A Day of Underground Bunkers and Museums
We started the day with the usual excellent and hearty breakfast at the Arco Hotel. After breakfast we caught the S-Bahn / U-Bahn to the Berliner Unterwelten at Brunnenstrasse 105:
The Berliner Unterwelten is a company providing tours of Berlin’s WWII underground bunkers and other fascinating places. Unfortunately, it was forbidden to take photos on this tour, so I don’t have any pictures of the underground bunkers. In lieu, here’s a couple of shots of the “single person bunker” outside of the Berliner Unterwelten; if alone, Berliners could use these if gunfire was reigning or bombs started dropping:
We took the “Dark Worlds” tour, which was a fascinating excursion into the underground WWII bunker where Berliners took shelter from nightly bombings during the war. Very moving and chilling, as the bunker had been preserved in its war-time state. The tour lasted about an hour and a half and was hosted by a truly phenomenal guide named Anja. An excellent tour.
Emerging from this underground world, we went into the Gesundbrunnen Mall and had lunch at Subway – believe it or not, even something as mundane as Subway was a taste sensation in Berlin. European food just tastes so much better, no matter what it is. Very clean public washrooms in this mall! We each paid .50 cents to pee in the cleanest W/C you’ll ever find on this planet, and I encountered my first space-age, self-cleaning German toilet – how bizarre was that?! (In retrospect, I can’t believe I didn’t grab a picture of this.)
The Schwules Museum
Unlike the rest of the Berlin visit thus far, the Schwules Museum was a bit of a let-down (but mildly entertaining nonetheless). We found the exhibits uninspiring and extremely sparse, and all the information was in German (interestingly, this was the only non-English experience of the entire German leg of our trip):
We left the Schwules Museum and walked north along Lindenstrasse:
The Jewish Museum
We found the Jewish Museum (Jüdisches Museum Berlin). This was a mammoth building and we made our way through most of it:
Perhaps one of the most moving and chilling experiences occured in the “Memory Void” exhibit with an installation called Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves). Over 10,000 open-mouthed faces coarsely cut from heavy, circular iron plates cover the floor. As you walk over the faces they make a haunting, clanking sound – sounding like tormented or lost souls. The iron faces appear as if they’re screaming, and their clanking sounds echo off the high vaulted concrete ceiling, making the experience even more chilling:
We wandered into the Holocaust Tower and looked up:
Outside of the museum we toured The Garden of Exile. From the Garden’s plaque:
In the Garden of Exile, 49 tilted columns stand on a sloping plot of ground. They are filled with earth and planted with Russian olive trees whose branches form a canopy of leaves in summer. Exile meant rescue and safety, but the escape from Germany and the arrival in a foreign country also caused feelings of disorientation. The refugees often had difficulty gaining a foothold in their new home.
This is exactly how you’re made to feel when you walk through this garden. All the surfaces are sloped so you experience a very disorienting and unsettling feeling as you walk through:
It was getting late so we decided to call it a day. We took the U-Bahn back to Nollendorfplatz and walked down Motzstrasse, stopping at More restaurant for dinner – I have to say it was indeed excellent… and *very* gay!
After dinner we returned to the Arco for the evening (beautiful weather tonight), where we uploaded our daily pictures and updated the journal. Very tired tonight!