Beelitz Heilstätten (I): The abandoned sanatoriums near Berlin, Germany

I have a passion for abandoned places and ruins. So far, I’ve been to and photographed a few century old castle ruins and mansions. If you’re into castle ruins, too, then Austria is a good place for that.

During my research for abandoned places to photograph, I discovered Beelitz-Heilstätten . A huge area with dozens of abandoned sanatoriums and support buildings. They were built between 1898 and 1930 and served people suffering from lung diseases. In WW II the buildings were used as a military hospital. Until 1990, some buildings were used by the Russian army. Since then, the buildings deteriorate.

 Nature is taking back buildings at the Beelitz-Heilstätten

Nature is taking back buildings at the Beelitz-Heilstätten

The area was used a few times as a movie set. Allegedly part of the movie "Valkyrie" starring Tom Cruise was filmed here as well as Roman Polanskis "The Pianist".

I got even more excited when I discovered go2know.de. They offer paid and legal access to the area and abandoned buildings. Guides tell you a few dos and donts, provide tips on great photo spots and then you’re free to explore and photograph the in- and outside of the buildings on your own.

So last weekend I flew to Berlin (it's a just 50 minute flight from Vienna) for a photo tour at the abandoned Beelitz Sanatoriums, which are 45 minutes by car or 60 minutes by train from Berlin.

Exploring the old buildings was fun and also a little spooky (which was fun, too :). The wind moved doors and windows with a creaking sound. When I took this photo, suddenly the door behind me opened slowly as if was moved by an invisible hand.

Inside the abandoned sanatoriums

The sanatoriums are huge, three-floor, buildings and many of them are rather long. So inside you’ll find huge hallways with half open doors, broken windows and rather interesting (and sometimes difficult) light to photograph.

 Doors and windows are moved by the wind blowing through the hallways

Doors and windows are moved by the wind blowing through the hallways

 The red hallway at Beelitz-Heilstätten

The red hallway at Beelitz-Heilstätten

Between the floors, you sometimes need to go up a completely dark stairway. (I recommend using a powerful flashlight)

 Totall dark stairway at Beelitz

Totall dark stairway at Beelitz

If your lucky and peek into every room on a floor, you’ll find views like this, where a part of the roof came down. One thing we were told by one of the guides was to avoid entering rooms where either the roof or a wall was collapsed. Chances are that the floor is not sound any more.

 A room with a view?

A room with a view?

And sometimes you’ll even find special purpose rooms that still can be recognized as such like this auditorium that was used for trainings for the medical personnel.

 Abandoned auditorium in one of the buildings at Belitz-Heilstätten

Abandoned auditorium in one of the buildings at Belitz-Heilstätten

Photographing inside a lost place with iPhone

Photographing with an iPhone in the abandoned buildings was a tricky. I mainly had low light scenes. I shot almost all photos using PuresShot (iTunes App store link) in bracketed mode with my iPhone mounted to my AmazonBasics Travel Tripod.

Originally, I used Pro HDR X (iTunes App store link) to merge the three bracketed shots to an HDR that I fine tuned with Enlight.

But as I turned to Adobe Lightroom for iPhone in 2017, I re-edited the middle exposure of the three bracketed shots with Adobe Lightroom mainly using clarity, sharpening and denoise adjustments.

As a courtesy to you, I’ve created a page on which you can always check and see which iPhone photo apps I currently use.

Meanwhile, I’ve been to different parts of Beelitz-Heilstätten two more times and even a day insure the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This way please to read more about are all the lost places I’ve photographed so far.