The glass crunches underneath my shoes with every step I take, the stairway is dimly lit by diffused daylight on this wintery day. A cold blast of air blows through the broken window sending a thin layer of snow swirling on the stairs as I continue to walk to the top level. The paint on the walls and ceiling is peeled and cracking. There is a faint smell of smoked meat that still oozes out of the building and I’m nervously aware that I’m the only one here. I cautiously enter the doorway to the top floor and round the corner into the hallway. I look down the hall and let out an audible gasp and mutter to myself “shit”. This is not a place that I should be – wandering around an old abandoned meat factory in East Berlin – but at the same time I’m unexplainably drawn to it.
Every door in the hallway is open and this is about the time that some maniacal murderer in a hockey mask should be jumping out at me brandishing his pointy claws or bloody saw. I stop for a moment and then proceed cautiously peering around each door wondering if I will find anyone lurking in the shadows. Ghosts of old communist meat packing workers, old meat carcasses, or Jason…all seem equally scary to me – the girl who is scared of everything.
Situated in old East Berlin, the Alte Fleischfabrik (Old Meat Factory) was owned by the Konsumgenossenschaft (KGB), a consumer association, and was established in 1899. The KGB office buildings, meat factory, bakery, and power plant were built in 1909. These hearty brick buildings survived two world wars, but it appears that after the wall fell, so did the KGB. The buildings were abandoned, sold to private investors, and today remnants and odors of the old KGB business remains as if it were hit by a nuclear war.
As I peer around each door I find no one and I let out a sigh of relief. All I do find is more destroyed rooms littered with broken glass, dirt, dry wall, 30 year old sugar packets, and graffiti. One of the rooms I walk into even has a large hole in the wall. I can only imagine how someone broke through that wall. Was it the Incredible Hulk, was it a homeless person, was it a maniac with a sledge hammer, or was it a graffiti artists who wanted to somehow frame his work? As I stand looking through the hole in the wall, I opt for the latter as a beautiful, colorful heart stares back at me. I feel as if it’s beating, keeping this old expired factory alive.
For 4 hours I click away taking photo after photo of the abandoned meat packing plant, power plant and old bakery building complex as it snowed outside. It was hard to stay warm, but the fear inside of me kept my adrenaline pumping. However in reality I really didn’t have anything to be fearful of – besides my own imagination. I had permission to be wandering around this old destroyed factory – I was here on a Go2Know photo tour.
When I decided to come back to Berlin one of the first things I did was get in contact with the Go2Know people again. My visit to an old abandoned paper factory last year with them was a highlight of my time in Germany and I could hardly wait to do more of their tours. A Go2Know guide will lead you initially through the 3 main buildings, provide maps, and show you the most interesting photo opportunities. After that initial introduction you are free to roam on your own.
For an afternoon I roamed around old smoking ovens, cafeterias, locker rooms, offices, furnaces, boilers, and even a bowling alley hidden away in a dark corner basement. Each room left in disarray but also used as an urban street gallery. Go2Know offers a truly unique experience for photographers visiting Berlin.
- If you go, be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight – many of the areas are very dark.
- Don’t wear sandals – there is glass and nails everywhere – sturdy footwear is a must.
- Go2Know mainly gives their tours/assistance in German only. However they guides there normally know enough English to get by – and I have found that the other people on the tour can also assist with translating. Bottom line – don’t let the German stop you, you really don’t need to communicate much – you are there to wander and take photos.
Go2Know Website – (you’ll need it translated!)
See all of my Meat Factory Photography here
Disclosure: Thanks to Go with Oh Holiday Apartment Rental and Go2Know for hosting me on this great tour. However, all of the opinions expressed here are my own – as you know how I love to speak my mind!