A tour and a tribute

Yesterday, the lovely Dietmar arranged for me to do a tour with his company – Berliner Unterwelten.

What a nice thing to do, I hear you say. And really, it was all the more so as this was the third time he’d arranged it. Honestly, I don’t know why this man puts up with me.

My flatmate saw this and thought of me. Cute.
My flatmate saw this and thought of me. Cute.

He had originally wanted me to do a tour of the flak tower in Humboldthain Park and organised it several weeks ago. I was instructed to be at the office no later than 2.45 to pick up my ticket. As I’m practically German now, this was no problem. I was even a few minutes early. Unfortunately, it was the wrong office.

After a dash on the underground, I made it to the right office at around two minutes after three. The girl was very nice about it, but the tour had already started so I was out of luck. (Incidentally, this girl would become my new landlady around two weeks after this – small world.)

The next week, Dietmar kindly arranged for me to do the tour again. This time, I was on time, at the right office – but unfortunately in the wrong shoes. I’d somehow missed the bit in the programme about sturdy footwear being a must. After four years in Latvia, sturdy footwear is just not in my vocabulary.

After apologising profusely again, Dietmar organised a ticket for me yesterday. Unfortunately, the flak tower tour is now finished until April – bats take over the building as their preferred hibernation destination – so I was going to do Tour M instead, “Under the Berlin Wall”.

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Dietmar also provided me with a ticket for the Germania exhibition which I was to go to before the tour. My landlady handed over the tickets, gave me directions on how to find the museum and off I went. I realised shortly afterwards that I clearly hadn’t been listening properly.

For anyone who has never been in Gesundbrunnen station, this place is a maze in mental asylum green. I went up and down stairs and escalators, in and out of doors, walked along platforms, and did more u-turns than a vodka-fuelled Latvian driver. Eventually, after a rather one-sided German conversation with a transport worker, I found it.

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You’d be forgiven for not realising this was a museum, right?
“Myth of Germania” is an absolutely fascinating insight into the mind of a megalomaniac. Aided and abetted by the architect, Albert Speer, “Myth of Germania” explores Hitler’s planning of an über metropolis, “not meant merely to serve Berlin’s citizens with a modernized habitat but rather as a representation of the Nazi regime’s sheer power.”

Saying that I enjoyed it sounds all sorts of wrong – “enjoy” is just not the right word for an experience like this, but it’s an important and extremely well put-together exhibition and one that I highly recommend. (Drop me a line and I’ll give you detailed instructions on how to find it…)

After a quick cuppa, I made my way back to the meeting point for the tour. I was a) early, b) in the right place, and c) in the correct footwear. Success.

The (rather cute German) tour guide had everyone’s attention right from the beginning as we explored bunkers and heard stories of the Germans’ ingenuity in figuring out ways to escape East Germany, by going under the Berlin wall. The transport system, the sewerage system and self-made tunnels were all utilised and we got up close and personal with two out of three.

Jumping the Wall - while it was still possible.
Jumping the Wall – while it was still possible.

We learned of the successes and the failures, the tales of true love, and the sheer bravery and spirit of these people that just would not be kept down. Although everyone knows about the Berlin Wall, this tour really hammered home the human aspect of it.

After (finally) managing to take one of the Berliner Unterwelten tours, I can’t even find the words to say how much I admire Dietmar for setting up this association. If you ask him about it, he’ll be incredibly modest, so I’m going to blow his trumpet for him – which I’m sure he’ll hate…

Established in 1997, Berliner Unterwelten researches and documents Berlin’s underground. I may not be completely correct with the figures, but I think in its first year, BU had 3,000 visitors; last year, it passed the 280,000 mark. And although 450 people are part of this organisation, it really is a testament to the awesomeness that is Dietmar.

Easily one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met, I think meeting him on my first night here was probably one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. (And his brother can sing the Irish anthem.)

In this city which I now call home, but that is still relatively new to me, it’s amazing that I already have someone that I can call a true friend. I honestly feel that with him in my life, anything is possible. And if that’s too mushy for most of my readers to handle, “tough titty” as another good German friend once said.

So, if you come to Berlin, be sure to check out one of BU’s tours. Who knows, some day, I might even be your tour guide – as soon as my German gets good enough to call emergency services in case you have a heart attack on my watch…

 

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89 thoughts on “A tour and a tribute”

  1. Okay, seriously… how in the world did you manage to move to Berlin and walk smack into the best possible person to know in the entire city? Would you by any chance like to give me a guess on next week’s lottery numbers?

    That is awesome though. I’ve heard the Berlin Unterwelt tours are great, but haven’t been on one yet. That’s be sehr cool if you started giving them at some point!

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    1. Then you’ll have to come visit – watch my stage fright 😉 As for meeting Dietmar, that was just pure dumb luck! I wish I did know next week’s lottery numbers though 😉

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      1. Giving tours is just like teaching English. There’s information, yes, but there is also a certain amount of singing and dancing to keep them entertained. If you can teach, you can tour. Stage fright is nada.

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        1. I still get stage fright the odd time before I have a new group! It would be like that every time – except with bigger numbers 😉 But I’d get over it I guess – it would be such a cool thing to do!

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  2. Those people who attempted to cross over to the other side were truly amazing….We saw a documentary about all the crazy schemes…some that worked, some that did not. Being in Berlin and seeing that wall and just imagining if they put up a wall separating you from your family….it was a very moving experience. Great post…..

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      1. I’ll be working from home on Thursday and Friday. Luckily I can do that! I pity all the commuters that can’t. Do you need Deutsche Bahn to get to your lessons? Aren’t they within the local Berlin transport system?

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    1. I know! I started to panic when I couldn’t find the museum – I was like ‘the man is going to think I’m a total moron if I f*** it up 3 times in a row!’ Thankfully, my German is just good enough to know the difference between Treppe and Rolltreppe! That saved the day 🙂

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    1. Qualifies 😉 I guess boots, trainers – anything with a flat heel and a closed top. Mine were slip on flats. I was like ‘but I walk everywhere in these!’ He was like ‘NEIN’ 😉

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  3. Not sure I could stomach that bit of history, I feel like “evil Russia” air would permeate it all. Sorry, I finally started writing up my Baltics trip, so a bit down from the memories…

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  4. Thank goodness for the Dietmars of this world. You’d be lost and we’d having to go searching for you! Seriously though, Dietmar sounds wonderful and I expect nothing less. He’s German!
    I have actually been on one of their tours but it was years ago and it’s enormously fascinating and also bloody cold!

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    1. You obviously skipped the footwear and clothing section of the programme too 😉 If it wasn’t for Dietmar, I’d either be buried somewhere near the Swede’s apartment or doing time for getting him first 😉

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    1. I’ll have to watch the movie first – I’ve got a list of movies on Berlin I want to watch now!
      And that cartoon is great 🙂 It has pride of place on our fridge now and gives me a little chuckle every morning 🙂 The girls clearly know me very well already 😉

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  5. It may be a bit premature for my “Told you so…” moment, but I feel it coming on. 🙂 isn’t that weird???? I love it though. He sounds like a very sweet guy. (Now, if I could only see my own future as clearly…)

    Btw, you never answered my question about snooping. I’m guessing the answer was “no”. I’d never do it in someone else’s home, particularly if they trusted me to be alone in their place. But maybe I’m just naive that way.

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    1. Ha, I did answer! I said that I would never have any need to go snooping around – if there was anything I wanted to know, he’d just tell/show me 🙂 And I’d hate the thought of someone prowling around my stuff if I wasn’t here so I’d never do that to someone else. Especially not this guy!
      And your ‘told you so…’ may be a little premature 😉

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    1. He is indeed 🙂 Yes, he’s the one who found me the apartment. He put a shout out to everyone he works with and actually found me 3 or 4 apartments 🙂 Happy I have this one though!

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  6. I like this “new” mushy Linda 🙂 Seriously, how wonderful that you have this wonderful friendship and in such a short period of time. And the friendship comes with benefits … as in free tickets to tours of Berlin’s history 😉 I’m going to encourage my nephew, who is a history teacher and scholar on the Holocaust, to visit Berlin. Of course, I would like to visit Berlin. The fall of the Berlin wall was definitely an important part of world history, but somehow, in the US, it’s always tied to Ronald Reagan and his “demand” to Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” My understanding is that the wall was well on its way to collapse and Mr. Reagan was just lucky in his opportunism. Ah, yes, the American way of history 😉
    And I agree with your German friend: tough titties to anyone who doesn’t the new mushy you. I say, bring it on!

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  7. Who are you and what have you done with Linda?! Just kidding. It is so good that you’ve found a good friend there so quickly. It makes the transition to a new place so much easier. He sounds like a very interesting man – the kind I’d love to have a pint with. The tours sound fascinating, too. The human aspect is far more interesting to me than the politics. It’s hard to believe that the wall only came down 25 years ago. They seem to have recovered so well.

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    1. I know – it just goes to show what working together and focusing on the future instead of the past can achieve. Makes me proud to live here.
      And Dietmar is a good drinker too 😉 Though I’ve never seen him drink beer – he’s more of a wine and whiskey man!

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                1. Today I made up a German word – Frabendessen. I guess it would be ‘brinner’ in English – I had a late start 🙂 I’m very proud of myself too – and it got a giggle from my flatmates so now I’m funny in German too 😉

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                2. Dutch doesnt give many options. My germans a bit Miss Haversham but i worked out your phrase. Lunch here is lunch. Dinner is evening meal avond maaltijd and breakfast is ontbijt. So ontunch is about it.

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    1. Ha ha, it really is! I don’t know what’s happened to me since I moved here! One disaster after another 😉 But it’s all fun and games! And yes, I will be holding on to this one 🙂

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  8. That is so cool Linda – a friend who is well connected and interesting and an excellent business man. My God, you have amazing luck – there likely aren’t but a handful of men like that in Berlin and you met one immediately. Congrats.

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    1. I know – it’s amazing! My first night here as well – and I just chanced upon that restaurant! I could have gone anywhere in the city, but I chose that place 🙂 Luckily for me 🙂

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