Tourists Pay To Hunker Down In East German Bunker

bunker sign
Martin Abegglen, Flickr

Sleeping in rickety old beds, eating bland food that you’re forced to cook yourself and being bossed around by hotel staff hardly sounds like a fun travel experience, but tourists in Germany are paying $150 a night for exactly that.

It’s all a part of a unique experience that gives travelers the chance to experience life as it was for soldiers in East Germany. Visitors are taken to a forest 200 miles outside of Berlin where they spend the night in the Bunker Museum, which as the name implies, is a former military bunker. The bunker was built more than 40 years ago for use by the German secret police, and was designed to become a military command center if the local area was ever attacked.Today, tourists can experience life in the bunker, which includes donning the soldier’s uniforms before peeling potatoes and cooking sausages for dinner. But don’t expect a good night’s sleep here-the bunk beds are small and uncomfortable with thin mattresses and, naturally, you’re expected to make the bed yourself.

Those who run the hotel say the experience has proven extremely popular among travelers, and quite a few of those who visit are actually former East German residents themselves.

Andy Warhol Exhibit Opens In China, But His Chairman Mao Portraits Are Forbidden

Andy Warhol
The Power Station of Art in Shanghai has opened a new exhibition by Andy Warhol, but the famous pop artist’s portraits of Chairman Mao have been left out of the picture.

Agence France-Presse reports that the Andy Warhol Museum, which created the traveling exhibition, was told by the Chinese government that images of Mao would not be needed. Warhol painted many pictures of the Chinese revolutionary leader, such as this one hanging in Berlin shown here courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

As everyone knows, China has been reinventing itself as a capitalist superpower while still maintaining its Communist leadership. Images of Chairman Mao have been steadily disappearing from public display because the new China doesn’t jive with his idea of a peasant revolutionary Communist state. Bringing up memories of his Cultural Revolution, which saw countless works of art destroyed, also doesn’t sit well with Shanghai’s new image as a center for the arts.

The traveling exhibition, titled “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal,” has already been to Singapore and Hong Kong and will run in Shanghai until July 28, at which point it will continue on to Beijing and Tokyo.

Maoist Rebel Leader Opens ‘Guerrilla Trail’ In Nepal

Nepal, guerrilla
A former Maoist guerrilla leader in Nepal has started a new trail through the heart of what used to be rebel territory, the Indian Express reports.

Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Chairman Prachanda created the trail to bring much-needed money to a poor region of Nepal that rarely sees tourists. Prachanda was the head of the guerrilla group that fought a bloody civil war in Nepal that left some 13,000 dead. The war ended in 2006 and started a tumultuous process in which the Maoists laid down their arms and the king abdicated in favor of a new multiparty democracy.

“As all know, Nepal has seen big political upheavals and the people’s revolution will be of no value unless the country goes through an economic transformation,” Prachanda said at a function organized by the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu.

The guidebook for “The Guerrilla Trek” is already on sale on Amazon. The back cover blurb says, “The land is blessed with wide-ranging natural resources and biodiversity, exemplified by its wildlife … captivating waterfalls, rivers, caves, and delightful lakes as well the towering, sublime Himalaya to the north. Along the way visit many sites that figure prominently in recent history in an area of immense peace, beauty and hospitality that is open, ready and willing to host tourists. The trails outlined within are for the unique traveler seeking an experience that could long ago be had in Nepal’s well-established areas.”

The route begins west of Pokhara, a popular and well-equipped base for many treks, and winds its way through the mountains and valleys through Rukum and the Dhorpatan hunting reserve. This was the heartland of the Maoist insurgency and many villages still show the effects of war. The entire trek lasts four weeks although it’s possible to do shorter segments.

[Photo courtesy Jonathan Alpeyrie]

This May Be The Last Year To See Lenin’s Tomb

Lenin's Tomb in Moscow Lenin’s Tomb, the place in Moscow where the father of the Communist Revolution lies embalmed, waxen and puffy behind glass, is endangered. As Russians move further away from Communism, a majority – 56 percent – thinks that Lenin should be buried. Members of the administration of Vladimir Putin, who was just elected to a third term as President of Russia, have also voiced concerns about the aging tourist attraction.

“A body should be interred in the earth,” said culture minister Vladimir Medinsky speaking on a radio show in Moscow this week. Medinsky suggested that Lenin could be buried in a state funeral observing, “all fitting state rituals, distinctions and a military salute in a suitable place” by 2013. On the other hand, the Red Square mausoleum where Lenin lies perpetually in state will remain. “It must remain. It would be possible to turn it into a museum of Soviet history that would be very well visited and could have expensive tickets,” said Medinsky. Russia’s remaining communists are against this move, of course.

Whether Lenin will be buried soon remains to be seen. But there is one component of this burial controversy that must have Lenin turning in his grave even before he is six feet under. Apparently, more than 2,000 Russians have already placed bets on the fate of Lenin’s corpse.

[Photo Flickr/wordcat57]

Albania’s National Museum faces up to Communist past

AlbaniaA new wing of Albania’s National Museum in Tirana opened yesterday that’s dedicated to the abuses of its former Communist government.

Under the harsh rule of Enver Hoxha, shown here in a photo courtesy Forrásjelölés Hasonló, some 100,000 Albanians were executed or sent to prison or forced labor camps, this in a country of only three million people. Torture and intimidation were rife and a network of informers made everyone paranoid.

For a disturbing look at the surreal daily life in this regime, read The Country Where No One Ever Dies by Albanian author Ornela Vorpsi. The last days of Communist rule are seen through the eyes of an adolescent girl whose main dream is simply to be left alone.

That was the dream of a lot of Albanians. The new wing to the museum displays photographs and artifacts documenting the torture and extermination of dissidents. People lived in fear of disappearing into a jail or camp. Hopefully this exhibition will go a small way towards helping Albania come to terms with its past and heal some open wounds.

Visible evidence of the old regime is everywhere in Albania. While Tirana is undergoing a beautification program and the countless statues of Hoxha have been pulled down, thousands of bunkers still litter the country’s beaches, fields, and neighborhoods. The paranoid regime put up an estimated 700,000 of the ugly things despite needing roads and adequate housing for its citizens. One set of them can be seen in the photo below courtesy the Concrete Mushrooms Project.

Albania