Sunday, 11 September 2016

colossus and curio

After reading about Iowa County Wisconsin’s House on the Rock, a sprawling labyrinthine campus of connected wings built in the late 1940s by an eccentric collector to house an expansive and random collection of artefacts (whose provenance and authenticity could not always be vouched for, so there are no more labels or signs)—which includes the world’s largest indoor merry-go-round, an “infinity room” that juts off the edge of the cliff it’s perched on, a mock Victorian street, wax-figures, elaborate Glockenspiel and other musical automatons, besides displays of historic dresses, chandeliers and Santa Claus figurines, I was reminded of the time we visited the Colossus of Prora on Germany’s Baltic coast and spent a day in its museum.

The four and a half kilometer long compound hugging the beach was to be a monumental retreat for Nazi party members and service-members on shore-leave, a resort with accommodations for twenty thousand and available to all at nominal prices—but was never completed and abandoned.

The East Germany army had used a small portion of the building up until Reunification, when it was wholly deserted. When we visited, one could wander the neglected and graffiti-spattered but sturdy corridors freely, and there was only one central column that was put to any use at all, hosting a youth hostel and a museum, curated by a local family.
Being that Seebad Prora has been refurbished and sold off as luxury condominiums, I doubt the museum with its random exhibits of taxidermy, mock-ups of East German Command and Control and the typical resort room plus the typical East German living-room, geology, motorcycles, grade-three’s artwork, some exhibits defying explanation, a lot of Ostalgie and a Viennese cafรฉ are there any longer.
It does make me sad to think that there was no room for someone as passionate about history (and wanted to make sure that that place and those times did not fall into total obscurity) as the individual who commissioned the House on the Rock above—and despite the chaos, I do remember that every item was well researched and documented—but maybe all these artefacts got to stay together, somewhere.  That rugged and quiet beach is probably again off-limits to the all-comers as well.

Here are all the images of Prora that I could find from our visit and exploration back in the summer of 2010.  One ought to really visit such places when one has the chance, since one can never say if it will always be accessible to the curious public.