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An abandoned combat theater, double fence with watchtowers, a dozen covered bunkers and a really creepy dead animal – the Aschaffenburg Local Training Area (ALTA / Truppenübungsplatz Aschaffenburg) delivered much more than I was hoping for…
Whenever I am on vacation in Germany, I throw in a couple of urbex days. And since those days usually involve several hours of driving and walking, it’s a good way to reconnect with people I haven’t seen all year, to get some alone time and adventure without too many distractions. One of my favorite urbex partners back home is my sister Sabine, especially when exploring abandoned military bases as she is ex-Luftwaffe (German Air Force) herself.

The Aschaffenburg Local Training Area dates back to the Kingdom of Bavaria, which bought 32 ha of land in the south of Aschaffenburg in 1912/13. After being used as a parade ground and farm land, the Wehrmacht took over in 1936 to supply training ground for some newly constructed barracks in Aschaffenburg. In the last weeks of WW2 the US Army made use of the area as an encampment with a field hospital.
From 1946 on part of the area was used by locals as farm land, while the US Army expanded and modernized the training ground by building new facilities like shooting ranges for pistols, machine guns and bazookas, a tank training area (including new roads for heavy Abrams tanks!), a helicopter pad, several bivouac areas, and many more. “Highlight” till this very day was a Special Ammunition Site for MGM-52 Lance missiles – including nuclear warheads, which explains the double fence and the watch towers we found in the center of the area in the middle of the woods. (Greetings to the 1st Bn 80th Field Artillery Regiment (1974-1987) and the 3rd Bn 12th Field Artillery Regiment (1987-1991), who took care of those deadly and always controversial babies…) In addition to the 2 FAMs all kinds of units stationed in Babenhausen, *Darmstadt*, *Hanau* and Würzburg used the ALTA for their training purposes.
The deactivation of the MGM-52s marked the beginning of the end of the Aschaffenburg Local Training Area. In 2007, after several years of indecisiveness on the part of the US Army, the whole area was given back to the original owners, resulting in 337 ha for the city of Aschaffenburg and 240 ha for the Federal Republic of Germany. Since an ornithological mapping was executed in 1992, it was pretty clear from the beginning what should become of the former military area – a nature sanctuary. Now, half a decade later, 237 ha are designated as a preserve area and open to the public, despite the fact that a lot of the former military installations haven’t been demolished yet.
Sabine and I parked our car at the edge of the wood and the first thing we saw was a huge old sign with the general layout of the former training area. We followed a road and quickly found an abandoned yet unspectacular building with metal-grilled windows to the left… and a combat theater to the right, just across the street. Despite mostly gutted too, the combat theater was quite an interesting place to explore. Since I’ve never done even basic military training myself, I’ve never been to a place like that, but judging by the layout and the things left behind, Sabine was convinced that it was a AGSHP (Ausbildungsgerät Schießsimulator Handwaffen/Panzerabwehrhandwaffen – something like “Training Unit Shooting Simulator Small Arms/Antitank Small Arms”), built by Thales Defence Deutschland GmbH. I uploaded a walking tour of the whole building to Youtube and you can watch it at the end of the article after the photos.
Definitely the highlight of the ALTA was the storage area of the MGM-52 missiles and warheads. When I wrote about the *Hochspeyer Munitions Storage* (where also nuclear warheads were stored at one point in time), a commenter mentioned that the typical structure of two fences and watchtowers were already gone – well, that structure was clearly intact in Aschaffenburg. More or less. The gates of the fences looked like Bender Rodriguez had a go with them… and the watchtower wasn’t in good shape either, but even amateurs could see that they hadn’t been storing vegetables behind those barb-wired fortifications! Most of the ammunition bunkers were open at the time of our visit, but they were also smaller and in worse condition than their counterparts in Hochspeyer. While the Hochspeyer ones were all cleaned out, a surprised was waiting for me in the unmaintained forest depths of Aschaffenburg. Over the years I’ve encountered my share of living and dead animals while exploring abandoned place, but the creature I found in one of the dim bunkers looked really creepy – most likely a mummified cat, judging by the size of it. Not exactly a pleasant sight!

Despite being easily accessible and extremely popular amongst runners, Nordic Walkers, bikers as well as dogs and their owners, the Aschaffenburg Local Training Area doesn’t seem to have many friends amongst the German urbex community. Maybe it’s because Bavaria has a reputation of being difficult for urban explorers (fewer locations, stricter police), maybe it’s because Aschaffenburg is a little bit off the beaten tracks. Whatever it is, I enjoyed the little trip to Franconia as I was finally able to see a few things with my own eyes I only knew from pictures in books before – like a combat theater and the double fence with watchtowers structure…

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