Don’t Fence Me In

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Germany, Institutional, Team Fail

Once I got back from my Beelitz adventure, Ben was ready to see the city, so we got on the U-bahn and went to Charlottenburg for dinner. After a little bit of going around in circles, we decided on (delicious) Vietnamese food, then circled around some more looking for a massage parlor that made themselves nearly impossible to reach, “Good China Massage”. We both tried multiple times to call and make an appointment, but neither their English nor my German came anywhere near understandable, and all she would do on the phone was repeat “Güüte China Maßßadge” at us (we KNOW!) and hang up. Eventually Ben found the place, and I got to experience that German wonder, the Erdinger beer truck, while I waited for his back to get straightened out. Yes, beer trucks are just what they sound like – kind of like ice cream trucks here, but instead of crappy popsicles and tinkly bells, there’s cold Hefeweizen and (recorded) oom-pah music.

We spent the rest of the night looking all over for any possible jazz clubs, hopping around from one closed venue, or shitty rock band, to another, looking for islands of wifi in between to find a map of where to go next. We never did find any jazz, but we got the accidental tour of East Berlin and did see the Alexanderplatz, the Fernsehturm and the Holocaust Memorial along the way, so it wasn’t all in vain…

The next day, we decided to give exploring a try together, with another place the internet told us would be easy, Krankenhaus an den Weißensee, an East German children’s hospital closed in 1991. Getting there was a bit of journey, using all three Berlin transit systems, the U-, S- and M-bahne, then when we got there, we found the FENCE. Scheiß!

But I didn’t come all the way to Germany to get stopped by a little fence. We found a tree stump in the back, got over the fence (awkwardly for me), and into the hospital, which had its share of smashing and tagging done to it, but still has quite a bit of character.

This layout in the wards makes me imagine a warden standing at this end, looking down the line making sure no one tries to sneak out of bed. Probably just my preconception of what life in a Communist state was like, but the architecture lends itself well to my imagination of authoritarianism.

The hallways on one floor were painted in sheet music. I would never expect as much from an American tagger. Unfortunately I have no idea what the song might have been.

And despite being so omnipresent, the graffiti compares well to most buildings in America that I’ve seen.

That was even before we started finding Cory Arcangel-like rooms of repeated spray-paint leitmotifs

For a burned-out, trashed, well known place, this was getting to be pretty awesome!

Unexpectedly satisfied, spending most of the day at our first exploring destination, we decided to skip the rest and see the touristy stuff before we had to leave Berlin!

Betreten Verboten!

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Germany, Institutional, Team Fail

Just as one should expect by now for Team Fail, things were off track even by the time I woke up. Ben was sick and not really planning on going anywhere, and it was supposed to be our exploring day. I normally can’t stand exploring alone, not in the least because it’s never gone well for me before, but he insisted I give it a try, so I did, going to the easiest place I knew of, Beelitz-Heilstätten.

Beelitz is about an hour away, for one thing, in more or less middle of nowhere Brandenburg, but with this being Germany, it still had its own train station, so getting there wouldn’t be too much of a problem. And, from everything I could find about it online, walking around the grounds was legal, and going in more or less tolerated (which is the case for most abandoned East German sites, since they fell out of any ownership after reunification).

There was quite a bit of graffiti to watch from the train. Most of it went by too fast to get a good picture of, but I got this at least. I have no idea who these people are, but it seemed important.

Once I got there, it seemed obvious what to do. Go toward building, go in building, explore? Easy, right? This looks a little too good though, doesn’t it?

This can’t possibly be abandoned? But I’m standing right on the GPS coordinate from the UER database…

As it turned out, I was right. I found an open door, and walked right in on about 20 construction workers having lunch, and a foreman having a few choice words for me. And getting yelled at in German is just as effective as you might imagine… even only understanding half of it!

So I wandered around a bit more, and got to a shabbier, longer abandoned section. This time, there were more open doors, and the only people around were obviously explorers, although they seemed to only speak Russian. But they also looked like they knew their way around, so I followed them into a building.

This wasn’t the Beelitz everyone else got to see, but it was much better than nothing.

I’m pretty sure this is a Trabant. It’s also one of the most photographed abandoned cars on earth.

After that little bit of success, I was ready for a bigger building.

I get up to the roof, take one picture

…and then there’s a drone buzzing outside the window… It flies through the open window, oblivious of me, bonks me in the back of my head, and falls to the floor. I look outside, and the Russians are standing there confused. I bring their poor broken drone back down to them, and I can’t tell if they’re grateful, pissed off or both. They took the remains of the drone and worked on fixing it, and I moved on to another less awkward part of the complex. After all, this is the iconic building anyway…

And it was also fully, and freshly, boarded up. Again, of course it would be. I would be the one who would go all the way to Germany to find buildings that were boarded up probably only a few days ago, considering the construction crew was still on site boarding up the rest of the place!

Even walking around the outside was almost interesting enough though. It was my first time seeing a Communist statue – not quite a statue of Lenin but close enough.

But with only two days in Germany I decided I’d be better off going to something I could get in, so I went back to the train station. Which is just as abandoned as the rest of the complex, but still has two trains every hour!

I’m not 100% sure about this, but I think this is an advertisement left over from East Germany, promoting the various Eastern Bloc cities that it would have been possible for an Össi to travel to, with Berlin’s Brandenburger Tor and Fernsehtürm in the center?

Once I got back to Berlin, I stopped for some Currywurst and beer at a street cart, looked up another place to go (supposedly a children’s hospital), and tried to go explore that.

Something got lost in translation. The coordinates led me here, one block off the Kurfürstendamm, to a very not abandoned block in a very expensive part of town.

And that was well more than enough frustration for one day exploring alone!

Urbex Challenge #103

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Institutional, Rochester

Even as well as 2015 started, this one just seemed too good to be true. I’d heard a few weeks ago that the Walters Building was wide open, and at my level no less, for the first time in at least 10 years. I even got directions to it so I’d know exactly which door to use – either the best chance I’ll ever have again at an asylum, or an elaborate trap to send me into the teeth of security. All I needed was someone willing to try it with me, and I even managed to make that happen, reconnecting with a cool freak I’d met on my roof a few summers ago and never found again until now.

Getting in was even less trouble than I’d expected. Not only was the door in (almost) exactly the expected spot, but no one was patrolling, or even happened to be outside, on the first day above melting in weeks. It took us a bit of wandering to get out of the basement, but as soon as we found the stairs, it was all I’d expected and more!

Except for every single one of my photos leaning slightly to the right…

There was even an actual inmate left behind! I figured it was the least I could do to help him escape.

I guess we’re still at 102 level, even though I passed the course in sophomore year.

Waystation For The Weird

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Institutional, Long Island

It didn’t take me long to get started with 2015. While the TV appearance ended up being a disastrous failure, with Seph Lawless getting the spot I’d been aiming for, and the producer letting me know that he followed up with me by mistake after our interview, I had a few leads to follow and the potential for some huge adventures in the not too distant future. And especially in the winter, I get a horrible chronic case of wanderlust, and make lots of impulsive plans – this time, to spend a weekend in New York City and Cleveland to finally meet a few people I’d been hoping to for months by now. I spent Friday night getting traditionally hammered at my work’s belated Christmas party, furiously planning a trip to Europe, and finally catching the Chinatown bus to New York City on an exceptionally frigid night.

After a little mishap in the train station (The ticket machines are WHERE?!) and breakfast at a Greek diner, we caught the next train to Kings Park, and got into the asylum easily enough, once I remembered where the entrance was (which only took walking the entire way around the building). We headed straight for the roof, and followed a grating mechanical noise to its source: a wheel on an air duct of some type that has been spinning in the wind ever since the place shut down.

It was a beautiful day on Long Island. A bit too cold for sleeping under the stars on this roof this time though.

The asylum is exceptionally trashed, but that just comes with the easy access, and it’s still got enough natural decay and colorful graffiti to be worth the trip.

After a while in that building, I led us into the tunnels, hoping to get to the main tower without the risk of getting caught out on the grounds, especially with the relatively fresh snow available for tracks. We got thoroughly lost, and tried a few crawly passageways, but every path was either a dead end, a circle, or led to the power plant. So we explored the power plant instead, which appears to be Eric’s natural environment.

Someone went “Office Space” on the office. The graffiti has a bit of local flavor too – Downer has gotten to just about every building in Rochester too

The main machine room is still my favorite part though. It’s my first power plant, and probably my last one, considering how secure most of the abandoned ones are around here.

We tried for much longer than it ever should have taken to find a reasonable way out of this building, without making too much noise breaking and exiting, or having to make a preposterous climb out. It wasn’t about to happen, so then we tried the tunnels, got lost all over again, and finally just left the way we came, and took the most direct path we could to the tower.

There was a new fence, and some new boarding up, in the year and a half since I’d been. I still gave it a try, and was on the wrong side of the fence when the park police showed up. It was obvious what we were doing, and we had cameras and tripods and a lot of stuff that wasn’t crowbars and spray paint, so we talked our way out of it easily enough, but we managed to be the lucky winners of “Let’s Get Caught At Kings Park!” for the day. We got scared and we got out, didn’t even try any other buildings after that, and went back to Brooklyn earlier than planned… until next time, I guess.

Keep It Simple

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Institutional, Rochester

Needless to say, after that kind of success in a place like Terrence, it didn’t take me long to come back. Christmas must have come early this year, letting me into a building I’d wanted for so many years, and without any chance of getting caught.

Even the ceiling fans have given up…

The graffiti in here isn’t great, but at least they try to be clever.

Every level has its own color. Almost as if different psychiatric conditions might benefit from being surrounded by one particular shade for months at a time. Notably absent: institutional green.

…maybe just because it got painted over.

Caged birds are an odd symbolism on an asylum wall. Who knows why the caged bird sings?

Weirdly enough, the water damage increases from top to bottom through the building.

Inspiring to some — I’ve always found better results by aiming lower and lower until I don’t – can’t – miss. Lofty goals make long falls.

This should be on the stairwell to the roof.

Something is missing here. Somehow, the autopsy table got taken out.

Here’s a little clue if any of you would like to go. I saw this on my way out.

And we even made it through Hell’s Hundred Meters. Without so much as seeing one cop or security guard…

White Whale

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Institutional, Rochester

And just like that, it happened. I’d heard mumblings that there was a way in for a few weeks, but I didn’t entirely believe anyone that told me, and besides, it was probably some climb that would leave me re-enacting the plight of the beached manatee, only this time in broad daylight and fully sober. I’d had a few close calls with this building already — in 2011, with an unloaded camera; in 2013, at night, twice; earlier this year, not quite able to get in the hole in the window as I thrashed away at it helplessly. This time was different though, the entrance was a fully open window, with a larger than me-sized hole, only 3 feet off the ground. I could do this. We did do this.

The top floor is about as interesting as the rest of them combined… most of the very few medical implements left were in the surgery wing.

One advantage this place does have though is its sheer size and condemned status mean there is almost no risk of security once you’re inside the cuckoos’ nest.

For the most part, every floor is a subtly different repeat of the last one, a layer cake where it’s all the same flavor, but the frosting might be another color.

There is a reason I took a picture of this one in particular. Anyone know why?

Again, it’s just like upstairs. Only this time it’s mauve.

Asylum corridors and peeling paint, because people are supposed to love this stuff.