Berlin is best enjoyed from the top. Not that there are that many opportunities within the city aside from the Fernsehturm and the Weltballon. But if you venture out to the fringes of Berlin and stumble down hidden Forrest paths long enough, you’ll be greeted by a a crumbling ruin and an industrial looking tower known as the Müggelturm.
*Warning – Müggelturm History*
Despite being located in the middle of nowhere, the Müggelturm is deeply rooted in Berlins history.
Carl Spindler, the owner of the “Köpenicker Wäscherei und Färberei W. Spindler” (now known as the abandoned VEB Rewatex), and after who the Berlin district of Spindlersfeld is named after, decided in 1880 to build a 10 meter high wooden observation tower on the Kleinen (small) Müggelberg. The tower, which was known as the Spindlerturm, failed to attract visitors due to the fact that it was only 10 meters high and didn’t offer a view worth seeing. Realizing his mistake, Spindler coughed up 40,000 Marks in 1889 and rebuilt and extended the tower in a Chinese pagoda style. The newly renovated tower reopened on the 6th of April, 1890 and boasted a height of 27 meters. The tower, which now had the added benefit of a restaurant soon became a popular day trip destination as it offered a stunning panoramic view of up to 50km over the surrounding forest and lakes, and you could even see the skyline of Berlin on a clear day. The Spindlerturm proved so popular that it pulled in over 52000 visitors within the first year of its reopening.
The architect Walter Wichelhaus bought the tower in 1924 and decided to expand the structure throughout the years. He erected several new buildings, including a new restaurant, kitchen and an apartment for himself.
In 1945, when the Soviet Army approached Berlin, the tower was declared a military object and served as a radio tower, as well as an artillery observation post. Like the neighboring Bismarck Tower on the Großen (big) Müggelberg, the Müggelturm was supposed to be blown up before the soviet troops arrived. The towers owner, Walter Wichelhaus didn’t really agree with that decision and managed to cut through the wires of the explosive charges, thus preventing the tower from being blown up by the Wehrmacht.
After the war, a restaurant for visitors was set up again, and in 1953 the HO Köpenick took over the management of the Müggelturm property. The Müggelturm fell into disrepair and was closed in 1957. The Berlin City Council decided that the tower needed a new foundation, and opted to reinforce the structure through a new steel truss. Along with these renovations, the council decided to extend the restaurant as well. On the afternoon of the 19th May 1958, the tower burned down to the ground - the fire was most likely caused by welding work during the renovation.
In the same year the Berliner Zeitung launched an architectural competition for a new building, which received a total of 32 entries. The designs were presented to the public in August 1958 at the Köpenick City Hall, and then again at the BZ Pavilion at the Friedrichstraße Train Station. The design of a student collective of the Art Academy Berlin -Weissensee led by Jörg Streitparth, Siegfried Wagner and Klaus Weißhaupt were selected as the winners of the competition. The original design of the tower called for an oval layout, but this was changed for economic reasons to its current rectangular shape.
The tower was officially opened on the 31st of December, 1961. The newly erected tower was now 29.61 meters high, had 9 stories (each equipped with panoramic windows) and a viewing platform which could be reached by climbing 126 steps. The property included a restaurant, a wine bar and sun terraces – and in its prime, the Müggelturm pulled in over 240000 visitors every year.
While the tower could be considered a 30 meter high architectural monstrosity, the Müggelturm is actually a very early example of modern architecture in the DDR (and was purposely designed in stark contrast to its predecessor), which at the time was still dominated by Stalinist Architecture.
After the German reunification the Tower fell into the hands of the Treuhandgeselschaft which sold it off to the Bcb Gmbh. Despite being in dire need of renovation, none of the investors chose to finance any of the proposed plans due to the fact that it was rather unclear who actually owned the land and the tower. The EU actually funded a partial renovation of the tower to the tune of 1 Million Mark (500000 Euros) in 1996, but the other buildings remained untouched.
Over the years several plans have been proposed but none came to fruition. Investors came and went, gutting the restaurant building and letting the tower fall into disrepair. A new investor – Matthias Große – bought the property in 2012, but what he has planned for the tower has yet to be figured out.
There are several ways to reach the Müggelturm, but we ended up taking the Car (the easiest way). After a long tenuous drive through the forest we reached the base of tower. At first sight its a rather underwhelming if not depressing picture. A rather bland looking tower (with a broken window) and some concrete ruins presented themselves to us. The whole picture was complemented by a trailer/mobile cafe next to the parking lot. We wandered over and were greeted by András Milak – a Hungarian assemblyman who had worked at the Kabelwerk Oberpsree in the 80s – and his wife. András has operated his small cafe since 2006 at the base of the Müggeturm, and lets people ascend to the top of the tower for the price of €1.50.
Despite – or maybe because of his presence, vandals have broken into the cafe over 60 times and even burnt it down several times. After exchanging some friendly (Hungarian) words, we climbed up the 126 steps not really sure what to expect. When we reached the top, we were greeted by a spectacular view over the Müggelberge, Langer See and Müggelsee, and you could even spot the Fernsehturm in the distance.
Despite being run down and only a concrete shell of its former self, the Müggelturm attracts up to 300 visitors every weekend. Or at least that’s what we’ve been told. While at first glance the whole place seems less than inviting, the beautiful view from the top and somewhat surreal experience makes it a worthwhile day trip.
For more pictures of this semi-abandoned tower – check out the Flickr Album: The Müggelturm
Straße zum Müggelturm 1
12557 Berlin Köpenick
Public Transport: Take the S-Bahn S3 to Köpenick. From Köpenick take the X69 Bus – direction Müggelheim and get off at the stop Rübezahl. Walk down the road until you reach the gate with “Teufelssee” writen above it. Walk down the path on the right past the playground, until you reach the Teufelssee on the left (after circa 300 meters) and then keep on going straight until you reach some very long steps. Climb up those and cross the street and you’ve reached the Müggelturm.