[Image: The entrance to the bunker in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, as photographed by Marcus Gloger for The New York Times, 2006.]
One of Germany’s most important Cold War relics is about to be reborn. 18 miles from the former West German capital city of Bonn, The New York Times tells us about a massive nuclear bunker that has for years languished under an unruffled vineyard landscape, and that will, eventually, be turned into a rare museum; or, a sort of “equivalent visitor center to the East German wall in Berlin.”
“Started in 1960, a year before the wall went up, the bunker cost $2.5 billion to construct.” Upon its completion in 1972, “there were nearly 12 miles of tunnels, 936 bedrooms, 897 offices, and five small hospitals.” With five separate sections - and each able to provide its own electricity and water supply - the bunker was designed to keep roughly 3,000 people surviving for 30 days in the event of an attack.
The tunnels, we are told, “date to before World War I, when they were part of a railroad network intended to connect the industrial Ruhr Valley with France. During World War II, the Nazis converted the tunnels to a weapons factory, with slave laborers from the Buchenwald concentration camp.”
But if all goes according to plan, in early 2008 visitors will be meandering stretches of dark nuclear subtext where radiation decontamination rooms still line the entrance hall and “black air horns hang on the walls, ready to bleat a signal that the 25-ton bombproof doors are about to shut.”
Sounds like an excellent place for a bunch of amateurs to go get lost for a few nights - with some video gear, of course, a few bottles of whiskey, maybe a wheel barrel full of old broken mirrors and flashlights. I don’t know – go make some weird flick about a bizarre subterranean micronation of tunnel rat wine-smugglers hijacking the pinot vineyards above, to pump Germany’s finest grape juice along side underground Vodka highways that quietly connect sobering distribution tunnels from London to Gaza, China to South Africa, Romania to Mexico. Because, don't you know? - Bunkers are forever, baby.
[See these earlier posts on bunkers: Mount Weather Gets a Little Facelift; Through the Turnstile; Touring the Greenbrier; Secret Cities of the A-Bomb; Area 71; Washington's New 'Survival City'; A Silo Full of Cash; Secret Soviet Submarine Base; Fortress Baghdad; The 'Long War' enters its capsule; Subterranean Urbanism; Tokyo Secret City; Bunker Archaeology; Smugglers' Paradise Uprooted; [Re] improvising sub_Base landscapes; Secret Synagogue; Mt. Seemore and the watchful gaze; from Leftover-Bunkers to Tourist-Traps...; A "Closed Atomic City": Open for Business]