Thursday, October 25 2012, 3:22 AM
It is impossible to grow up in Germany and not eat Zwieback at one point. Whether you earned 20 bucks by chugging and entire cup of Tabasco or you had a little too much faith in the Kebab shop down the street, once your stomach starts rebelling you drink fennel tea and eat Zwieback.
For those who didn't grow up in Germany, Zwieback is a sweet type of white bread that has been baked twice so that it doesn't contain any water. It is sold in bags full of little slices and one brand virtually has the monopoly in Germany. Their abandoned factory happened to be not too far away from the German Train Graveyard where we had spent the first half of the day.
The Brand(t) Name
The company was founded almost exactly 100 years ago and had experienced steady growth until they became leader of the German Zwieback market, being sold in every supermarket and having their logo and package design recognized by people of all age groups. In 2003, cheaper labor costs and millions in government subsidies prompted them to move production. They fired 500 employees, closed their factory and built a new one in Eastern Germany where they are still producing today.
After being abandoned for eight years, the old factory was already well known among all types of people who visit abandoned places. It featured the expected levels of natural and artificial decay and getting inside was not all that difficult. A lot of the machines and presumably everything of value had already been removed, but crates with packaging materials were still stacked floor-to-ceiling and flooding entire sections of floor space with the famous lettering and the iconic "child face" company logo.
The factory spans both sides of an inner city road and connects via little bridges containing walkways and conveyors. Once you are inside one of the buildings, you can move around pretty much everywhere without having to go outside again and potentially cause concern among the watchful neighbors. It became quite obvious that the factory had grown organically. Once all the space in one building was used up, more land was purchased and more buildings and machinery attached to the old parts as good as possible.
Abstract Zwieback Machine
Paradoxically, we found the most modern machines in the oldest looking building. We could only guess but the shape of the long ovens and the little elevators looked like they were actually used to produce Zwieback. Warning stickers about photo cells made the whole thing appear almost as if they were using two high-powered 29MP cameras to compare each slice of Zwieback against 725 other potential matches resulting in a level of precision you'd expect from a smartphone — not a slice of Zwieback.
A Wild Train Appears (HDR)
Before leaving the factory, we passed through a little indoor freight station that was once used to deliver grains and other ingredients to the factory. Now it was home to a train. Not just any train but a historic bi-level train from the former German Democratic Republic. Without going into too much rail nerdery (again), they were obviously predecessors to the modern Bombardier cars I see almost every day on my way to work. We had started the day with old trains and we ended it with what hopefully is the last abandoned train for a while.
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Thursday, September 13 2012, 3:53 AM
It was that time of the year again. The skies were grey, the temperatures low and it rained at least every weekend. It was the middle of July in a typical summer in Germany. But once you have successfully managed to get a group of 4 people to agree on a date and time for an Urbex trip, virtually nothing can get you to cancel that trip. Even though it had been raining cats and dogs since we left our respective beds that morning, we hit the road holping that the sky would clear up enough to allow some decent photos later in the day.
Arriving by Train
We waited out the current shower in our red vehicle, parked beside a quiet country road. Next to us, a green patch of grassland, some trees and the reason we came here: more parked, red vehicles. Not just any kind of red, but the precisely defined RAL 3020 a.k.a. "Verkehrsrot". Better known to most Germans as the color that locomotives have been painted in since the mid 90s. In Germany, everything is normed.
As soon as the amount of water falling from the heavens seemd to dwindle, we grabbed our gear and made our way to the train tracks. We expected maybe a handful of parked locomotives but found more than 20, all of which were completely abandoned with their doors wide open, inviting visitors like us.
Most interestingly, some of the engines were of the old DR Class 130 (per request, I'll just link to Wikipedia for the rail nerd facts). These are some really huge and strong locomotives, originally built by the Soviets and powered by one of their legendary and virtually indestructable Diesel engines. They were used by the Eastern German Railway Company and later, after
that country imploded the successful reunification, by the German Rail Authority. After recently having been replaced by newer models, the old locomotives were now parked here to await being torn apart, fused-in and cast into new locomotives. Or maybe left whole and sold back to Russia at a profit.
BBC Steering Wheel
Taking photos turned out to be even harder than expected. The light outside was barely enough for acceptable exposure times, the sky would come out heavily overexposed or everything else heavily underexposed and I had to constantly wipe raindrops of the lens. I was really happy I had a weather sealed camera and lenses. OK, I couldn't take usable pictures but at least I didn't have to keep the camera in the backpack to protect it from the water. Which is a real benefit, I guess.
Inside the locomotives, things got even worse. Not only was there less light, but there was hardly enough space to set up a tripod. I got it to work somehow by extending one tripod leg fully to the ground and pressing the remaining two at minimum length against some pipes at weird angles. I didn't dare to breathe during the 30 seconds the camera was exposing. Or during the 2 minutes it takes to get a 5 exposure bracket shot for HDR. Yes, I am exaggerating.
As usual, we could have spent a couple more hours climbing around inside the locomotives, inspecting all the countless details and endless labyrinths of rusty pipes and valves, but we figured it wasn't really worth the effort and decided to move on to the next location (coming soon).
Made in the Soviet Union (HDR)
Just as we were walking back to our vehicle, we spotted some other guys on the premises. I quickly donned the organge hi-vis vest I had been carrying around in my backpack for a while and pretended to lead our group. We didn't find any trace of the others near the trains but spotted them hiding inside some bushes close to the road. Good times.
Check out all pictures in the gallery:
Germain Train Graveyard