P Marks The Spot

Normally when travelling by myself, I land at the airport with nothing more than a Lonely Planet guidebook and a completely open agenda. I had just two full days in Berlin though, so I planned more carefully. I didn’t have a day or so to orientate myself to my surroundings. I planned an itinerary and booked the required tickets. First up was a walking tour, booked through Viator with Discover Berlin. A four hour march past all the key sites in Berlin’s history. The first part focused on pre 20th century Berlin. The latter part on the World War and Cold War. The guide was enthusiastic and interesting, which helps.


I returned to one of the locations the next day. A very nondescript car park, just a few hundred metres from the Reichstag. It’s a car park because its difficult to build on this spot. Underneath lies the Fuhrerbunker, where Hitler made his last stand. There is a sign explaining the location and describing the layout of the bunker, 8 metres below the surface. This only went up in 2006, in time for the World Cup.You can’t access the bunker today. Over the years there have been efforts to destroy it and/or fill it in with concrete. There’s a fascinating collection of photographs by Rober Conrad, who disguised himself as a construction worker in 1987 and went down into the bunker to document what remained.


It’s a place worthy of sitting for a while. To picture the scene, seventy years ago. The Nazi regime was in its death throes, but Adolf Hitler still strolled this patch of ground from time to time. Have you seen the film Downfall? It’s a masterpiece, well worth a couple of hours of your time. It’s based entirely on the last days and hours of the regime, covering the moment that Hitler finally did the right thing and put a bullet through his brain.


Historians have placed the pit where the bodies of Mr and Mrs Hitler were partially burned to be by the first parking sign in this photo. The irony of this being a wheelchair accessible parking space is not lost on me. The only way to make it a more appropriate parking space would be if it were reserved for black, gay, Jewish wheel chair users. Dr Goebbels has it worse. They built the Monument to Murdered Jews over his bunker. Karma.

Everything possible has been done by the authorities to make this site uninteresting and devoid of stand out features. To remove the blemish of the Third Reich from the streets of the city. To say that they have attempted to whitewash history or pretend it didn’t happen is going too far and is unfair. This is a complicated and touchy subject.

Project Panagor Part 2

Further to yesterdays post about digitising old slides in the easiest, cheapest way possible. Let’s not kid ourselves. Photographing slides that are 30, 40 or 50 years old with a device made from a Cup-a-Soup carton, packing tape and a smartphone will not produce images of the highest quality possible. Or even close to it. I don’t want to raise expectations beyond what I can deliver!

All I really wanted to do was be able to transfer the images onto my PC, tidy them up with a bit of post processing and have something at the end of that which looks ok-ish on a smartphone, tablet or pc monitor. And, with most of the shots, I have achieved that. It did take a fair bit of post processing though. See below for a before and after example. I’m pretty sure that’s me in this photo…


What other treasures did I find in those boxes of slides shot by my grandfather? I was intrigued as to what I’d find on the slides labelled Hitler’s Bomb Shelter. Sadly, the answer was ‘not much’. Poorly lit tunnels. That was it. But there’s still the story of the photos to investigate. Which bunkers might these have been? Other photos in that box of slides were labelled Salzburg and Munich. Which is enough information to go on. I entered my hunch into Google Maps…

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…and came up trumps. The bunkers at the Berghof, Adolf Hitler’s happy place. He should have spent more time relaxing there, and less in Berlin poring over maps of Europe. It turns out that the bunkers are still open to the public today. You can read the reviews on TripAdvisor. The photo on the right below is one taken from there. For comparison.

These photos must have been taken in the very late 1950s. Hitler would have been strolling around these parts perhaps 13 to 15 years earlier. World War 2 was then still as recent to him as 9/11 is to me today. A war he participated in. Imagine being a New Yorker, an office worker in one of the twin towers, and going on a holiday and being able to wander around the cave that was bin Laden’s HQ?


But let’s move on. Let’s go to Salzburg. I’ve never before been. But I guessed from a lot of the photos that there’s a castle in Salzburg. Google came up trumps again, and provided the distinctly more recent photo on the right. But the silhouettes on both photos are identical. Castles do not change too much over the years.


A visit to Austria isn’t really a visit unless you go up a mountain. It’s definitely the thing to do. Given how mountainous the country is, you’re not left with many options other than either standing still in the one village, or going up and down mountains. Still, there’s always those lifts. The olden day ones look iffy. I’m not sure they’d pass any modern risk assessments.


There were a few more interesting photos. From Austria and from England. There’s a little gallery below. There’s more to come, of friends and family. That will come another day.


Symbols are pretty powerful. That’s why brands have, or at least try to have, an instantly recognisable logo. That is preferably associated with positive messages. There are brands I like. When I see the Amazon logo I think ‘trustworthy, value’. When I see the H of Honda I think ‘reliable, precision engineering’. When I see Clarks logo I think ‘comfortable, hard wearing, mature’.

There are brands I don’t like, or have reservations about. To me, Apple means ‘control freak, extortionate’. Archos reeks of ‘cheap, nasty’. It wasn’t always so with Archos. Brand messages change. BP wasn’t always ‘pollution, oil slick, Gulf of Mexico’. It is now.

There’s one logo which is particularly powerful. It elicits particularly strong messages. Genocide and fascism being top of the list. But it still has some ‘positive’ feeling. Efficiency and unity. They are pretty overwhelmed by the former though. But context is everything. I was quite surprised to see Hitler dolls and memorabilia at several markets in Mexico City.

But the war doesn’t have the same meaning to Mexicans as it does to Europeans and their northern cousins. It’s just local context. Likewise, the Hammer and Sickle have become popular additions to fashion. The horrors of communism aren’t the same for everyone. But then, the logo isn’t worn as a show of support for communism, usually.  The British flag, the Union Flag is most definitely a brand. See the logo on this page to your right.

The Union Flag isn’t a positive symbol for everyone. For millions around the world, the Union Flag is their Swaztika. It’s understandable, as the British Empire claimed, potentially, as many victims as the Nazis and Soviets combined. To a lesser extent, the Stars and Stripes is not a positive image. Just goes to show, you can’t please all the people, all the time.

The images below come from my recent trip to the Military museum in the Dorchester Keep. It’s a fascinating trip through history, culminating with a fine view from the top of the building. Well, it would have been a fine view if it hadn’t been chucking it down. The prize exhibit, amongst the many model soldiers, medals and memorabilia, was Hitler’s desk.

It was taken from the Berlin chancellery at the end of the war. It still had some of his stationery in it. He’d spent many a morning and afternoon sat at that desk, doing his thing. I touched the desk. Stuck my grubby mitts around the protective glass and gave it a good rub. Just trying to get a feel for the history. To get some context. I can’t buy from Adolf, and his products only come second hand these days. But I can touch and imagine.

My photos are on Flickr here, and Google here.

Street Antiques

There are a fair few ‘informal’ street markets specialising in antiques, bric a brac, junk and plain old rubbish. Some of which desperately needs to be placed unceremoniously in a rubbish bin. There’s a fairly famous one in Zona Rosa, and another in the rather iffy Lagunilla market in Tepito. I regularly go to the Alvaro Obregon market for a wander, but today I turned away from that one and went in a different direction. Only to come across another market just a couple of blocks away. This one running around the four sides of a public park.

You can almost always find some funky stuff at these markets. Old Atari 2600 consoles with games. Old paintings, books and magazine. Flea ridden sofas. Tables and chairs that are being feasted upon by woodworm. Phones from the ’60’s. Watches, glasses, spoons, medals, stamps, coins, posters, sunglasses, toys, rugs….the assortment of stuff that finds its way to market never ceases to amaze me.

But there are two types of ‘antique’ that always fascinate me. Firstly, the amount of Nazi memorabilia. Its just not something you come across that much in the UK. World War 2 and Hitler’s Nazi party were and are a distant and bizarre turn of events in a world far removed for most Mexicans. Nazi helmets are not a rare sight on motorcyclists. And today I came across a mint condition Adolf doll, in box. I was almost tempted to buy it, just as a sort of strange and unusual momento from my Mexican adventure.

There’s also a plethora of old cameras. Really old cameras. Of all sorts of makes. Kodak, Zenit, Pentax, Canon, Yashica cameras. Some of which may still work. Others which may not. However, even if you find one in the former category, they make require a film that’s no longer made. I am really tempted to take a punt on one of these ancient cameras one day, if I can get a fair price on it. Just to see if I can get it to work, and to see what sort of photos I can get out of it. One day….