Update December 3rd 2011: The demolition of the Deutschlandhalle, mentioned in this post as a possibility, began today. A new conference venue is set to take its place.
Getting off the S-Bahn at Messe Nord and crossing the road, I go through an underpass with some intriguing late 70s features:
The whole Messe (trade fair) area has some fascinating buildings on it, but those will have to wait for another day. The bit I'm interested in today is something which stands forlorn and abandoned at the western edge of the complex.
Built in 1935, ready for the 1936 Olympic games, the Deutschlandhalle became West Berlin's primary arena after World War II bomb damage was repaired in 1957. It's been the venue for all manner of events, both sporting and musical, but actually, what put the building in my mind was neither of those things.
On November 20th 1971, the wildman of the German acting world Klaus Kinski took to the stage in the Deutschlandhalle to deliver his performance of 'Jesus Christus Erlöser' (Jesus Christ, saviour), the story of Christ according to Kinski. To judge whether the performance was a success or not depends on what he was trying to achieve - if he was wanting to court controversy, he certainly managed that. The audience began to heckle, quickly unleashing Kinski's legendary temper as he screamed insults back at them. Certainly rather far removed from the school nativity play...
The Deutschlandhalle has since been eclipsed by venues like the Max Schmeling Halle and the O2 World and has stood empty since April 2009. There are now plans to demolish it, though it's a listed building, which has so far led to permission being refused.
I cross the road and wander further westwards towards the Teufelsberg, the devil's mountain, an artificial hill built from the rubble of World War II. The surroundings become increasingly rural and forested as I go, the city feeling ever more distant.
Along the Teufelschaussee, there's a snuffling noise in the bushes. The snuffling becomes grunting and squealing and it's then that I catch sight of the striped fur of a litter of wild boar piglets that are foraging in the undergrowth. It's tempting to try and get closer to take a picture, but angering a wild boar sow with piglets doesn't tend to be a good idea...
I first saw the Teufelsberg in 2006 when, looking out from the Olympic stadium, the 'golf ball' radomes on its summit caught my eye. They're part of a cold war era listening station that was used by the Americans and the British to intercept signals from the Eastern Bloc.
It's in a rather sorry state now, having been mostly abandoned in 1991 (one of the domes had new radar equipment installed and was used by the German government until 1999). The skin on the radomes is torn in many places, and thunders as the wind catches hold of it.
It's a bleak sight, particularly with the dark sky now threatening rain. Another cold war relic left to decay in the woods.