Bunkers for Russian nukes, lost city of Vogelsang

Shadowed by fear, consumed by guilt, somewhere in the contradiction of nowhere lies a forgotten city so secret only darkness and light know it’s there. A whole city without a soul. Curtains flutter nonchalantly through broken windows, backs turned on hollow rooms and impotent corridors, while outside stand giant empty hangers shellshocked and still, doors creaking forlornly, their stash of deadly nuclear missiles long gone and with it their raison d’être.
Welcome to Vogelsang, where the Russians once had atomic weapons earmarked for Western Europe’s consumption, ready to launch at a moment’s folly in retaliation for a pre-emptive strike or pre-emption of an imminent retaliation.
Construction at this 7,000 hectare site began in 1951 (one of the few complexes purpose-built by the Russians, most likely off plans seized from the Germans after the war) before the garrison became home to around 18,000 soldiers and civilians, a shit load of tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, tactical missiles and the most fiendish missiles of all – nuclear missiles.
Soldiers carried out manoeuvres at night to avoid American surveillance, and locals had no idea what kind of shenanigans were going on behind those guarded walls.
R5-M (SS-3 Shyster) missiles were brought here by the elite 72nd RVGK Engineer Brigade in January 1959, and allegedly aimed at London, Paris, Brussels, the Ruhrgebiet and Bonn (where an atomic bomb would actually be an improvement). These things were HUGE, weighing 29.1 tonnes and reaching 20.74 meters, and much more powerful than those dropped on Nagasaki or Hiroshima.
The East Germans were not informed, and the missiles were delivered under cover of darkness using back roads so they wouldn’t find out.
The Russians withdrew the weapons in September, as part of a disarmament pact Nikita Khrushchev agreed with the Americans in return for the removal of US missiles in Turkey.
However, another sneaky deployment – this time with R-12 (SS-4 Sandal) nuclear missiles – was sent here in 1961 during the top secret Operation Tuman.
It was so damned secret even the soldiers did not know where they were being deployed.
“Officers and career servicemen for a long time had no clue that the road ahead of them crosses the western border of the USSR and transited to the GDR,” reported the commander in charge, Colonel Vladimir Aleksandrov from Smolensk.
Col. Aleksandrov’s forces waited for the order to fire. “Everyone agonized from the suspense. But the command to load up never came,” he said. “On several occasions I reported to division command ... but each time I got the same answer: ‘Wait. Increase the regiment’s training and combat readiness.’”
In the end, the Soviet Union’s production of the R-14 Chusovaya missile (SS-5 Skean) with its much greater range eliminated the need for armed nuclear missiles in Germany, and Col. Aleksandrov was given the order to disband on July 12th, 1962.
Of course, there was still enough going on through the Cold War and beyond to keep Vogelsang busy. The Russians didn’t leave until 1993.
Now the Germans want to wipe it from the face of the earth. It’s not so secret that they can leave it alone. Mechanical rubble makers are slowly making their way from the north, gobbling and grinding their way through history, while the forest does its best to reclaim the 4,000 hectares of woodland cut down before construction began.
I entered through the south and promptly found a corpse. In the middle of a dark shed. A ram ravaged by wild dogs or a forgotten soldier. Teeth bared by lack of flesh in a permanent grimace, bones poking awkwardly toward the ceiling reaching for the spirit which left it behind.
Hordes of mosquitoes attacked to keep me from venturing further – must have been under Khrushchev’s orders – but there was no way I could turn back now. Bunkers, bombs, battalions – all were discoverable in my head as I and searched for clues to secrets nobody wants me to know, hiding from time to time as I heard voices, other people perhaps, perhaps not. Lenin was definitely there and more besides (electric fuses boxes made by J.W. Stalin in Treptow, Berlin!) but despite a day picking my way through scattered roof tiles and scurrying from one building to the next, peering, poring, pontificating, I only made a scratch. Interrupted by darkness and wolves, I didn’t see it all. I have to go back, I’ll go back.

What
Kaserne Vogelsang. Soviet military barracks and top secret nuclear missile launching site. This image gives you an overview of the site and run down of what happened where.

Where
Vogelsang, 16792 Zehdenick, Oberhavel, Brandenburg, Germany.

How to get there
Get the S1 S-Bahn to Oranienburg and then the RB12 (a weird little regional train that comes along every half hour or so) in the direction of Templin. You might need to push the button to request a stop at Vogelsang train station. Bring your bike – Vogelsang itself is tiny, but the abandoned site you’ve come to explore is huge. One day is not enough, so if you’re brave or crazy enough you could always sleep in one of the buildings to continue exploring the next day. The site of interest is to the northwest of the train station. Map here.

Getting in
Either hop the fence (quite easy) or cycle on until there’s no fence (even easier).

When to go
Now. As I wrote, they’re intent on destroying anything remotely interesting around here. I mean, what harm is an abandoned Russian nuclear missile launching site in the middle of a forest? Nope, they just can’t leave anything alone.

Difficulty rating
$/10. The main problem is getting here and the expense that incurs. Train tickets for human and bike (necessary because they do check) come to a whopping €18 or so return! The train ride from Oranienburg is about 30 mins.

Who to bring
Like-minded explorers. A Russian would be useful for translation purposes. 

What to bring
Camera, torch, anti-mosquito spray, snack, bicycle, sleeping bag and more snacks if you’re overnighting. Phones don’t work here so maybe let someone know where you’re going so if you don’t return after a week they’ll know to send help, somewhere. Ah yes, a map!

Dangers
Some – scrap that – all of the buildings are in a bad way. Be careful etc. etc. and don’t trip over any atomic bombs or anything like that. Also watch out for the mozzies. In fact, you won’t need to – they’ll find you. Just make sure to bring a good mozzie spray to keep the hungry buggers at bay.

Many thanks to Danish nuclear missile expert Martin Trolle Mikkelsen for much of the background info on the Russians' covert activities. It seems he misses the Russian nuclear missiles as much as I do!

Comments

  1. Some quality photos man. Shame for any of that to be knocked down that carving of Lenin is class thats the kind of stuff you can never get back. Ireland sells its history for cold hard cash Germany just destroys theres it seems

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  2. I'm sure you've thought of this already, but - how many posts do you have already on this theme? - with all the research gone into them, and considering how interesting they come across, you should put them together for an alternative guidebook. Would sell, I bet.

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  3. Unfortunately my agent hasn't informed me of any lucrative publishing deals or film offers. Maybe I should get an agent.

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  4. I agree with Ian- these are stories/guides that would sell. If not for people to actually do, for people to live vicariously through your experiences

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  5. Hush now, or you'll be giving me notions of fame and fortune...

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  6. Looking for an agent? Give me a call.

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  7. easy paddy. Chunko here. When´s the next adventure? I am getting itchy feet. Nice weather for sneaking around- did you see that huge place in Bernau and tere is an interesting spot i saw today in Pankow

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  8. Hey Chunko, long time no speak. Adventures are surely calling again. I'm working this weekend and possibly all next week, but I'll drop you an email as soon as we can go exploring. I've a sneaky feeling it won't be long...

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  9. Hope this publishes on such a dusty ol' post, but take a look at what Spiegel English is saying about your Soviet haunt here:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/a-photographic-journey-through-an-abandoned-soviet-military-base-a-843056.html

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  10. Thanks Ian. Always nice to see another perspective- especially on a dusty post! I reckon in this case though the photos were taken a long time ago and the situation´s not quite the same anymore. But still, another perspective.

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  11. I would like to visit this place in August. Anybody been here recently? Before this website was redesigned somebody posted he would visit half April, but that message seems to be deleted now ... ? Hope I have luck and it's not destroyed yet ...

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    Replies
    1. It's not destroyed yet, still loads to see and you should go.
      You probably saw this post on the other site: http://www.abandonedberlin.com/2011/08/bunkers-for-russian-nukes-lost-city-of.html

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