Last night I woke in the middle of the night to hear a scratching noise. I flicked on the light. It was coming from the wardrobe… a mouse? No! Please no. No – it’s coming from the corner… what IS IT? This went on for a comical 5 minutes as I dashed about the room in my underpants unable to detect the source of the sound as the sound started to increase in intensity. I looked up just in time to dodge the falling lampshade. It had slowly ripped off the frame – how will I explain this?
In the morning I had an appointment at the Boros Bunker. This was a difficult appointment to secure as I had not planned well enough in advance and when I realized I had to make a booking the website showed that they were booked out until the end of July. After pleading with them over the phone they revealed the exact time they would update the website with any cancellations and I was thus able to nab a precious spot.
The Sammlung Boros is a private collection of contemporary work owned by the Boros Family. They started collecting in the early 90s but had nowhere to house and show the work. They looked for a long time to find a suitable place.
This bunker is the most weird and incredible building in itself. It was essentially a bomb shelter for citizens but it is entirely above ground. The reason for this is that Hitler wanted the people to see the building and for it to make them feel safe. This was a misconception on his part as despite its fortitude it is, in effect, a monument to fear. In order for it to withstand a bombing, the walls are 3m thick with concrete and rebar. This depth meant little to me until I saw a section of the ceiling that the Boros family had had to cut out to make allowances for access to their home (that they built on the roof). 3m is a great deal of concrete.
A similar bomb shelter was directly hit by a bomb in another area of Berlin and the worst physical implications to the people inside were a temporary loss of hearing and some bleeding noses. In this bunker we can see another staircase innovation: scissor staircases. The ceilings are low and yet calculating the angle at which the stairs run between the floors, the engineers were able to install two staircases (one above the other, per floor) I’m still not entirely sure how this works but although you could see the two levels of stairs – there was still enough headroom. The idea is that double the capacity of people can enter the bunker in an emergency. After marveling at the design we are told that it is a direct imitation of a concept designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Wow.
After the war the Russians used the bunker as a prison and after the Berlin wall came down it was a venue for raves and fetishistic sex parties until the council shut it down (there was little ventilation, few exits and no toilet facilities) which made it dangerous for the extreme activities going on inside. At this time it went up for private sale and soon after the Boros family ‘salvaged’ it. The walls themselves tell a hundred stories from the original phosphorescent painted arrows to the fluoro graffiti from the 90s parties. I would hazard a guess that many of the artists who exhibit there now had been there before as part of the edgy Berlin 90s scene.
And I haven’t even begun to talk about the art… so cool! All the works are challenging and cover a range of themes such as the big bang, utopia, parallel universes and the possibility of 11 dimensions. It is such a mind fuck. I love it. As we near the third level we can smell something cooking… is it popcorn? Our guide smiles and asks us to wait and see.
It IS popcorn - a cart that has been popping corn since the artwork was installed – in May 2012. It is in a large room and it is FULL of popcorn – we are encouraged to step in it – to climb to the top and grab a fresh piece to eat if we like! Oh my kids would LOVE this.
There is also a work by Ai Wei Wei here – it is a tree but it has been recreated from hundreds of trees – the wood collected from all over China and pieced together here. Ai Wei Wei is still not permitted to leave China – so assistants installed it.
It is the home of the Boros family and only 12 English speakers are permitted every 90 mins and only 3 days a week. Our guide reiterates that we are, in effect, walking around in the family's basement.
I met a lovely couple from England who took me to a great café for lunch and directed me to a good shopping spot in the afternoon where I stocked up on gifts and bought myself a very expensive pair of shoes… trippen.
Tonight I dined in an Indian restaurant which has been tempting me for days with a beautiful aroma… this is to show you what €10 can get you in Berlin. My bill actually came to €12 as I had a lovely glass of Riesling to accompany it. Needless to say I barely made a dent in this lavish array – nor did I intend to order so much – it was simply a set menu for one. Wishing I could share this meal with my nearest and dearest.