The following blog post was written with the assistance of AI
This time, I ventured deep into the heart of history and stepped foot inside an eerie Cold War bunker near Ahrweiler in former West Germany. Officially, it was called the “Emergency Seat of the Federal Constitutional Organs for the State of Crisis or State of Defence to Maintain their Ability to Function”. The entire tour was in German only – no English, and it was quite challenging for me and exceeded my limits of understanding.
West Germany found itself on the front line in a potential war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact and needed a safe place for its government to continue to operate. It’s estimated the bunker costed 3 billion Deutschmarks (~ 1.5 billion Euros) to build, but due to its secrecy, the true number is unknown. Its existence is a tangible reminder of the fears and preparations that characterized the Cold War era.
In the event of a nearby explosion, such as a nuclear blast, the doors were designed to absorb and deflect the force of the blast, helping to shield the interior of the bunker from the destructive impact. It also shielded the inside from harmful radiation.
They often included communication equipment, medical facilities, and living quarters. Additionally, they served as command centers from which military operations and civil defense efforts could be coordinated. They could even broadcast press conferences from inside.
Driving less than ten minutes down the hill from the bunker was the quaint little town of Ahrweiler. Looking at the town itself, it was not obvious at all that such a bunker was nearby.
For lunch I had a nice sauerbraten (literally “sour roast”), a traditional German pot roast. A large cut of beef, such as roast or brisket, is marinated in a mixture of vinegar or wine along with various spices and seasonings, imparting a tangy flavour profile to the meat. The meat is then slow-cooked, usually braised or simmered, until it becomes tender. The resulting dish features meat that practically melts in the mouth. It’s s traditionally served with a variety of accompaniments that complement its bold taste like potato dumplings and red cabbage. It’s one of those things that any German restaurant worth their salt literally cannot mess up.
Despite its appearance, the town harbours a dark history. Prior to World War II, the town had a thriving Jewish community. Through the Nazi-era, the town’s synagogue was burned, and its Jewish inhabitants were deported. After the war ended, the Jewish community never recovered. The townspeople could only rebuild the synagogue and remember what once happened.