Technology Live and Ride Your Own Tank!

Our travel blogger Anja experienced hands-on technology at the formerly strictly guarded military airfield in Pütnitz. In three listed hangars she learned how exciting excursions into technology can be, was impressed by the vehicle and flight technology of the former Eastern Bloc and even laid hands on huge military vehicles.

“Women and technology – in my case not an ideal combination. Since my miserable experiments in the physics course with my teacher Mrs. Maiwald who called me a technical embryo in ninth grade and always looked at me with a special mixture of pity and slight despair, I am at war with all technical questions. User manuals regularly drive me crazy and from my driving skills with the car I prefer not to start at all.

Accordingly I was initially intimidated when I drove to the old airport in Pütnitz where the Technical Association of Pütnitz is located. On the huge silos the plaster and inscriptions in Cyrillic letters crumbled, reminiscent of times long past when the site was a strictly guarded military airfield.

Vehicle Technology of the Eastern Bloc © TMV/happybackpacker.de

In GDR times the Soviet armed forces stationed various units of the 16th Air Force at Pütnitz Airport with around 7,000 military personnel living in their very own world. There was a school, a hospital, a bank and consumption for the military and their families who were rarely allowed to leave the site. Within the air force of the Soviet Union the 16th Air Force was the largest operational unit and therefore had the most modern weapon systems of the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the associations were withdrawn from Germany until 1994 and left most of their impressive vehicle and aviation technology on site because there was no longer use for it. Forgotten the old technology or was dismantled into individual pieces and sold to private individuals who left the valuable parts to their destiny.

Oldtimer-Fans watch out

Since 2001 the Pütnitz Technical Association has been committed to preserving the old vehicles from the former Eastern bloc in three listed aircraft hangars and has contributed with a great deal of heart and soul and initiative to turning old jewelry into lovingly maintained classic cars. In painstaking detail they are gradually restoring the exhibits, taking technology enthusiasts around the site and helping to ensure that this part of the story is not forgotten.

More than 500 vehicles and aircrafts can be admired on an area of about 12,000 square metres. The tour through the halls was like a journey into my past. Trabant, Wartburg, Barkas, Moskvich – all cars that shaped everyday life on the streets of the GDR or could not be missing in my brother’s miniature car collection. Lovingly and colourfully restored they stood there in rank and seemed ready at any time to go on a great journey again.

Marko Stahlberg a committed volunteer from the region who took me around the site emphasized that many exhibits were indeed fully functional. One of the hangars contained a military helicopter – the Mi 8, which can be put into operation in an impressive manner. With a crashing volume and a lot of wind the rotor blades started to move and I expected the helicopter to take off through the ceiling at any moment. As a precaution I took some distance and sought protection behind a tank. How ironic I thought to myself.

Restaurated Trabant © TMV/happybackbacker.de

Ever driven a Russian truck?

The real highlight for me however, was the opportunity to try out this heavy technique myself. When Marko Stahlberg offered me to take the wheel of a 180 hp Ural I was breathless. Perhaps not the best time to tell him about my last manoeuvring accident in the car park and how I got stuck on a barrier with a tiny little car I thought briefly. After all we would drive over a specially designed course and at least this time other cars would be spared from my driving skills.

The Uralski Awtomobilny Sawod known as the Ural for short is considered one of the largest manufacturers of heavy commercial vehicles in Russia and is a real monster. Almost indestructible, all-wheel drive, 14 tons heavy and with three permanently driven axles. I let the engine howl and tentatively approached the course. Loud and heavy he drove off the terrain, wobbled and swayed like on a ship and my nerves lay blank. Only after a few minutes I relaxed and enjoyed it: A killer fun. Like a little boy who was allowed to play with his life-sized toy cars I shouted and cheered and did not want to get out. Such a big truck can be addictive.

Ural © TMV/happybackpacker.de

Ural © TMV/happybackpacker.de

When tanks go for a swim

An 18-metre articulated bus and an amphibious vehicle are also available for round trips. “Amphibians-what” was my first question. Marko patiently explained that this was the PTS-M Swimming-Car, an unarmoured full-track vehicle that can travel both on land and on the water surface. A PTS-M was able to transport the truck Ural which I had just driven before or a company of 70 soldiers with full equipment.

The tank engine reduced to 350 hp, shuddered like a rocket and drove at an impressive speed towards the Saaler Bodden. First I looked at the spectacle through a hatch on the roof of the tank and then climbed inside the car. Fascinated I stared at Marko working as he steered the monster like a transformer and did his laps in the water. A feeling like an end-time movie and me in the middle of it.

I couldn’t believe myself how much fun the tank driving brought and grinned the whole time as if I had just jumped bungee although at the beginning I was sceptical that tank driving was only for big boys. At the same time I felt an oppressive sadness in myself at the creativity and means that mankind had released to build such killing machines.

Fortunately the Cold War is long gone and the former military vehicles are only exhibited or driven for historical purposes in the Pütnitz Museum of Technology but in many countries of the world such military equipment is still part of the street scene today.

full tracked vehicle PTS-M © TMV/happybackpacker.de

The club is also committed to explaining technology in a comprehensible and lifelike manner. For example transmissions are shown from the inside or explained how an internal combustion engine works.

An annual highlight is the so-called Eastern bloc meeting which takes place for the 17th time this year. It attracts more than 4,000 participants from all over the world who present their lovingly restored and polished collector’s objects from the former Eastern bloc to an impressive number of visitors.”

Opening Hours

April                       Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
May                        Wednesday till Sunday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
June till August   Tuesdy till Sunday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
September            Wednesday till Sunday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
October                 Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Address

Technik-Museum in Pütnitz
Flugplatzallee
18311 Ribnitz-Damgarten
+49 170 2235850
www.technikmuseum-puetnitz.de

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