – all were discoverable in my head as I and searched for clues to secrets nobody wants me to know, hiding from time to time as I heard voices, other people perhaps, perhaps not. Lenin was definitely there and more besides (electric fuses boxes made by J.W. Stalin in Treptow, Berlin!) but despite a day picking my way through scattered roof tiles and scurrying from one building to the next, peering, poring, pontificating, I only made a scratch. Interrupted by darkness and wolves, I didn’t see it all.
I have to go back, I’ll go back.

What
Kaserne Vogelsang. Soviet military barracks and top secret nuclear missile launching site. This image gives you an overview of the site and run down of what happened where.

Where
Vogelsang, 16792 Zehdenick, Oberhavel, Brandenburg, Germany.

How to get there
Get the S1 S-Bahn to Oranienburg and then the RB12 (a weird little regional train that comes along every half hour or so) in the direction of Templin. You might need to push the button to request a stop at Vogelsang train station. Bring your bike – Vogelsang itself is tiny, but the abandoned site you’ve come to explore is huge. One day is not enough, so if you’re brave or crazy enough you could always sleep in one of the buildings to continue exploring the next day. The site of interest is to the northwest of the train station. Map here.

Getting in
Either hop the fence (quite easy) or cycle on until there’s no fence (even easier).

When to go
Now. As I wrote, they’re intent on destroying anything remotely interesting around here. I mean, what harm is an abandoned Russian nuclear missile launching site in the middle of a forest? Nope, they just can’t leave anything alone.

Difficulty rating
$/10. The main problem is getting here and the expense that incurs. Train tickets for human and bike (necessary because they do check) come to a whopping €18 or so return! The train ride from Oranienburg is about 30 mins.

Who to bring
Like-minded explorers. A Russian would be useful for translation purposes. 

What to bring
Camera, torch, anti-mosquito spray, snack, bicycle, sleeping bag and more snacks if you’re overnighting. Phones don’t work here so maybe let someone know where you’re going so if you don’t return after a week they’ll know to send help, somewhere. Ah yes, a map!

Dangers
Some – scrap that – all of the buildings are in a bad way. Be careful etc. etc. and don’t trip over any atomic bombs or anything like that. Also watch out for the mozzies. In fact, you won’t need to – they’ll find you. Just make sure to bring a good mozzie spray to keep the hungry buggers at bay.

Many thanks to Danish nuclear missile expert Martin Trolle Mikkelsen for much of the background info on the Russians' covert activities. It seems he misses the Russian nuclear missiles as much as I do!

UPDATE: Friday, October 4, 2013 – Pictures have been updated with what I believe, perhaps foolishly, are much improved ones. The last lot weren't so hot, but these! Wow! (Seriously, I hope soon to post a Vogelsang update post, containing what I'm sure will be just brilliant photographs.)

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60 comments

I was bitterly disappointed with my visit here today. Some further advice for any potential explorers:

1. Check the train timetables. I left home (Mehringdamm/Kreuzberg) at 10:20am and didn't arrive at the site until 1:00pm.

2. I bike isn't merely a good idea, it's a wholly necessary item. From Vogelsang station, it took me an hour to reach any of the buildings themselves. I spent the whole time wondering if I was even going the right way, and it was only (presumably) our dear blogger's bicycle tracks which assured me of my steps.

3. Similarly, a compass or GPS is vital. The site is huge and you don't want to waste time taking exactly the same route back for fear of getting lost (as I did).

4. Make sure you have plenty of spare time. I had to be home by 6pm for a dinner date, which gave me next to no time to explore and also meant the previous point had to be abided by much more ruthlessly.

5. Bring good shoes. The whole area is extremely boggy and has a lot of stagnant water (hence the huge amount of mosquitoes).

Otherwise, what little of the site I saw was cool enough, though it seems most of the interesting buildings have already been demolished. Most of what remained was barracks and other administration/living areas. Additionally, a lot of the buildings have been stripped of their contents (including wiring, furniture, heaters, etc.) in preparation for imminent demolition. That meant their historic appeal was lacking somewhat.

The dozers were working off in the distance, which meant I had to give them a wide berth. There's also a modern house which has been constructed (or renovated) for the workers' use.

Amazingly, there were also signs of squatters on the site (or at least overnight explorers). One room had a single-use grill in it and recent food wrappers. I hadn't expected that such a far-off, difficult-to-reach spot would play host to this.

Regarding staying overnight, it would be extremely simple to bring a tent and camp somewhere on the site. It's huge, and as long as it wasn't near any buildings or roads, no one would find you and you'd be able to explore the whole thing thoroughly.

Regarding point 2, if it wasn't clear I was on foot. I foolishly didn't bring a bike.

Have you been to the old Russian base not far from Teltow?.From Konigsberger strasse in Lichterfelde/Lankwitz where I lived head out to the Real supermarket in Teltow,at the big crossing in Teltow bear to your left to travel to the nice garden centre,on your right after a couple of minutes is an old Russian base(security by van in operation generally same time every day about 12ish lunch time as of 2006),go to the rear and follow the railway lines,easy walk in from there,at start of railway lines is a large bunker with an easy in.Because I was alone I only went into the base.

Cheers Bill. I'll deffo check it out. When you say "head out" do you mean by car, bicycle or on foot? And using Real as a start point, is it east, west or south? I presume it ain't north if you're coming from Lichterfelde? Thanks again.

If you are using Real in Teltow as the starting point,head back towards Berlin by car,when you get to the big crossing,turn to your right and as you get up the hill you will come across a very nice garden centre on your left,not far after on your right there is a wide loose filled track bear right here and follow,you will see entrance forbidden signs because of ammuntion in German lol,keep going slowly till you find the old railway lines on your left,the bunker is at the front very very close to the road and is a simple walk in through an open hatch.Follow the railway lines up through the trees and you will come straight into loads of old garages,row upon row of them,simple walk in as fence has a nice big hole.As you are Irish.pop down to Mcnair Barracks and there is an Irish guy who looks after the little musuem there,great little visit plus you can wander around Mcnair.All details correct as of 2006 when I left for the UK.

A couple of other points to mention.From Real go back to Berlin via Teltow and not via Kleinmachnow as you would be on the wrong road.If you miss the dirt track after the garden centre no worries as you would come to the front of the base.A nice day out is the famous cemetery not far from Real in Stahnsdorf,really huge place and many famous are buried here.The Siemans family plot is here as well,walk for about 3 KM inside the cemetery and you will come across War graves,as expected ours are kept in 100% prestine condition.The place is huge and does your spirits good to walk around such history,

Just thought of another to see if you do not know about it,go to the Wansee Conference Centre a real must see for anyone living or visiting Berlin.

The Historical Site



In this house – a former industrialist’s villa built in 1914-15 and used from 1941 to 1945 by the SS as a conference centre and guest house – on 20 January 1942, fifteen high-ranking representatives of the SS, the NSDAP [Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei] and various ministries met to discuss their cooperation in the planned deportation and murder of the European Jews.

Once you leave the house turn right out of main gate and after a very short drive/walk look to your left and there is a huge bunker with a big red cross on it,no idea how easy it is to get in,my guess probably very hard.I did a net search at the time and found no info about it.

Bill, thanks a million for all your helpful advice. I'll certainly get down there and check it out. It sounds great! Hope to bring you a report and pictures of my findings in the near future. It's been a crazy summer and it's about time I got exploring again.

Have you been to the old asylum-seeker homes (Asylantenheime) in Eastern Köpenick (Wilhelmshagen)? Should take a look at it, interesting and scary, especially in winter/autumn.

52.429821, 13.721505 on GoogleMaps

Thanks for another great tip!

To me, the most interesting part of the site was the nuclear bunker (welded shut, though), the garages for rockets and rocket-transporters, and the launchpad which is a bit tricky to find. Naturally, you need some imagination for all these to come to life. The other buildings were almost completely empty with exception of a few Soviet wall-paintings here and there, mostly in bad shape. If you're reasonably fit and have a map / compass / GPS you should be able to do it by walking / running (we did.)

I recommend studying / printing Martin Trolle's map of the site:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/martintrolle/3492844061/

This site is only part of a larger complex of military and nuclear sites. Again, Martin Trolle's maps have more details. I haven't been to any of the other sites, though.

The demolition of the Vogelsang site is progressing as of November 2011. The machinery is all there. I was there on a Sunday where they weren't working. I met several other explorers there, including a girl making unusual photos of flowers inside these buildings using a homemade camera (only in Berlin will you see such unusual things, folks.) Someone else had left their bike locked securely inside a house. And I met a couple from New Zealand. We decided to explore together and I think they thought I was taking the whole sneaky / stealth thing too seriously - right until a forest ranger spotted us and chased after us in his 4wd, getting out yelling something in Deutsch and when we didn't come out of our hiding he drove off in a hurry. We continued exploring - this time avoiding roads and doing our best Commando imitation. Later, just as it was getting dark, we got back to their car which they had parked right outside the main gate. It wouldn't budge. Granted, it was a very old car, but still. So we went out and found 3 of the 4 tires flat. The forest ranger is a bit of a vigilante hot-head it seems, so you need to be careful. Unless they're still stuck out there I'm sure they'll post a comment in a few days saying how they managed to get their car running again ...

So appropriately coloured clothes and staying off the roads whenever possible is recommended to avoid the forest ranger.

We had an amazing time yesterday, until as mentioned above we returned to our van to find the tyres had no air in them. After 3 hours of waiting in the cold a friendly German mechanic arrived and inflated our tyres and offered me a cigarette. Insurance is nice.

My advice for car drivers is; don't park outside the locked gate on the forest road just past the train station. Your begging for trouble. As mentioned above the owner/ranger/security/vigilante is not happy about rubber neckers footing around his pad. Park at the train station if you arrive by car. It just makes more sense.

But all in all it's a spectacular place to visit. Murals of cosmonauts were a personal highlight.

Anonymous - I'll add the Asylantenheime to my list. Thanks for the tip.

Anonymous - If that's the same anonymous leaving all those detailed comments you should think of starting your own blog - hilarious! You didn't meet Yogi Bear on your explorations too?
By the way, did you try ALL the nuclear bunkers? I made it into one on my last visit. Crazy! I'll update with details soon...

Anonymous - glad to hear you made it home! I'd suggest travelling by train and bringing the bike along to get to and around the site. If you're parking it anywhere though, make sure it's well hidden from that pesky owner/ranger/security/vigilante guy.

We might as well share our experiences in one common place :-) There's no point going to a site just to find it has been torn down, sealed off tight, crawling with guards and dogs and what not. You spend a lot of time, effort and money to get there, no need to waste that. Once a guard (owner, ranger, whatever) catches you, it's game over - even if you don't get fined or anything you still have to leave the site. Also, it's good to know such things about vigilantes deflating your car. Of course, how much we want to sneak around is a matter of personal taste. You do look like a fool if someone does see you, but the risk of that gets smaller the more careful you are :-)

I didn't see Yogi Bear, but thanks for asking. I also didn't see any wolves as Mr. Irish B. did ;-) Perhaps they were wild boar? It looked like they really roaming the place along with deer and other animals.

I'm wary of crying wolf but they did have a remarkable wolf-semblance. I also saw boar-shaped boar, and deer-shaped deer on other visits so am fairly certain they really were wolves. As if it wasn't exciting enough!

Regarding the wolf, might it have been a ram or a sheep? We cycled around some of the tracks and when we stopped we saw a ram staring right at us from the forest. He seemed to have several other sheep with him that bolted when we cycled off.

I did find a ram's carcass in one of the sheds, and I suspect he wasn't eaten by another ram...
But I think I'd recognise a sheep or a ram! I'm from Ireland, where men are men and sheep are nervous.

three of us went here last weekend. thanks to the tips on this site we managed to find the place (using bicycles), and it was a very interesting experience; though it was freezing the sun helped us enjoy the day; the location of this former soviet base is great - a beautiful forest. unfortunately yes, we came across workers on the site, and they are gradually demolishing the buildings; one worker spotted us and told us that we are not allowed here and to go away (but in a nice way); we said yes, yes, and we continued on our exploration away from the workers; still plenty of nice building standing up; and my favourite bit were the soviet murals of lenin, soviet solders, tanks etc in front of one of the main buildings - i hope they at least leave this undemolished, it is history and (socialist) art and surely would not hurt anybody if it continues its crumbling existence in these forgotten woods...

This place sounds amazing! Is it still standing? I am in Berlin and would love to go soon.

This place sounds amazing! Is it still standing? I am in Berlin and would love to go soon.

As the anonymous above, i also wonder if it is still worth visiting. It sounds like a perfect way to spend a day.

Hey, does someone know if it is still interesting going there?

Yes. I was there last week, most of it is still standing, and it's still very much worth visiting!
The words are in my head. I just need to get an evening free so I can sit down, type them out and there'll be a fresh update to the Vogelsang post.
In the meantime, go out there! Look, see, explore!
Just give yourself plenty of time. I've been three times now and still haven't seen it all.

read this article... and knew... that i'd read reference to the location before:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20079147

Thanks for posting the link. I groaned when I saw it first, though I'm not sure why exactly. I don't know if it's a good thing the BBC is writing about Vogelsang, but my initial reaction is for the latter. I know it's hypocritical of me to say so.

Anyone knowing if this place is still standing? Or when it will be torn down?

It's still standing, most of it. But they're in the process of tearing it down, so don't delay!

I will be in Berlin in June and this is on top of my list! How is the demolition process going? Even if there is "not much" there I would still love to visit it, and Irish Berliner if you are willing to join me (as I would be otherwise be going on my own)

I don't see why they would demolish something like this, too cool!
Regards,
Aussie Cassie.

@AussieCassie right? i don't get it either. anyways i'm planing on checking out the site next week (mid april that is). i'll post a report once i'm back and will also put some pictures on instagram ("denisschimpf" if you want to take a look at them).
so long
denis

Any news on the demolition progress? How was it when you went @Denis ?

We visited on Monday!
All the most interesting stuff is still there, like the theatre, school, cafe, cinema and gym. They are still demolishing it from the north, but they are making slow progress with just one digger and maybe five people. Google satellite view gives a fairly accurate idea of the stage they are at now - lots gone from the map posted above. We didn't have time to check out the missile area though.
We posted more on our visit here: http://yearinberlin.com/2013/05/08/vogelsang-a-soviet-ghost-town/

Thanks Kirstie! I'm due another trip. I look forward to checking out your post! IB

Me and a friend visited today!! It took us about 3hours to get to the site from charlottenburg but we had to walk from vogelsang station. The site was fascinating definately worth a visit!! We saw all the good bits inside the town, the gymnasium, theatre, cinema as well as what we reckon was a school, a canteen/diner and some sort of playing field. There was definately some construction work going on in the north end but it was a Sunday so there were no workers. Also a word of caution by the playing field there were jeep tracks that were fairly new. But other than that there was no trace of any kind of people since the place was abandoned!!

This place is really wonderful!!! You really feel like your lost inside of a forgotten place. Taking a bike is a good idea, but not necessary. The walk to the site was about 30 mins on foot without one. We've been there twice already, and there's still a bit more to see. There are some buildings in the north end that have been demolished. But No signs of construction or workers on either of the days that we were there, and we went all over. Just lots of deer. Ran into a beautiful heard jumping over the fences on the north end, and scared a few that were hanging out inside one of the buildings.

Visited Vogelsang the day after i saw Krampnitz and it was really nice, but in very poor condition. Me and my travelling partner actually got a big lost and stumbled into two wild boars that was very threatening, scary but very exciting. :D

The houses are in extremely poor condition and many will problably collapse in the coming years, we didnt dare to enter many of the buildings because of roofs that had collapsed and walls that was about to give way.

But still, very interesting place to visit and see.

Well, at least you weren't boared. ;)
I think I saw a wolf on my first visit there.

We went there about a week ago. Very nice spot and it was very good to have the bikes. We did not see any security or demolition workers (on Sunday), only a few other explorers and some families picking mushrooms. And a lot of deers.

There were people (friendly) collecting wood from the site/buildings (almost officially) which will be demolished at some point. There is a fence around the area with signs "do not enter" from the outside (invisible from the inside), but there were no signs or fences when coming through the main roads (both), so we felt quite legal there:)

There are some parts that are already demolished: in the north, and near the Missile Base. There were also signs explaining that demolition is funded by EU, so obviously it will be continued (it was sad to see that).

As most of the paved roads were paved, we did not have problems with mud (except for the road to the launchpad, but it is not far away from the good road anyways).

We entered most of the main buildings and felt rather safe there :)

Some more of my impressions and photos (October 2013) are here: http://www.vserys.com/blog/vogelsang/

I went there a coupe of months ago, about october 2013.
huge areas of the place doesn't exist anymore..
The most of the buildings are completely empty and the theater collapsed.. it's now an open air teather! :D
In my personal opinion it still worth a visit! the only thing is that now one day is more then enough, specially if you are not taking professional pictures!
I was there on saturday, I didn't see any employer or machine to destroy the last buildings. I had the impression they suspended the demolition work, but I'm definitely not sure about it!

Enjoy the place, and thanks once more to the owner of this web site!

Thanks for the comment Yuri! Last time I was there was August 2012 - how time flies! - but I'm surprised to hear that "huge areas of the place doesn't exist anymore.."
I suspect that you didn't get to see all the stuff to the south of the main buildings, where the missile bunkers and all that were. There is/was just so much to explore I don't think it can be done in one day.

Yuri I have seen photos from the theatre from the 1st of december where the roof is still intact. Are we talking about the same building? The one with the magnificent grafitti with a face?

9th April 2014 -- theatre is still intact. Small fire seems to have caused a hold in the front middle of the stage, but, apart from that, it's all still there!

I am travelling from Stockholm to Berlin (again) in a few weeks and I would really like to visit Vogelsang. Last time I went to Krampnitz and this place seems to be just as fascinating.
Where is the most convenient place to park and enter when travelling by car?

hi andreas, for information feel free to contact me garnison_vogelsang@gmx.eu -

a map with information about demolishing -> http://goo.gl/A8zO2A

thanks! feel free to use it for your blog like you did with your general map of locations ... - F.

Went there yesterda and parked my car in front of the woods, on a little sand road. When we came back someone put a stone in the valve of one tire. It was empty. The carhelp man said hat this was very common. The car was aparently parked on private property. We didn't see ANY sign. Perhaps the people who live there are fed up with all the tourists?
So beware wehen you go. It was a great trip though and I highly recommend it. Thanks for the great site.

You're welcome. Sorry to hear about that car. Never heard of it happening before so it's good to be warned. Thanks.

"I think I saw a wolf on my first visit there."
IB, as you will probably have guessed from the many high seats, the current owner of the whole thing is a hunter. At the former SAM site (around the 1st "Wachturm" item on the above Google map) there are what a traveling companion who himself is a hunter identified as "Luderplätze". A Luderplatz is essentially a little hole in the ground where you put "Luder" which is hunter-speak for rotting pieces of meat / animal parts. Why would you do that? As bait to attract Raubwild. So it is very well possible that what you encountered was not a "sheep" or "boar", but indeed a wolf.

I wouldnt be too worried tho, when I visited I stumbled upon groups of families that were there - why i don't know. One family seemed to be out on a picnic..

I was unclear, sorry. People families, you know, four people out on a picnic. :)

Guys, thanks for all the info here. I visited the site this morning and am impressed. Amazing experience.

Theatre and school are intact yet. Cinema is now a mountain of rubble... :(

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