The tiny station of Vogelsang on the line from Berlin to Templin is in the middle of nowhere.
It doesn't have a proper platform, and should anyone want to alight there, they would have to press the Haltewunsch (stop request) button to alert the train driver. And so when one grey autumn morning, a group of sixteen English-speaking cyclists of many different nationalities held the train up at Vogelsang whilst they unloaded their bikes, the train Controller naturally stared bemusedly at them with a face that asked the German equivalent of 'where the F*** are they off to?
|Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore,|
Even the graffiti is in Russian.
|I read the news to day, oh boy.|
Pravda wall-paper dated 12th March 1985
|Not your usual Immobilien Scout 24 photo|
The 162nd Armoured Regiment
The 803rd Motorized Infantry Regiment
The 1702nd SA-6 Anti-Aircraft Regiment Tactical Missile Unit (more about that further down this blog).
They were part of the Soviet Block's land-based vanguard against NATO forces. Even as late as 1991, the GSSD consisted of 338,000 soldiers stationed in Germany, with an additional 208,000 relatives and civil employees that included 19,000 children. The main base of the GSSD was in Wünsdorf, south of Berlin, now incorporated into the city of Zossen. Vogelsang was the second largest settlement of Soviet forces and covers a large spread-out area that also included Stütznachrichtenzentrale (StNZ) 721, a 'support message centre' that coordinated wireless, cable and telephone messaging between the various military units in the northern area of East Germany. If you are visiting Vogelsang, you are strongly advised to bring a bike, it is so widespread.
The GSSD was formally disbanded on 11th June 1994 in a ceremony at Wünsdorf, followed by a further ceremony at the Soviet Memorial in Treptower Park, Berlin, on 31 August 1994. This marked the end of a Russian military presence on German soil.
As we wandered around the civilian part of Vogelsang, we saw surviving evidence of day-to-day life in the town, including a ruined cafe with ice-cream decorations in the window:
|Cafe and Ice-cream parlour|
Nearby there is an abandoned theatre, to which somebody has added some chilling graffiti:
|Can someone open a window?|
|Fairytale montage in the former school|
|More open windows in the school|
|School 'black' board|
|Another school mural|
|In the gym|
The gym once had a basketball court, but I wouldn't fancy running and leaping around on these floor-boards any more.
|The former gym|
|The former gym|
|Misha, the mascot of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics|
|The former cinema|
|The former cinema|
|Stairs at the former cinema|
In 1959 massive R-5M nuclear-armed missiles were secretly brought to Vogelsang. With a range of 1,200km they could have brought nuclear destruction to Bonn, London, or Paris. The missiles were the first nuclear devices that were stationed outside Russia, but unlike the Soviet nuclear missiles sent by Khrushchev to Cuba in 1962 and spotted by U2 spy planes, nobody in the West knew about the ones at Vogelsang (though their presence was suspected).
The R-5M's were later withdrawn, but between 1983 and 1988 nuclear missiles of the type SS-12 were stored at Vogelsang. We saw lingering evidence of them at a concrete and steel missile-launching pad deep in the forest and well away from the residential part of Vogelsang.
|Ventilation for nuclear bunker|
|The weapon-storage hangers are being demolished|
|Former missile storage hangers|
|Former tank garages|
|Inside the nuclear bunker|
I am sure that if I knew Russian then there would be tales on the Internet from Vogelsang's former residents. As it is, this looks like an interesting set of photographs about a school outing from Vogelsang to the Soviet Memorial at Treptower and to the Spreepark amusement park http://gorbachevskiy2006.narod.ru/photo1987.html I recognise the school from the first photos, and here is the small Vogelsang train station that we used to get there http://gorbachevskiy2006.narod.ru/203.jpg.
If you are a former resident and you can speak English or German, I would love it if you got in touch.