Apartment buildings are not very rare in Germany but they are definitely not as tall as the ones I have seen in Bangalore or Gurgaon. In fact when we were living in Wedel earlier, we were in a seven-storeyed Hochhaus, which is like a typical apartment building with 8 flats per floor, and it was literally the tallest building in town. It is a well known fact that Germany doesn’t do skyscrapers (except in Frankfurt of course, which has 17 out of the total 18 skyscrapers of Germany). I think it’s great and love the fact that city and town skylines in Germany have a fairy-tale like charm.
Anyway, coming back to the topic of the post, last year we moved to an old Mehrfamilienhaus (multi-family house), which is separated into 5 apartments and a bakery. Yes, I live ‘in’ a bakery and it has its pros and cons, but that’s a story for another day! Each apartment also gets its own Keller (cellar) which is like a storage room in the basement. This Saturday we went into our Keller to take out suitcases for our upcoming trip to India. We also met our sweet German neighbour downstairs who is very kind and patient enough to tolerate our broken German and have long conversations with us. I am happy that I don’t need German for work, but I know that it is very important to know German to integrate well in the society, at least to a level where one can have a simple conversation with someone. I have come to a point where I enjoy learning German so I really want to improve on it and I’m glad that with our neighbours we get to practice German. We also take weekly German classes but our neighbours are truly our link to the language in a practical sense and also encourage us to open up and speak more. So we were chatting with her for over half an hour discussing our plans for the holidays, requesting her to keep our plants alive while we were away, and just sharing random holiday pleasantries.
Just as we were leaving and Govind was locking the heavy Keller door, she asked us if we knew what it really was. Govind was quick to answer, “ein bunker?”. Well, actually the first time that we saw that massive iron door with two heavy handles to lock it, we really did guess that it was an underground bunker, because it was difficult to believe that someone would be so protective about stuff in their Keller. Pointing towards the big black alphabets “L.S.R.” on the wall, she told us it stands for “Luftschutzraum” (also called Luftschutzkeller) which means Air Raid Shelter in German. In the past, her family owned the bakery and had lived in this house for generations. The old brick type architecture of this house is not even in use any longer and she informed us that this house was built by her Opa in the 1930s, so it’s about 100 years old! I also did some research on the topic of LSR later and realised that such Air Raid Shelters were quite common in the days of World War II. She also told that her family had shared their experiences about the1944 bombing of Darmstadt with her. The city centre was almost destroyed but this house in the outskirts thankfully survived.
It was a sad yet fascinating history lesson about the bunker in our basement.