Of all Berlin’s abandoned airports, Flugplatz Brand is one that has flown under the radar. It’s not spoken of in the same breath as, say, Tempelhof, Tegel, or that new fancy airport that they almost abandoned while they were abandoning Tegel.
Few visit Flugplatz Brand, few but a smattering of melancholy Russian aviators give a damn. That’s just the way the last remaining soldier likes it. He’s there, alone, unflinchingly keeping watch over one of the happiest-looking Lenins left in the DDR. He’s just happy the nukes are gone.
The Flugplatz began life in 1938 as a military airfield for the German Luftwaffe called Fliegerhorst Briesen. It was furnished with a one-kilometer grass runway the following year, but its hopes of joining the war never really took flight. Instead the airfield was used for training other would-be heroes.
It was the Russians who really lit a fire under Brand and made its Flugplatz dreams come true. The Red Army took over after the war, of course, and Brand became strategically important for the Soviet Air Force.
A proper runway made of concrete, 2.5 kilometers long, was built in 1950 or 1951, then another, 2 kilometers long, in 1958, while a whole load of ammunition bunkers and reinforced aircraft hangars (hardened aircraft shelters, or HAS) were added, too.
The airfield played host at various times to Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17, Sukhoi Su-7, Su-24 and later MiG-27 fighter planes. A special weapons depot was constructed to house nuclear bombs for the waiting aircraft.
“Nothing of any interest was there,” one evidently hard-to-impress former soldier wrote on a Brand veterans’ forum.
“They stored and maintained nuclear devices (weapons of deterrence) that could be attached to the airplanes if necessary. Then it was like in the song, “Go, boys, fuck yourselves, bomb the town, boys.”
It must have been a lovely song.
“The red button or nuclear suitcase at that moment was the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” the veteran wrote. He called himself VVS GSFG on the forum.
Another veteran named Goga was a bit more sentimental about Brand, nicknamed the ‘Sixes’ due to the base’s number, 66683.
“I remember the soldiers’ shops were a fairytale compared to those in the Soviet Union. And the hospital… I had to spend some time there with a boil. The hospital was small, one floor only, so cozy,” he wrote.
“Where did you guys get your booze? There was the officers’ shop, but common soldiers couldn’t shop there. So we ran away from ‘Sixes’ and through the woods to the road (Krausnicker Weg) to Schönwald, a station below Brand. We bought beer from a woman in the courtyard entrance to a Gaststätte. I forgot her name. She always gave us a bottle of beer for free.”
A veteran who called himself Urok wrote that an officer spent whole days in 1991 burning documentation from the headquarters and burying it in a hole, destroying it before the withdrawal.
Potatoes were also a thing. One veteran named Sibiryak (the Siberian) spent a month in Brand in 1990 and went a bit overboard on the spuds.
“I had to report for work at the canteen. One day on, then a day to myself. It was like a vacation. I recall how we found a giant pot in the woods, stole a bucket of potatoes, some onions and some fat from the canteen, and we fried it all up in the woods, myself and my friend. I still don’t understand how we managed to eat that giant pot of fried potatoes, just the two of us,” said Sibiryak, who remembered collecting beer bottles and bringing them to the Gaststätte for the deposit.
Of course, the deposit was used to buy more beer. Some things never change around Berlin.
The Cold War thaw meant Brand’s focus changed from offense to defense, though there’s very little difference between the two, as the aforementioned VVS GSFG explained.
“During Gorbi (Mikhail Gorbachev), we had to be all nice and fluffy and not a threat to anyone, but everyone knew that the Rooks (SU-24) are front-line war bombers and so could be classified as offensive weapons, not defensive,” VVS wrote.
“So the ‘sharks of imperialism’ (Western powers) started to voice their disapproval: ‘Look, you are all nice and fluffy but you also have offensive weapons stationed in Europe – not in Ordnung!’
“‘Not a problem,’ we say, and send the Rooks back to the USSR. Instead we parked the MiGs, which are classified as defensive weapons. But you know, it’s a choice between two rotten apples: it’s the same thing. Europe is tiny and MiGs with their ‘product’ can make it to Normandy or wherever like nothing.”
Fortunately, Brand’s battalions of flying fighters were never called into action. They remained on ice for the duration of the Cold War.
It ended thanks to events not so far away in Berlin, Leipzig and Moscow that led to Mauerfall, the subsequent reunification of Germany and collapse of the Soviet Bloc. It left the flightless fighters fightless.
The 911th fighter-bomber aviation regiment and its MiG-27s were transferred from Brand to Belarus on July 6, 1992.
The Germans had no use for the military airfield at the time and so it was sold in 1998 to CargoLifter AG, a company with grand notions of building colossal airships to transport colossal cargo loads.
It got as far as building a colossal hangar – the largest freestanding structure in the world at 360 meters long, 220 wide and 107 high. But then CargoLifter went bust in 2002.
The massive hall was left jutting out of the landscape like some sort of monstrous bean. It and part of the surrounding area was snapped up the next year by a British-Malaysian investment company, Colin Au & Tanjong Public Ltd., for less than a quarter of what it had cost to build. Around half of the €78 million construction cost had been provided by taxpayers’ money.
But Au was the only one with an idea of what to do with this giant bean in the middle of nowhere – turn it into a tropical paradise for frostbitten Berliners to escape the greyness of the capital with a short train ride south. “Tropical Islands” opened in December 2004.
“After September 11, with fear of flying and the recession, the time was right to give people the option of taking their holidays near home,” Au said at the time.
“Tropical Islands” has a tropical sea, tropical rain forest, tropical sauna, tropical geysers, tropical whirlpools, tropical rides, tropical ice cream and tropical prices. It’s so tropical Jair Bolsonaro put it on his list of things to burn down.
Visitors have mixed feelings on the experience.
“Tacky but fun,” said Fernando Mafra, a tropical Brazilian.
“A horrible summer, but summer,” Marcela of Fotostraße said.
“Unique, the metal dome is very impressive,” said Rodrigo of Canal Alemanizando, identifying the one thing that was there before the tropicalization began.
They all agreed Europe’s largest tropical holiday resort is too expensive.
Reports last year suggested Au and his business partner Ananda Krishnan were looking to sell it.
So far it has managed 15 years’ operation, but it’s clearly only a matter of time before the “Tropical Islands” resort is abandoned too.
Meanwhile the rest of the former Soviet air base languishes just out of sight of the tropical guests, with old discarded wodka bottles testament to occupants’ efforts to pass time in a more traditional non-tropical manner.
The stone soldier and Lenin are the only two remaining now. At least they have each other.
LOCATION AND ACCESS (HOW TO FIND GUIDE)
- What: Flugplatz Brand, formerly Fliegerhorst Briesen, a German airfield later developed into a Soviet airbase where fighter planes with atomic weapons waited out the Cold War.
- Where: Krausnick, 15910 Krausnick-Groß Wasserburg.
- How to get there: Get the Cottbus train from Ostkreuz and get off before it gets to Cottbus – don’t take any chances! Get off specifically at Brand Tropical Islands. The train station used to just be called Brand, but Brand’s been rebranded Brand Tropical Islands. Anyway, get off there, and follow the directions for Tropical Islands along the rebranded Tropical Islands Allee. The tropical stuff will be on your left, the interesting stuff on your right. Here it is on a map.
- Getting in: Just find a part of the fence that has been lifted up or set aside already, and make your way in. It’s no great shakes.
- When to go: Daytime is best from a safety perspective and of course you’ll be able to see much more if you go during the day. The area is quite large, so give yourself plenty of time to wander around.
- Difficulty rating: 3/10. Getting in is very easy. Finding things is not so straightforward.
- Who to bring: Bring friends if you want company. Probably best not to go alone in case you get locked in a dark bunker.
- What to bring: Bring a torch, good boots, a camera, some food to ward off the hunger.
- Dangers: Rusty nails, holes in the ground, dark bunkers, soft floors in some of the buildings, and dodgy ceilings above your head. Be careful.
Many thanks to Cecília for her research help, Ksenya for her translation help, and Mark for his proofreading help! Again, they’re to blame for anything that’s wrong. Dedicated to little Cormac ♥
Vogelsang still clings to its nuclear secrets. One sneaky deployment of bad weapons was so damned secret it was even kept from the Soviet soldiers involved.
Germany’s Luftwaffe used Flugplatz Schönwalde for the war. The Soviets took over afterward and left their traces after abandoning the airfield in 1992.
Jüterbog and its military camps played host to soldiers’ charades, men playing with guns, for around 130 years before the last ones left in 1994.
Please stop posting the addresses, Ciarán.
Those that cannot invest 20min to find the address of a location on their own and less likely to respect it once they visit it.
You are accelerating the demise of these places for your own gain (your book, the articles you freelance, etc.)
You are the disgrace of Berlin’s Urbex community, and very much know it.
Here we go again. As I’ve explained a thousand times before – check the About page for more – I give the addresses so other people can find these places too before they’re gone. Most people are decent and will treat these places with the care they deserve. A far greater threat comes from development, time, weather etc. That’s why it’s important to enjoy these places while we still can.
I fail to see how I’m a disgrace to “Berlin’s Urbex community” when I’m not even a member. I never joined it, nor do I want to. If it’s made of people like you who get a perverse pleasure from knowing “secret” little things, then I’m quite happy to avoid it. Viel Spaß damit.
No, this is not about deriving pleasure from some silly secrets.
Most places I know, I discovered by seeing pictures like yours and some minutes of online searching.
I am always happy to share these locations because they deserve to be seen and understood. Their exploration can bring great enjoyment to others.
I think it’d be awesome if you kept telling stories, taking pictures and also taught others the methods to find the addresses online on their own.
While most people will be respectful as you rightly note, it’s easy to see how accurate addresses can attract those that are less engaged and more likely to trash the place.
When this happens, it’s a net loss for everyone and you have accelerated the inevitable demise of an awesome place.
Then there’s a legal issue: urban exploration is technically not legal.
We don’t own these locations. Their landlords (however negligent they might be) carry a legal liability and are responsible for what happens to the explorers that visit them.
When you post accurate addresses, you are directly driving traffic and increasing the odds the locations will be barred or torn down for good.
TL;DR: You keep doing you. I am sure you are fully prepared handle the potential legal issues. But please don’t pretend you are doing it for any reason other than your personal gain.
So you think it’d be awesome if I “taught others the methods to find the addresses online on their own” but you don’t agree with me posting addresses. What gives? You want other people to suffer as much as you did to find them? Sounds like sour grapes to me.
And yes, I have a book, great value at €22. You’re free to buy it if you want, or simply read the posts here for free if you’d rather do that. Your choice. You have obviously already read this post for free.
I’m not driven by personal gain. Since I first wrote about Spreepark in 2009, I was driven by an urge to share, for others to enjoy these places too. I never charged anything for giving advice, for telling others how to find these places. I could have done tours like many others do, but I don’t.
I was contacted in 2014 or 2015 by the publisher – a small local publisher in the Kulturbrauerei – about producing the book. It has become a best-seller and I’m happy I did it.
Abandoned Berlin has developed into a documentation project in the meantime. It’s fun, I enjoy it immensely. But I’m not living from it. I’d love if I could – then I’d have more time to go exploring other sites, more time to write, more time to take photos, more time to reply to anonymous readers like you.
“Urban exploration is technically not legal” you write. I mean, where do I even start with that?
I wish you all the best.
Dumbass question, but I guess the danger of being blown up by some underground stuff isn’t really the case, no? X D
There are always warnings of unexploded munitions on these former military sites, so it does pay to be careful, but I imagine most of the places you’d be wandering should be safe enough.
@spudnik – Keep up the good work. Always loved reading your stories. Normally do not comment but now i have too. Follower since the start and I have during the years visited many of your recommendations.
For the vast majority (if not all) of the places Ciarán posts on here he doesn’t actually give the locations. There is a vast difference between getting to the perimeter of a base and finding the locations of the objects in the photos.
Anyone with a modicum of sense can spot where Brand is. A little more than a modicum can uncover pictures and after some experience, one can deduce where objects are and their purpose. But this part (pre and post research) takes a vast amount of time and it’s not something the casual stroller will be bothered to do.
With regard to this post, the photos have been taken in several different locations – some easy to work out for the layman, others need a little more intimate knowledge (a casual stroller may find them, or not, it’s pot luck). And the ‘location’ given is simply the main road that hundreds of people drive down daily, so actually, the argument is moot.
There are enough blogs and sources of information available online not to single out any particular one for ‘betraying’ locations. In my experience the real dangers to these locations are;
Development – in recent years this has accelerated at an alarming rate as flush developers cotton on to the potential and the State tries to get shot of the responsibility – nothing to do with this blog.
Second to this are the populace – scrappers reclaiming ‘bits’, fly tippers, bored kids putting through windows, party buildings encouraging a horde in to smash the night away and Youtubers with their young followers trying to emulate what they’ve seen in the videos – we’ve seen it all and it’s nothing to do with this blog.
Then there’s the graffiti artist – comes in two flavours – the vandal who just wants to tag everything mindlessly (e.g. Soviet soldier in the HTS). And then there’s the aspiring artists who are trying to make a name for themselves, with a bit of art in a prominent place they hope will be included in someone’s photos. Again, nothing to do with this blog (spot a theme yet?).
Yes Ciarán has produced a book and god only knows how many articles for the media. Yes that will raise the profile of the very tiny percentage of the abandoned places concerned (mostly Vogelsang and Wünsdorf iirc). However, imho, the demographic of people who are likely to buy the book or read the articles are not the same demographic who kick in a rotten door, spray “cock” on the wall and shit in the corner so really there is zero correlation. The book, articles and to some extent the blog are almost certainly read by people who will never visit the places – and that is in no way meant to be derogatory.
With regard to secrecy – well, there are no secrets. There are some who find something and closely guard their ‘treasure’ by putting it on Facebook or Instagram in it’s full HDR glory in an effort to impress a tiny niche of humanity. But we must remember that EVERYTHING has been found before, visited umpteen times and photographed by more than just you. There was an existence before Instagram and that photo I took of the really cool mural in the basement that I had to crawl to via a hole in the wall exists on a thousand hard drives already.
On a personal note, I must thank this blog and at least one of it’s (now covert) contributors for giving me enough confidence and a smidgen of knowledge to drive hundreds of miles and venture out into the forest on that very first explore. Now I live and breathe this history, have met many people, documented many locations and visited some quite frankly jaw dropping places (if you like this sort of thing) and it’s all down to a simple google search a few years ago and an Irish fella with a camera. Or not, if he wants a cut.
Thanks Perrag and lamex for the kind words!
Well…heh..it’s definitely not Ciarán the one who demolishes the places…and definitely Abandoned Berlin is not the place where homeless and drug addicts get the addresses from….as for the metal thieves, they wouldn’t wait from the early 90s and for 20 years in order to read this blog to find where those LPs are. So whoever is so sensitive about addresses and stuff and likes to make it a big deal then can go and f*** himself/herself. Simple as that.
Studnik, my old… The first Urbex homepage I was knew is yours.
Do you know something the former DDR Radio transmitting sites or sometimes visited the former DDR Radio buildings? Take a note!
Well I do a couple of blogs about abandoned places- one for my local area and one for the ones further afield. I came to Berlin in September 2019 and most of the adventures I had were because of this website- it truly helped me enjoy my stay in Berlin, more so than any tourism pamphlet. And regarding giving the locations away, the Coralle facility was learned of via this website, but I still had to find that damn hatch myself! So you’re informing of the locations while still retaining the challenge. Personally I dont give locations away on my blogs, but I still get shit from the “urbex community” for doing blogs simply because I do it independently of their community and its hierarchy, so I admire you for sticking to what you feel is right, even in the face of hostility.
Spudnik, please keep on posting; it helps me a lot and I’m def not a building-smashing-hooligan.
Furthermore, what urbex.demon says!
Thanks Ezra. I will!
These places do not belong to anybody, I do not like people who think that that is the case. Stop being infantile, and for the rest…!
I went there a couple of days ago. Definitely worth visiting !
Went for a visit today, kinda ended with a bummer, either this place is:
There was an angry bird slamming doors
We heard a door slam with the force of a god, either a sad russian or a bird i guess.
Gate was open, stroling in was easy, sadly we had to skiddadle early because we thought someone was there.
We visited the site yesterday – and found no ghosts at all, U frightened little fellas…;-)
Easy access through the northeast corner possible (fence just ends there), near the former swimming pool (which is boring). The apartment buildings in this area were quite interesting, because there´s some furniture left. The pilot school ist a fascinating building itself, don´t miss the huge attic- and the attached gymn!
To the northwest there are some more exciting buildings to discover, especially the white factory-alike one with its big hall and the enourmous doors leading out.
To the southwest, there are alomst all buildings wrecked, trees are growing in them. You can check out the inside(!) of the tall chimney! Unfortunately we weren´t able to locate the Lenin mural… Where the hell is he?
The tall apartment houses in the south/southeast were completely cleared out – but this area appears to us a little like Prypiat: In the evening, when the sun goes down, it´s weird, walking around there…
Conclusion in brief: Very recommended! As always: Thank you very much indeed, Irish Berliner!!! You rule.
Lenin: 52.028918, 13.749943
Took me a while to find him as well.
Thank you very much, now we found him!!! 🙂
It seems that recently they have raised some new fences to guard the Plattenbau area and there are security guys with dogs patroulling sometimes. So watch out!
I was in the US Air Force during the Cold War, flew F-111 bombers stationed at RAF Upper Heyford in the UK. Brand Airfield was to be our target if conventional (non-nuclear) war broke out in between NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. We studied photos of the airfield and planned how to drop bombs that would make craters in the runways so that SU-24s could not takeoff or land.
Thanks for your comment. Would love to hear more!
Has anybody been here recently? Is it still relatively easy to access? Thanks!
I’m wondering myself too, it seems the case, but if you read below, there are guards with doggies nowadays. Don’t fancy the latter honestly.
Been there last weekend. Super chill. Huge area. We saw plenty other people exploring. Sadly the bunker in the south got sealed by police.