Un­der­ground

Annabelle Mallia gets down and dirty as she ex­plores Berlin’s his­tory from an un­con­ven­tional, some­what sunken per­spec­tive.

Where Berlin - - CONTENTS -

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!

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