Berlin 2012

Berlin 2012

We did a lot – saw a lot, went many places …and walked from 5 to 10 kilometers each day. Join us on these pages and hopefully next year, you will join us in person in 2013. As we said – some of these places will be dropped from our 2013 Berlin Patrol for obvious reasons.


Saturday 1 September

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ABOVE and BELOW – as we said… …plenty of great shopping to be found here
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We had our breakfast in this area almost every morning
OKAY – we are rolling – but first we stop at this Chinese place for lunch. “Imbiss” means snack bar
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COOPER is eating – again! He looks like a
squirrel storing nuts for the winter!

Our first stop was Cecilianhof. This was the residence of the Crown Prince in Potsdam and for this reason, the victorious Allies chose this to be the site of the famous Potsdam Conference where the “Big Three” carved up the German lands. As history tells us, France was not invited.

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Magnificent place, isn’t it? Unfortunate that photography inside was forbidden.
Doggone camera malfunctioned again and kept shooting
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This is the room and the table where they sat;
Truman, Churchill and Stalin.
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The red star was planted by the Soviets in 1945 because this area was in their part of Berlin. It is continued to this day because of its ‘historical significance’. It is always well maintained and well cared for.

We are on the march (driving that is) through Berlin and we pass this nice-looking building. We learn that it is not so nice – during the days of the Soviet Union, this was a prison!

We do not know what it is used for today, but we kept driving. Visiting a Soviet prison does not seem like a good idea…

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Do you remember back in the days of the Cold War when some American or British businessman was grabbed by the KGB in East Berlin and charged with spying? We all thought this was trumped up, that these businessmen were just being used as trading pieces so the Soviets could get back some of their own spies. As we personally learned later, this was not the situation and in most cases, the businessmen were in fact, just businessmen but they had been contacted by the CIA to take photos of – whatever the CIA wanted them to take photos of. They were not true spies, but they were spying and being untrained as spies, they were often caught taking photos of sensitive things.

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The ‘Exchange‘ Bridge

When an exchange was to be made, the Soviet group would stand at one end of the bridge with the poor businessmen who got snookered into playing ‘James Bond‘ for the CIA and at the other end would be the American group with a true, hard core Soviet agent.

At a given signal, the men to be traded would begin to walk slowly from their end of the bridge towards the other side and freedom. They would pass each other silently and keep walking slowly. When they reached their people at the other end of the bridge, the exchange was complete. The Soviets had one of their trained agents back and the US would have some hardware salesman (or similar) back.

How do we know this to be fact? One day we will explain …not yet.

Photo right is a part of the park of the castle Klein-Gleinicke and it stands at the end of the bridge where we stood to shoot these photos. More information about this place is directly below.

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The Klein Glienicker Leisure Garden (with flower garden) is regarded as the earliest, most important example of a classical landscape garden in Prussia. Peter Joseph Lennè determined the design for its owner, the Elector Karl August von Hardenberg as early as 1816. After its acquisition by Prince Carl of Prussia, the son of King Wilhelm III, a working relationship between Peter Joseph Lennè and Prince Carl began with the goal of creating a landscape park according to an English model. This relationship would last for decades. In 1824, Karl Friedrich Schinkel began converting the old billiard house into a casino; reconstruction of the castle into a Classic design began one year later under his supervision. The Leisure Garden was completed to the highest artistic degree by installing and converting park structures, through ever richer ornamentation with imported woods, exotic plants, as well as valuable works of art, fountains, and pergola.

We drove on to the “Wansee Haus” and we visit for the beauty of the place. You may read anything else you want into this visit.

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BER2012b31 Here we spend some time looking around the outside of this magnificent mansion. What stories could this lion tell of history!

The lion is looking across the Wansee at the public swimming beach on the other side. This beach is seen in some of our DVDs of the German lifestyle of before and during the war.

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Can’t remember if photos were forbidden inside, but about the only thing to see were empty rooms with large photos and plaques on the wall. On the left is a photo of what that room looked like before World War Two.

You really have to see it for yourself to understand…

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Checkpoint BRAVO?
We all know about Checkpoint CHARLIE. We will be there in a day or two – but Checkpoint BRAVO? Our HQ hotel is a mere five-minute walk from this piece of collapsed Soviet history.

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BER2012b41 As we drew near this former Autobahn checkpoint, HARRY COOPER (1-LIFE-1983) realized that he had been here before. During an early Sharkhunters ‘Patrol‘ in Germany (1988), their bus had to come through this very checkpoint on the way into Berlin! This was part of the ‘Transit‘; that is one of the few highways through the ‘Iron Curtain‘ from West Germany into East Germany.

The Autobahn goes straight on into Berlin today, but back in the days of the ‘Cold War‘, there were huge concrete barriers on the roadway here so no vehicle could go straight through – they had to go through a zig-zag area then stop while grim faced Soviet guards looked under the busses and trucks then shoved huge mirrors underneath to spot anyone or anything that didn’t belong. It was an uneasy time in history!

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What remains of Checkpoint BRAVO is being turned into a museum to the enslavement of a huge section of a nation by the Soviets who built walls, barriers, fences, and checkpoints to keep their workforce imprisoned. Many Germans died attempting to reach freedom on the other side. Those of us old enough to remember the 1960’s, there was a popular song entitled “West of the Wall” which told of this struggle.

Who can forget those famous words “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” and thanks to President RONALD REAGAN (1858-1991), the dreaded Berlin Wall came down, the ‘Iron Curtain’ dissolved and Germany was once again a whole and free nation …well, almost. There are sections of former Germany that are not back as yet such as East Prussia and Pommern as examples. Will they ever be returned to the new Germany? That is a question just beneath the surface there today.

Now, just for fun, let’s walk along the Autobahn – watch out for fast moving cars!

Whether it says ‘EINGANG VERBOTEN‘ or ‘BITTE NACHT BETRETEN‘ the meaning is the same – the government doesn’t want you there and naturally, Sharkhunters MUST go there! In this case, it is apparent that the government means for nature to overgrow any and all memories of the Third Reich. This sign tells that this area has been re-forested with plants and trees. The goal being the total eradication of this Autobahn and the big railway bridge.

Walk with us along this part of the Berlin-München Autobahn. This was the direct road between these two major cities – it was here that Eva Braun drove her bright red Mercedes and it was here that Wehrmacht troops marched for battle.

The ghosts of a different time haunt this section of the Autobahn. Let’s walk with them. You might even feel someone walking next to you – but there is no one there.

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Come on – you didn’t really think we were going
to walk on the active Autobahn, did you?
If you listen carefully and let your imagination wander,
maybe you really can hear that big red Mercedes…
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At one end of this dieing section of the Autobahn is the big railway bridge. What nature doesn’t take back, ‘taggers‘ will destroy
Here we see the route of the Berlin Wall as it once stood right here.

At the other end of this section stands a stark reminder of yet another collapsed empire. the Soviet Union.

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The roadway crosses the Teltow Canal, site of vicious fighting in the closing moments of the war, Volksturm against the Red Army
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Now there are no cars waiting to cross into East Berlin The flags are gone as is the guard shack and the USSR itself
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Not much remains of this former DDR restaurant on the former East Berlin side of the border …only rubble and memories of a time that passed into history a long time ago – but was it really that long ago?

How much of this history is disappearing right before our eyes? How much will be gone in a year? Two years? Will YOU be with us to experience this history yourself? Don’t put it off …it may be too late.

Okay, we have had enough fun for one day – it is time for Abbendessen – supper, and we go to a beautiful German restaurant in the old hunting lodge style right on the banks of the Teltow Canal, by the locks (Schluse in German).

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Do we sit inside as above? Or do we sit outside as below?

 


Sunday 2 September …a bunker that calls us to explore. What is beyond this door? Not only a bunker, but much more in Berlin just waiting for the Sharkhunters.

 

SHARKHUNTERS International
Berlin Patrol 2012
Saturday 2 September

We did a lot – saw a lot, went many places …and walked from 5 to 10 kilometers each day. Join us on these pages and hopefully next year, you will join us in person in 2013. Don’t put it off year after year.

Our first stop is at the former home of the Pioneer Division and their bunker, which stands like a silent sentry to past history…

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The sign is from a real estate developer, showing
the condos they will build on the parade ground
The massive bunker looms bigger as we are nearer
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As we explore, it is obvious that Germany has ‘taggers‘ too AHA! A doorway into the bunker
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Bernie Burdt produces a pocket flashlight – he and COOPER go in The place sure could use a coat of paint…
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What can be up these stairs? …more walls needing paint it appears
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The further they climb the stairs, the worst the place looks Bernie wonders …who walked these halls 70 years ago
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Appearing to be ‘orbs‘; is this caused by dust in the air… …or is there another explanation?
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At the uppermost floor, a makeshift ladder leads into the attic Looking straight up into the attic from that old iron bunk frame
BER2012c15 COOPER was tempted to climb that ladder into the attic and Bernie was urging him on, but when he grabbed the bunk, the ladder nearly fell to the floor so COOPER scrapped that plan. Normally ready to go anywhere despite the danger, today is his birthday and he felt that going to the hospital was not the best way to celebrate one’s birthday.

LEFT – the former headquarters of the Pioneers

We depart this place with memories and photos – we walked in the footsteps of history and we are now off to Karlshorst. It was in this Berlin mansion where top-ranking officers of the various branches of the Wehrmacht sighed the German surrender.

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Looks like any other upscale house from the outside Most of the signers either committed suicide or were
executed shortly after the surrender was signed
BER2012c23 Do you notice anything unusual in the photo left and the two photos below of the place where the main people were seated for the signing of the surrender documents?

There are four flags on the wall and on the table – but in the original photographs, there were only three flags. There were no French Flags in the area at all. If we remember our history correctly, France was not allowed any representation at any of the major surrender events.

Is “political correctness” rearranging accurate history?

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On the grounds outside the building we have a collection of tanks, tank destroyers, self-propelled guns and a “Stalin Pipe Organ
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Today is COOPER‘s birthday! Sure is an unusual way to spend one’s birthday – sitting on a Stalin Pipe Organ in Berlin

But now we head for the center of Berlin, passing some Soviet-built apartment buildings. These are easy to recognize from their stark, no frills style – just concrete structures slapped together with maybe balconies and not much more. From our experience, many of these are being abandoned and torn down because of the poor quality of construction and building materials used in the “Workers’ Paradise in the East“. BER2012c29

…on into the Zentrum of this vibrant city

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We park just down from the Brandenburg Gate and across the boulevard is the memorial to the Soviet troops…
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As we walk into the main square, we note that Berlin has not totally shaken her communist past
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Alexanderplatz – the hub of this great city where trains, trams, busses and foot traffic all merge to the heartbeat of the city
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The “World Calendar“, left over from the Soviet days …and an unusual hot dog vendor

Air Raid Bunker for a Railway Station

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In previous years we could go inside and explore This gigantic boulder is in front of the locked doors
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BER2012c40 This bunker was built during the time Allied bombers were devastating Berlin and the populace needed to be kept as safe as possible from the falling bombs. This bunker was built at a major train station and could house thousands of people during bombing raids.

It stood abandoned for decades after the war but in the last few years, a wealthy Berliner bought the bunker and built a very expensive penthouse atop the bunker. He turned the interior of the bunker into a private museum for his extensive collection of fine art.

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We come through the Brandenburg Gate and group
up by the obligatory gift shop just inside the gate
The building to the right is the Embassy of the United States and the one to the left is the famous Adlon Hotel. It is most famous because it was from one of these windows that Michael Jackson dangled his child
HARRY COOPER (1-LIFE-1983) is talking with the cop outside the U.S. Embassy. He wanted to go inside to see what our Embassy looked like – and the cop told him that nobody is allowed inside the Embassy. That seemed really odd – the cop said that nobody is allowed inside for any reason – but people worked in there. When asked what work they did in here, the cop had no idea.

COOPER noted the cop’s midwestern US accent and asked where he was from. Turned out the cop was from Chicago – same as COOPER.

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BER2012c41 Lunchtime – and for some reason, almost all of Germany is loaded with Italian restaurants. Berlin is no exception and we are at the Bella Italiano for a great lunch.

The Giant Flakturm (anti-aircraft tower)

There were several Flakturms like this around Berlin to shoot down Allied bombers. They were built very high in the air and at the top there was a battery of the famed German 88’s, the 88mm anti-aircraft gun that was so accurate that more Allied bombers were shot down by AA than by Luftwaffe fighters. In addition to the 88mm guns, they had an array of 37mm and 20mm guns as well.

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Hurry up and wait, just like the military Come on lady, buy a ticket like everyone else!
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We get instructions at the base… …then we get instructions again at the top
Apparently our guide figured that we forgot all the instructions she gave us at ground level by the time we walked a quarter of a mile (or more!!) up the trail to the Flakturm at the top so we went through it all again.
1. Wear your hardhat
2. No photos inside
3. Wear your hardhat
4. Stay with the group
5. Wear your hardhatThere may have been some language confusion – she was born and raised in Ecuador and recently emigrated to Germany and was giving her instructions in English. She was assisted by a young lady who was born and raised in Spain and recently emigrated to Germany and was assisting in English …guess this makes sense to someone.
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Actually, the view from the top is fantastic
That is a mount for a 20mm AA gun
and we even see some sport balloonists up and about
BER2012c46 Of course we were just joking that the woman on the line should buy a ticket. She was part of a group of climbers apparently using the Flakturm for practice …but shouldn’t she have some kind of climbing boots? Open sandals or gym shoes just don’t seem right.

As we emerge, S.E.I.G. Agent Po-5031 snaps a few of us coming back into the sunlight.

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Monday 3 September …the “Love Nest” of Dr. Josef Goebbels; the sunken barracks of the Soviet Kampfgrüppe; the man-made lakes on the property of the headquarters of Großadmiral Karl Dönitz; the above-ground bunker compound of the Kriegsmarine Headquarters; the deep underground bunker for Dönitz; and the house in which he lived.

What is beyond this gate with that nasty sign that says “Eingang Verboten“? As we know, that translates to “Sharkhunters are Welcome Here!“. Walk through this gate with us and see history not available to others.

 

 

SHARKHUNTERS International
Berlin Patrol 2012
Sunday 3 September

We did a lot – saw a lot, went many places …and walked from 5 to 10 kilometers each day. Join us on these pages and hopefully next year, you will join us in person in 2013.

HAUS BOGENSEE

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The Reich built a nice house for Dr. Josef Goebbels outside Berlin so he could get away from the noise of the city, but he didn’t like the little place and he had Haus Bogensee built for him which was more to his liking. It was here that he could escape the rush of the city, review films to decide which could be used for the weekly news films to be shown in the theaters – and it was here that he “interviewed” budding starlets. He became especially enamored with one, Lida Baarova, that he jeopardized his career for her. He was married and she was engaged but that didn’t matter. He told Adolf Hitler that he planned to divorce Magda and marry Lida. Hitler was shocked. He was not married, so Magda Goebbels was the First Lady of the Reich. Hitler explained to Goebbels that it would not look good for the First Lady of the Reich to be dumped for this movie star and further, it would destroy their image of decency and family values. Hitler gave Goebbels a couple weeks to “think it over and make the right decision” before doing anything. Goebbels was not stupid, realized the veiled threat and told Lida it was over. She quickly returned to her native Prague and Goebbels kept his other affairs quiet at Haus Bogensee and elsewhere. Lida1

Haus Bogensee was referred to as ‘The Love Nest‘ for obvious reasons

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We drive down the very road traveled by Goebbels (and his starlets) We reach the garage area and park
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The statuary in the woods and at the front door left little to the imagination
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We first come upon the wing (photos above) where Goebbels would review the newsreel footage and decide what could be shown to the German public and what could not, especially as the war was turning against Germany. It was also in this wing that Goebbels ‘entertained‘ and ‘interviewed‘ aspiring starlets.

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Walking further, we are at the main entrance… …but no one is at home – and we go to the other side of the house
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The house is totally empty but everything is there and in working order
BER2012d14 At his Berghof on the Obersalzberg in Bavaria, Adolf Hitler had a huge window that could be lowered through the floor to have a huge open air area. Here at Haus Bogensee, Dr. Josef Goebbels had THREE such windows – and they are all in working order.

Haus Bogensee as well as all the Soviet built buildings on the grounds are now closed. The Soviet built structures, like so much built by the USSR, are beginning to fall apart and actually are dangerous – even thought not to Sharkhunters. We go anywhere, but the government doesn’t want anyone injured. Haus Bogensee is solid and not dangerous at all.

This area, with Haus Bogensee and all the Soviet buildings, was going to be put up for auction a few years ago and we are told that high bids began coming in. Then someone in the government decided that some wealthy neo-Nazi might buy the place and use it for gatherings that would make the government uncomfortable so it is off the market and it appears that it is all deliberately being allowed to fall into ruin so it can be demolished, the same as many such buildings from those years.

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Abandoned, overgrown and left to perish How long before this piece of history is gone?

We have spent time here at Haus Bogensee and we are now on the march (a couple hundred meters) to the area where the Soviet buildings are. This was a Soviet version of the Hitler Youth with dormitories for those attending the re-education, and there are massive buildings for the meetings and a parade ground. Come along – but watch your step.

Memories of a collapsed Empire
The Soviet Union lived only some decades – a short time in history when compared with the United States, Great Britain, the Roman Empire etc. In their short time on the pages of history, they left a huge imprint; not only in history but they left a huge footprint on the earth as well. Walk with us to look over the crumbling buildings of this once powerful empire.

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The once-magnificent hall for meetings and classes, now another abandoned and crumbling memory of the USSR
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There were several dormitories to house the youth who came here for ‘instruction and indoctrination
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Map of a once thriving ‘education‘ center …..nothing remains but memories and crumbling buildings

We depart this once thriving place and meet our friend who will take us past that annoying sign that says ‘Verboten’ on our way to the bunker complex codenamed “KORALLE” (it means Coral) that was the headquarters of Großadmiral Karl Dönitz.

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Our friend is waiting – and yes, that is a can of mosquito repellant We head down this trail into the deep woods
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As we move on through the woods, we find one-man bunkers When bombs were falling, the sentry could duck inside

This excellent chart, prepared by our friend Herr Holz, will help you follow our progress through this forbidden place.

luftschutzber2012dx Descriptions of the places:
1. the Entrance
2. Luftschutz construction area
3. Soviet Kampfgruppe area
4. Guard dog training area
5. Small structure from the DDR
6. DDR bunker
7. Fire fighting reservoir pond
8. Luftschutz bunker
9. Barracks
10. Panzer cupola
11. Vermittlungsstelle
12. Kläranlage
13. the house of Großadmiral Dönitz
14. Fire fighting reservoir pond
15. Fire fighting reservoir pond
16. A foundationThanks to Herr Holz for this excellent chart

We turn a corner in the trail and we are suddenly in the midst of the remains of the Soviet Kampfgrüppe and their headquarters

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These very strange Soviet barracks are dug deep into the ground.
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Above and below – Nature is quickly taking back and removing all traces of this compound
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From inside the barracks, the view out the windows is pretty blank
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Above and below – at least the HQ building and the mess hall; what remains of them, was above ground
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We depart the ruins of the Soviet built (post-war) Kampfgrüppe and head for Koralle and the bunker complex there. On the way however, we pass this man-made lake. This was one of six such man-made lakes around the HQ of Dönitz and they served several useful purposes. First and foremost, from the air this entire compound looked like a farm with houses, barns and lakes, worth nothing as a target. In case of fire, water from the lakes would be used for the firefighting. In the background, we see the ruins of the HQ of the Soviet Kampfgrüppe.

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Okay – onward to Koralle and the headquarters of the Kriegsmarine Großadmiral Karl Dönitz, not far on foot from here. You will note that the bunkers are blown up and there is heavy use of cinder blocks here too, and you will wonder who blew these bunkers up and why the use of cinder blocks.

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Our first views of the Kriegsmarine Command bunker headquarters is almost like a scene in an Indiana Jones movie
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Above and Below – We note the cinder block construction on the rooftop of the bunkers.
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This construction with concrete blocks were house-like structures built by the Soviets after the war. This was to train their military in the art of urban warfare …in the event of civil unrest. Unsettling thought, isn’t it? Doesn’t COOPER ever smile?

We now go in, on and around the massive bunker system that was Koralle – the headquarters of the Kriegsmarine. We note that these bunkers are all demolished, but by whom? It definitely was not by Allied bombing and it was not by German forces at the time of the surrender.
There was an agreement of sorts between the victorious Allied powers that they could use the standing buildings, bunkers etc. of the Reich but when they were no longer needed, the occupying force would destroy them and so, with the evaporation of the Soviet Union and all her puppet nations and the withdrawal of the troops, all the above ground bunker systems used by Soviet forces were blown up with one exception. They were unaware of the Army bunker complex in what is now Poland, not far from the Wolfsschanze and so it stands today, undisturbed. Koralle, on the other hand, is blown up. Come with us now as we go through this very important place of history.

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The roof is slanted because the force of the explosion blew the walls out
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High up on the top of the bunker, looking down some forty or fifty feet below
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Nature is quickly reclaiming this part of the history of the Third Reich as this is what government wants – erase all the history of the Reich
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Above and below – some of our group is in the lower portions of the bunker system – in the hallways and office rooms as well
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This was a massive above ground bunker system for the headquarters of the Kriegsmarine but the best is yet to come; the personal underground bunker for Großadmiral Karl Dönitz.

We walk through this gate and along a path to a hidden bunker entrance, off limits to all…………well, not off limits to Sharkhunters. Come on – walk with us in history!

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Air Raid Bunker of Großadmiral Karl Dönitz – What have we here? Up this weed-covered path and stairs, under a metal sheet we find a hatch with a ladder leading down.

We have arrived! This is not the main entrance to the underground bunker but rather this is the escape hatch for that bunker. The main entrance is closed and blocked, and is not useable. Join us as we venture deep into the earth in the security bunker of Großadmiral Karl Dönitz.

Our guide asked if anyone wanted to go down into the bunker and three almost ran him over getting to the hatch. They were:
* HARRY COOPER (1-LIFE-1983)
* Dr. CHARLES ELLIS (7324-LIFE-2008)
* Bernie Burdt

COOPER strapped on his miner’s light and was the first guy down the hatch.

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Hard to spot the hatch from here It’s a long way down – about two stories
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COOPER going down into the first level…… ………….finally at the bottom of the ladder
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CHARLIE ELLIS heading into the depths
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Next is Bernie into the hatch Don’t forget the flashlight, Bernie
“Will we ever see these three guys again?” wonder the guys at the top. There are several levels of this bunker system to explore, so let’s get started. Our guide is also down here with us. BERHR2012d38
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On one of the levels, long hallways stretch into the darkness
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In the lowest level there is a sump pump to keep the water out and a furnace for climate control – this thing needs work!
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Will this old diesel ever run again? Will the generator ever produce electricity again?
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Fresh water tank? Water filtration?
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Shower room? Keep in mind, we are several stories underground here
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This place needs a good clean-up
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More stairs down to another level… …more and more and more stairs
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And where does this spiral staircase lead? We simply are not going to tell you.

All hands made it safely back into the light of day, and now we go to the home of Großadmiral Karl Dönitz.

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“Time spent in Recon is never wasted” Some of our group
goes over a map with one of our special guides
Through the trees we see the house;
and another one of those annoying signs
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BERHR2012d43 We are here, but we cannot believe what we are seeing! When we were here just a few years ago, this house was in excellent condition – in fact, a real estate agent was showing it to prospective buyers when we were here last. Now it is a vandalized shell of what it once was.
Vandalized, yes. Being destroyed, to be sure. But we notice something very different here at the home of Großadmiral Karl Dönitz. In all the other places we have visited – buildings, bunkers, tunnels etc. we have always found many broken beer bottles, sandwich wrappers, empty snack containers, pillows, mattresses etc and the remains of a place on the floor where a campfire had been, all indicating that young people had used the place for late night parties out of the eyes of their parents and in some cases where young couples had used the place for…….well, you get the idea.

We found none of that here. There were no beer bottles, snack wrappers, pillows and no indication that any campfires had been here. In short, there was no evidence that the house had been vandalized by drunken kids having parties.

One of our German guides said he thought that this vandalization was caused by or at least allowed by the government. Anything to do with the Third Reich is being quickly destroyed either by people or nature.

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What will remain for you to visit in a few years? At the rate of decline we have personally witnessed over the past decade of coming to Germany, it will not take long indeed, before most is gone.
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SHARKHUNTERS International

Berlin Patrol 2012
Friday, 7 September
Off to Poland …well, it is Poland today. Until 1945 this was part of Germany but borders were re-drawn. With the European Union, we do not even need to show our passports at the border as we did in past years.

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Museum for the Battle for Seelow Heights Outside displays
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There are more artifacts on display inside the Museum like this field telephone and an officer’s tunic. The Seelow Heights battle was one of the most bitter, bloody battles of World War Two. It took place in the last weeks of the war and knowing that Berlin was only some 40 kilometers away and this was the last German defense, the Soviets fought doggedly to break through and the Germans resisted fiercely, knowing that they were the last defense for Berlin and the very existence of the Reich itself. Finally, overwhelmed by massive amounts of Soviet troops, the area was taken by the Soviets and the road to Berlin was virtually wide open.
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BER2012h5 Welcome to Poland and the fortress village of Küstrin (in German) or Kostrzyn (in Polish). This is one of the most fought over, most conquered and most frequently destroyed villages in the world. It was again flattened during the fierce battle before Seelow Heights and this time, the decision was made to just leave it flattened so we see no houses, no cathedral – even the fortress where Friederich the Great was going to be beheaded………..nothing is left but basements.

When Friederich was a young prince, in his twenties, he was in his father’s army but he and his best friend decided they didn’t like army life, so they deserted to write poetry and play the flute. They were captured and the king sentenced them both to beheading. The nobility raised a huge clamor that the prince, the heir to the throne, must not be executed. The king relented and spared his son’s life, but Friederich’s punishment was that he had to witness his best friend having his head chopped off.

It appears, as we will see later, that his father was not a nice guy.

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Our first stop in this area is usually this quaint truck stop It is really good food and the price is very low.
The goulash soup is great, loaded with meat!
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We have no idea what the signs say or how to read the menu in Polish, but our Berliner friend translates. Fortunately, it is a short menu
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With a friendly smile from our Polish waitress and a last gulp of our Polish beer, we depart and head into the ghost town – Küstrin.
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BARGAINS!

On our way, we stop at this massive flea market that has grown immensely since our first visit here. It is huge! There are bargains galore, as Poland does not use the Euro but remains with the Polish Zloty and the exchange rate with the Yankee Dollar is quite good.
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Overview of the ancient town of Küstrin

Against cautions that we must not go into basements for safety concerns, COOPER drops down into this one in particular to shoot a few photos.

This place is somewhat special because this basement and the house that stood above it was the home of the royal alchemist working for the king. As we remember from high school history, alchemists worked very hard to try to make gold from other base metals. This cannot be done because gold is an element and cannot be created from other metals, but this was not known at the time this alchemist was here.

The king, Friederich’s father, became impatient that the alchemist could not accomplish this task – and he hanged him in the town square! But, it is said, he used a golden rope. The alchemist must have been thrilled…

As we said before, and you will see further on, this king was not a fun guy.

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When we got to one particular basement, our guide (black coat) had to pause – tears welled up in his eyes before he could continue.
BERHR2012h4 This basement had been his home! He lived in the house that had stood here until he was eight years of age, then the Soviets came and the cannons were roaring. The family had to hide in this very basement to stay alive. They were able to finally escape into Berlin to avoid being killed by the artillery fire, but the house was destroyed.
Just outside the fortress walls is a new archeological dig. They are finding evidence of people living here many centuries before Küstrin was settled.

FAREWELL USSR!
Those who have been here with us before will remember the obelisk at the front gate that had a huge Red Star with the Hammer and Sickle which stood over the Soviet cemetery………the obelisk and the cemetery are gone now. When the Soviet Union evaporated, there was no one to take care of this memorial. The Polish didn’t care about the Soviets, the Germans wouldn’t because this was no longer Germany, and Russia had no money.

The Polish suggested some years ago that the Russians remove the fallen soldiers and take the obelisk back to Russia to which the Russians replied that they certainly would – if the Polish would pay for them to do this. The Polish saw no reason for them to pay the bill, so the place was falling into ruin. Finally the Russians found the money and moved all out of Küstrin and brought it all back to Russia.

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BER2012h18 What the heck?

This piece of “modern art” was here for a short term exhibition, but it may have given us an insight how a modern day superstition began.

When he was just a child, Friederich had a pet rabbit but he had to keep him hidden from his father because he was not allowed such a pet. His father, the king, found out about the rabbit and in front of Friederich, he crushed the rabbits head under his boot! He then made Friederich skin his pet rabbit, cook it and eat it! We told you that Friederich’s father was not a fun guy.

Without his father’s knowledge, Friederich kept one of the rabbit’s feet, which he kept inside his tunic, to remind him of his pet rabbit. Could it be that this is the beginning of the superstition that a rabbit’s foot is good luck?

FAREWELL…

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