In the aftermath of World War II, fears of nuclear war became widespread. No place would be safe from annihilation, any center of population or government would become an easy target and so the search for a solution went underground.
A pair of railroad tunnels that were blasted through the valley mountain range along the River Ahr became the ideal location for the most top-secret building in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. Planning began in 1950 and construction started soon after. When it was finished there were over 17 kilometers of tunnels that were connected and outfitted to provide a safe haven from which to run the government.
The last exercise in the bunker was run in the late 80s and with the fall of the Iron Curtain, the expensive structure sat dormant. In the early 2000s, there were several efforts to convert it to some other use but to no avail. A contractor came in and started emptying the tunnel of everything that moved while a last-ditch effort was made to form a museum. Luckily they did come up with the money and a museum was created out of the last few hundred meters of the tunnel.
The tunnels are always cool in temperature. They start at the massive blast doors that would have kept out nuclear fallout and go to a spot at the end where the empty tunnel is devoid of anything with actual furniture and equipment all along the way. There is a barber shop, dentist and medical offices, living quarters, technical rooms, and even the only phone to the outside where they limited access for those involved in the exercises.
It is a very interesting look at what life could have looked like, and a demonstration that life would have gone on. Thankfully though it was never used as it was intended.
Know Before You Go
The facility is open seasonally from April to November. The entrance fee is 10 Euro or less. It's quite a long tour and it gets pretty cold down there so take a jacket or sweater. Tours are only in German although they will loan you a booklet in English with explanatory notes.