I like exploring abandoned places. I enjoy a bit of urbex.

Sometimes you have to get a bit creative to gain access to these places. Over a wall, under a fence. Sweet talk someone into letting you in for a look. The effort and shenanigans don’t put me off.

The bigger the challenge, the better the adventure. Like the time I explored an abandoned hospital near my old home in Germany.

Aside from a little low-level vandalism, the building and grounds were in pretty good shape. In places, you could catch a glimpse of the grandeur of the original building, built when light,air and environment were believed to be as important as medicine. The grounds included extensive parkland and a kindergarten.

 I’d researched the history of the building prior to visiting and had reels of black and white images from the early 1900s flipping through my mind. Stern nurses and grim-faced patients.

 Later, the British Army also took the hospital for a while the after math of WW2. Former prisoners of the German forces, including Russian POW’s were treated here.

I’ve no idea what was planned for the site or if the building was listed or protected. Hopefully, someone has done something with the old place. It was worth the effort it took to explore it.

Luckily, not everywhere is an effort to get in. Some abandoned places invite you to come and explore. All above board and legitimate. If old hospitals are your thing, well A) you’re my tribe and B) you’ll like this next bit. Bringing me neatly to…

Beelitz Heilstatten, Nr. Berlin

Beelitz Helistatten is a largely abandoned sanatorium just 50km from Berlin. It’s made up of buildings that look exactly like you’d think an abandoned hospital should. Especially if you watch a lot of cheesy horror movies. I do, so-bad-it’s-good horror is my guilty pleasure.

Things Helen Loves, Panorama image of historic hospital Beelitz. It is overgrown with trees and greenery.

The place has a faded charm, but it’s eerie. Even in daylight, with other visitors around. An abandoned sanatorium would be eerie enough, but this one comes with quite the backstory.

The forests and parkland around Berlin are now a popular spot for city dwellers to escape to, but back in the day they offered an escape of a different kind. An escape from crowded housing, insanitary conditions and the dreaded tuberculosis.

A sanatorium was established here at the end of the 19th century, designed to be both beautiful and functional. A place of wellness, fresh air and nourishing food. By the 1920’s, Beelitz was a self-sufficient village with its own gardens, laundry and shops.

Abandoned Beelitz might seem creepy, but back in the day it was a very forward thinking, healing place.

Time and treatments moved on and Germany was twice plunged into war. The Heilstatten found itself pressed into service as a military hospital.  A then unknown chap called Hitler recuperated here after being injured in WW1.

Things Helen Loves, image of abandoned hospital with blue sky above

In 1945 the hospital and surrounding areas were the scene of fierce fighting between Soviet and German forces.  In April 1945, the Red Army claimed victory and took the Heilstatten complex as their own. Once they had it, the Russians were reluctant to let it go. Beelitz became the largest military hospital outside the USSR until the Russians left in the early 1990’s.

Beelitz feel silent and into a state of disrepair.

That is until 2015 when Beelitz Sanatorium was given a new lease of life. Once again, this is a green space devoted to fresh air and wellness. At ground level there are forest walks and a barefoot trail.

Above, a tree top walkway allows visitors a unique view of the old buildings. Get there when it’s quiet and you could take forest bathing to a whole new level, literally.

There’s also a 40m viewing tower, with a lift to whisk you to the top if you don’t fancy the steps. On a clear day, you’ll see iconic TV Tower in Berlin.

The forest isn’t confined to ground level though; the building known as The Alpine House is home to a roof top woodland. Trees began to re-root here in the ruins post-WW2, and they’ve been left to grow.

The Alpine House & rooftop forest.

Beelitz- history, nature and architecture on the outskirts of Berlin. In German, this place is now called Baum und Zeit– trees and time. It’s a good name for an amazing place. Find the website in English here.

Both of these adventures were blogged in previous posts -I’m updating and republishing these adventures as part of my German Week series.

Helen x

14 thoughts

  1. It is an amazing place, and credit goes to the powers that be they revived it to become a place for wellness and well-being once more. A similar property in the US probably would have been razed to make way for a shopping district. I love the tree top walkway, and it definitely looks like you get some unique perspectives of the surrounding area.

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      It is credit to the local powers-that-be, I suspect it would have been easier to flatten the place. Especially in the years of reunification. Now it’s there for many generations to come and that’s grand.

  2. Love the appearance of the raised walkway high above the trees Helen. It’s brilliant how new life can be breathed into these historic buildings.

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      I love seeing old places saved and repurposed somehow and being able to walk above them certainly makes Beelitz something special. Thank you for your interest in my latest German themed post Marion!

  3. A fascinating story, and definitely a place to put on my visiting list, if only for that walkway.

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      Definitely one for the list, the treetop walks are lovely.

  4. Wow, Beelitz will definitely be on my list if we go back to Berlin some time! I love the old buildings, the treetop walkway and the Alpine House. All wonderful for photography!

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      Yes, it would be a great place for pictures! The actual old village of Beelitz is just along the way and that had a few old buildings too- creative access required on those! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  5. When I first moved to Frankfurt in 1970, we lived in a fourth-floor apartment not far from the city center. From our bathroom window we could see the ruins of the old opera house (Alte Oper) with trees growing out of the upper floors. The trees were quite tall by that time because they had been growing undisturbed for twenty-six years, ever since the old opera house was devastated by bombs in the Second World War.

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      Oh wow- did you ever think to venture in? You’ve had some amazing times in Germany by the sounds of it!

      1. No, we never went in — it was carefully fenced off as a hazardous ruin. But much later it was re-built for use as a concert hall.

  6. letsgoawandering says:

    This is a wonderful article, like you I love exploring old buildings and this is definitely on the DO list for 2023-24 thank you

  7. Seems like exciting places to visit so full of history!!

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