EVEN IN A city strewn with such a wealth of abandoned architectural oddities, Schloß Dammsmühle stands out as remarkable—both for its age (the main building is nearly 250 years old) and the remarkable (and infamous) pedigrees of some of its 20th-century owners. Built in 1768, it was alternately improved and abandoned through the Weimar era before being commandeered by the Nazis, and in 1940, Himmler made it his base of operations. The victorious Red Army occupied the castle from the end of the war until 1959, at which point it was taken over by the Stasi, who used it as a training center and retreat until the fall of the wall, and were responsible for many of its modern outbuildings. (For an in-depth writeup of the castle’s full history, check out the always fascinating Abandoned Berlin).
Situated in a densely-forested area 24 kilometers north of the Ringbahn, the castle’s immediate surroundings are an unsettling mix of bucolic and creepy. This is especially true in the 20th-century buildings surrounding the castle, whose mildewed green carpets and peeling pink paint are complemented by the almost sickly-green water of the Mühlenteich. The lake itself is ringed by a surprising number of rudimentary constructions, including a boat landing (with still-intact submerged tires), several half-sunken docks, and even an island, accessible by a rotting wood arch bridge, that has several ruined buildings of its own.