The peeling paint and winds whistling through the corridors create a haunting scene in this desolate Olympic Village, magnified even more by the image of how it once looked. The Olympic flag flew alongside the swastika as Nazi Germany used the Olympic Games as part of their propaganda. Another forgotten and destitute Berlin relic, once alive now only our footsteps echo through the passages.
In 1931 it was announced that the 1936 Summer Olympics would be hosted in Berlin, Germany. Naturally, Hitler started to immediately erect the impressive Olympic Village consisting of 145 buildings and a 120,000-seat stadium across 135-acres. The build took two years and was ultra-modern, the dorm rooms for the 4,000 athletes even included telephones and balconies, which was unheard of at the time.
The village has been abandoned since the Soviet army vacated it in 1992, the above-pictured accommodation was installed as barracks. After the fall of Berlin in 1945, many previously Nazi owned buildings were then taken over by the Soviets. You can see the mark the Soviets left with Russian text plastered across doors and newspapers stuck to decaying walls. If there was one word I would use to describe this site it would be ‘hollow’, the wind blusters through the buildings and we had the sense that we were the only souls there.
The Berlin Olympic Games were the first Olympic Games to be televised. It was shown in Germany only, by the networks Telefunken and Fernseh. This was the first live television coverage of a sports event in world history. It was important for Hitler to portray his country as idyllic and blissful in order to continue with his master plan. He named the complex the “village of peace” even though the later plan was to use it for the German army. The area consisted of accommodation, dining areas, training facilities, a swimming pool and even a sauna.
A large, horseshoe-shaped building consisted of 38 dining rooms, designated for different countries participating in the games. Only one token Jewish athlete was allowed to represent Germany in the Olympic Games while several Jewish athletes from other countries also participated. A few years previously an ‘Ayreans Only’ policy had been implemented in all German athelete organisations.
As with every urban exploration, there are always risks of being caught. After entering the main building (albeit after a few attempts) we realised we were not alone. A deep German voice boomed through the halls and we froze in our tracks, stuck in time like the walls themselves. It turns out tours do still operate and strangely, at dusk. We realised that despite our unwelcome presence we were actually at an advantage. Let’s face it, no one on the tour would be expecting to find two people hiding in the shadows. Especially one in a faux fur coat (I really need something more ‘urbex’ friendly).
A few ideas came to mind although limited to either pretending we were ghosts or that we, in fact, had been on the tour all along. A game of cat and mouse ensued as we crept over, under and around the tour group. Even ending up at one point, deep in the basement where we found some impressive Russian texts. Luckily we were only seen upon vacating the building at which point we could make our swift exit. Of course, as always, all we take with us is pictures and memories, everything was left untouched.
I am giving the Olympic Village a 9 because even though you can sneak in and explore on your own you can also do a tour. I am not sure to what extent you can explore while on the tour and what you are limited to, it also definitely ruins the excitement.
From Alexanderplatz, you can hop on the U2 to Potsdamer Platz, 7 stops. Then catch the RE4 Rathenow, Bahnhof for 6 stops. Get off at Elstal station (remember to check the train times for your return especially on a Sunday to avoid waiting an hour!). Head out of the station and left on the bridge, then once you are out of the station, take a left onto Bahnhofstraße. Follow the wide modern looking road until you can take a left at Rosa-Luxemburg-Allee. Follow that road until you see the Olympic Village, the walk takes about 20mins in total from the station.
Disclaimer: I do not claim to have ever trespassed on this property nor do I condone doing so.