Harnekop nuclear bunker

  - darkometer rating:  6 -

A large nuclear bunker complex, built between 1971 and 1976 as the command centre for the Ministry of National Defence of the then GDR (East Germany), to be used as the military/government nerve centre in the event of all-out nuclear war, i.e. if the Third World War had broken out.

It was planned that some 450 men (no women) would have held out in the bunker complex's 150 rooms on three levels for nearly a month, hermetically sealed off from the outside world (i.e. a presumably deadly, contaminated, apocalyptic wasteland). The bunker itself was designed to withstand a several megaton atomic bomb. Most floors were even set on shock-absorbing springs.

All through the Cold War this was one of the most secret installations in the GDR, and it was kept operational right until the day before German reunification in October 1990. Since then it has become a redundant relic. Fortunately it has been preserved and can now be visited by tourists – a unique chance to see such a command post (of the highest level!) from the other side of the Iron Curtain in the former Eastern Bloc.

Apart from the general claustrophobic atmosphere in this nearly a mile long maze of passages and rooms, many filled with almost comically archaic-looking 1970s computer and communications technology. The dining room is particularly creepy – precisely because it tries so hard not to be: there are flowers on the table and a large picture of pastoral Romanian mountain scenery desperately tries cheer up the room … and fails. Miserably. Just to imagine that people were supposed to hold out here for weeks – and for what? If there had really been a Third World War, it would have permanently wiped out all of Germany (and all Germans on the ground), so what would there have been to "defend", to "govern" and, most poignantly: to return to when the bunker's rations and fuel had run out? Not a pastoral, green roman-tic/-ian landscape, that much is for sure …

Apart from the bunker, there's also a Cold War museum exhibition in one of the outside buildings aboveground (but it doesn't appear to have regular opening times, so you'd need to enquire).

Parts of an equivalent bunker system in West Germany can be visited at the Marienthal government bunker documentation centre.

Opening times: Guided tours for members of the general public take place only at weekends and on public holidays at 12 noon and 2 p.m.; from March to October also at 10 a.m. and during the week on special request. On the first Friday of every month a special tour by torchlight is conducted, starting at 7 p.m. (contact: email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; or phone: +49-33436–35727)

Admission: by guided tour only, price: 10 EUR regular (concessions for students).

Location: some 30 miles (50 km) north-east of Berlin, east Germany, between Strausberg and Bad Freienwalde – well hidden deep in the forest. To get there, you'll need a car: from the motorway ring around Berlin (A10) take the exit at Hohenschönhausen and proceed north-east along the B158 via Werneuchen in the direction of Bad Freienwalde. At the village of Steinbeck turn right onto the 341 heading for Haselberg/Wriezen; after a good three miles (5 km) turn right again onto the 35, which leads south straight to Harnekop. On entering the village turn right into Seestraße, cross the lake dam and continue into the woods (the street is now called Lindenstraße) until you get to the car park. Tours start here (there's a shed you can wait in if you arrive early). Alternatively, you can drive via Strausberg and Prötzel (roads 303 and 33), then on the 35 towards Sternebeck-Harnekop approaching from the south, drive through Harnekop and then turn left into Seestraße.
Google maps locator: [52.694,13.983]

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