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MonsterFest 2020

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Ruins of Wolf's Lair

This is a 'true' story but can also be read as a contribution to various WWII fandoms. Offered for the prompt Ghosts, Ghouls and Wraith but it was already on my website.

A few years ago we went on a long trip that took us from Harwich in UK to Hamburg in Germany and then along the Baltic coast into Poland until we reached the eastern border. We alternated between camping and staying in small hotels or B&Bs. At the border we turned inland and decided to visit the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s military headquarters on the ‘eastern front’ where he planned a lot of his campaigns. At the time, I knew very little about it, being more familiar with Berchtesgaden in Bavaria and the V1 and V2 launch complexes in northern France. We found ourselves booking to stay on the campsite inside the complex. This meant we got the campsite ‘free’ as part of our ticket and could explore the site before the main tourist influx in the morning, both of which benefits appealed. However, once we had registered, the gates were locked and we were stuck with the bar etc. they provided. We could have walked out of the site but the car was effectively imprisoned overnight. The nearest village was quite a distance and of course we had no idea whether it would be worth the walk. It wasn’t a particularly good campsite (inadequate hot water) but we settled down after eating at the bar. Poor food but we didn’t starve. I still knew nothing about the place other than the fact that it existed.

During the night I awoke several times, aroused by noise. I am virtually certain I was actually awake and not dreaming, though I have no such certainties about the actual source of the noise. There were two types of noise. One was very loud barking by a group of dogs – large breeds judging by the pitch of the sound. The other was the noise of trains, arriving, slowing, stopping, and then leaving. Neither sound was accompanied by anything else – no ‘visuals’ and nothing to suggest any kind of story. Nor did I hear any kind of conversation.

In the morning, I complained about the dogs and we realised that there were none on the site and that the nearest farm was too far away for me to have heard their dogs so clearly under any kind of weather conditions. As we walked around the site I saw rail tracks and thought fleetingly that they might explain the trains. But they were overgrown with grass and ended at the border of the complex. There were no railways in use anywhere near the site. I read about the site and how it was used later, both on the way round through the explanations at each of the ruins, and in booklets we bought and were given. Yes, there were guard dogs, and yes, there were trains. I suppose I might have thought of both in advance but neither were things I would necessarily have associated with headquarters of this kind. Most of my reading had suggested Hitler’s staff travelled by car and that guards would have been soldiers. It was only when we learnt how massive the headquarters was that I realised that the dogs and trains made sense. And that only happened when we toured the complex after a broken night’s sleep.

A nice finishing touch to the experience was seeing and hearing a (very live) raven sitting on a tree opposite the ruins of Hitler’s bunker. He seemed to be expressing an avian opinion of the entire thing.