Annabelle Mallia gets down and dirty as she explores Berlin’s history from an unconventional, somewhat sunken perspective.
Explore and experience Berlin's history from its subterranean depths.
BY ANNABELLE MALLIA
At the end of the 19th century, Berlin’s underground was described as an open construction site. The subterranean infrastructure, which included the sewage system, gas, water, and electricity networks, and public transportation tunnels, were all built into sandy foundations to support the city’s development from a little village in the Mark Brandenburg province to Germany’s biggest metropolis. In 1997, a few enthusiasts got together to explore this subterranean world and founded the Berliner Unterwelten association (www. berliner- unterwelten.de). Since then, they have been exploring and documenting the city’s underground architecture, conserving historically relevant structures, and offering regular tours into some of the underground complexes. Offerings in English include a guided walk through a museum exhibition in one of the last remaining WWII air raid shelters at Gesundbrunnen. In the dark passages and confined rooms you will learn about the experiences of the average Berliner hiding for survival as up to 80% of the city center was being destroyed by
“Take a walk in one of the last remaining WWII air raid shelters.”
Allied bombings. Another tour takes you through the ruins of enormous underground fortresses built by Hitler, intended to protect the city from air raids. Or visit an U- Bahn station transformed into Cold War bunkers to help West Berliners survive a potential nuclear attack from the East. You can also learn about a terrifying underground game of cat and mouse, when East Germans went underground trying to escape the communist dictatorship. Due to the difficult historical themes discussed, tours are only recommended for children 14 or older. And don’t forget to take your winter woollies: it gets cold down there!