Tourist attractions often seem like shortcuts to me, almost a way of cheating. There's a sheen that hints at something slightly distasteful underneath. I guess I'm still swayed by the argument that "raw" truth is somehow more "real." Probably it's just that I'm media-saturated enough to resent manipulation--whatever the case, I prefer to take my experience unfiltered when I can get it.
Sometimes, truly, the mundane is more moving. We turned off on a non-descript gravel road, drove for a while, then hung a right onto a concrete pathway made up of oddly-shaped blocks. "That's for tank treads." Ah, that makes sense--as if the sense it made somehow detracted from the unconcealed military intent.
*******The silos themselves were carefully unassuming. Again, the field under which lay the facilities and equipment needed to launch four, 72-foot, nuclear-capable rockets within 10 kilometers of a designated target resembled nothing more than a pasture with a few concrete lumps. Only barbed wire remained of what was once a system of guard towers and electronic intrusion detectors.
*******There were no safety rails or guideposts, only the stripped-down, swiftly rusting remnants of what was once the focal point of a global tension that skirted some pretty severe consequences. A few remnants of Communist decor and some soldiers' equipment. A uniform and the radio room. The tunnels were damp, the stairs unsafe, and the ladders and platforms precarious.
*******But the truly sublime moment came when some of the men began singing a foreign anthem in their deepest and most operatic baritone. Many of the others joined in. I don't know what the song meant to them, and I suppose I never will, but hearing their voices echoing through the crumbling chambers--the container of what was once the delivery system of human-engineered, large-scale destruction--struck a chord somewhere deep, deep inside.