<p><strong>Twenty-five years ago the first hammer blows struck the<a href="http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2014/11/06/insiders-guide-to-cold-war-berlin/"> Berlin Wall</a>. Today little remains of that international symbol of the<a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140320-word-in-the-news-cold-war-russia-crimea-orwell/"> Cold War</a>, the geopolitical standoff that almost pushed Europe to the brink of armed conflict between the late 1940s and the early 1990s.</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Other relics from that tense time remain in place, though, untouched and largely unseen.</p><p dir="ltr">Dutch photographer<a href="http://www.martinroemers.com/work.php"> Martin Roemers</a> spent ten years documenting those relics—the now decaying testaments of an era that shaped the character of a continent.</p><p dir="ltr">Roemers was born in 1962, the year after construction started on the wall that would split the city of Berlin in two.</p><p dir="ltr">The entirety of his youth was consumed by the Cold War, a conflict he describes as "weird" for its ability to balance the dreariness of quotidian doldrums with the specter of nuclear apocalypse.</p><p dir="ltr">"It was everywhere," he explained in a phone interview. "It was always on TV, always in school, always in conversation. And yet nobody wanted this war. Neither side wanted it. It was a war fought about what would never happen, what could never happen because it would mean the end of all of us."</p><p dir="ltr">That sum of all fears has softened over the decades into a surreal nostalgia, a kind of commie-dearest kitsch. Occasionally, in what used to be East Berlin, a hotel or bar will now pop up offering tourists the chance to experience a kind of theme-park night behind the Iron Curtain—on the communist side of the divided Europe.</p><p dir="ltr">This month, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's demise, the city will create a wall made of white, illuminated balloons.</p><p dir="ltr">Roemers left the historic wall out of his photographic project "because it's a very clichéd image," he said. "They took it away, repainted it, reconstructed it. It's not authentic anymore. It's weirdly commercialized."</p><p dir="ltr">He concentrated, instead, on the many relics now left to rust and crumble across the European countryside.</p><p dir="ltr">"I've done a lot of projects on the consequence of war. Of course that is people, but it's also landscapes and architecture," he said. "[People] know all these structures existed, theoretically—the silos and the bases and the tunnels—but not really."</p><p dir="ltr">There is a chilling juxtaposition in Roemers's images. Yes, they're about the beauty of decay and the triumph of outliving what had seemed to be a never-ending war. But that pride is dwarfed by the scale of the horror.</p><p dir="ltr">"They spent so much money, so much effort, weapons and new weapons to counter those weapons and on and on without end," he said. "The scale is enormous, infinite."</p><p>But the relics will disappear one day, and what then? "All wars have their monuments, something to remember them by. How will we remember the Cold War?"</p><p dir="ltr">This bunker (above) in the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Latvia, is older than the Soviet naval base on which it’s located. Roemers isn’t even sure the bunker was ever used. He used a 20- to 30-minute exposure to smooth the skyline and sea surface, making it seem as if the installation is lying in the blank space of an art gallery.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>—By Richard Morgan, photo gallery by Mallory Benedict</em></p>

Bunker, Busted

Twenty-five years ago the first hammer blows struck the Berlin Wall. Today little remains of that international symbol of the Cold War, the geopolitical standoff that almost pushed Europe to the brink of armed conflict between the late 1940s and the early 1990s.

Other relics from that tense time remain in place, though, untouched and largely unseen.

Dutch photographer Martin Roemers spent ten years documenting those relics—the now decaying testaments of an era that shaped the character of a continent.

Roemers was born in 1962, the year after construction started on the wall that would split the city of Berlin in two.

The entirety of his youth was consumed by the Cold War, a conflict he describes as "weird" for its ability to balance the dreariness of quotidian doldrums with the specter of nuclear apocalypse.

"It was everywhere," he explained in a phone interview. "It was always on TV, always in school, always in conversation. And yet nobody wanted this war. Neither side wanted it. It was a war fought about what would never happen, what could never happen because it would mean the end of all of us."

That sum of all fears has softened over the decades into a surreal nostalgia, a kind of commie-dearest kitsch. Occasionally, in what used to be East Berlin, a hotel or bar will now pop up offering tourists the chance to experience a kind of theme-park night behind the Iron Curtain—on the communist side of the divided Europe.

This month, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's demise, the city will create a wall made of white, illuminated balloons.

Roemers left the historic wall out of his photographic project "because it's a very clichéd image," he said. "They took it away, repainted it, reconstructed it. It's not authentic anymore. It's weirdly commercialized."

He concentrated, instead, on the many relics now left to rust and crumble across the European countryside.

"I've done a lot of projects on the consequence of war. Of course that is people, but it's also landscapes and architecture," he said. "[People] know all these structures existed, theoretically—the silos and the bases and the tunnels—but not really."

There is a chilling juxtaposition in Roemers's images. Yes, they're about the beauty of decay and the triumph of outliving what had seemed to be a never-ending war. But that pride is dwarfed by the scale of the horror.

"They spent so much money, so much effort, weapons and new weapons to counter those weapons and on and on without end," he said. "The scale is enormous, infinite."

But the relics will disappear one day, and what then? "All wars have their monuments, something to remember them by. How will we remember the Cold War?"

This bunker (above) in the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Latvia, is older than the Soviet naval base on which it’s located. Roemers isn’t even sure the bunker was ever used. He used a 20- to 30-minute exposure to smooth the skyline and sea surface, making it seem as if the installation is lying in the blank space of an art gallery.

—By Richard Morgan, photo gallery by Mallory Benedict

Photograph by Martin Roemers, Panos/Anastasia Photo

Relics of the Cold War 25 Years On

A photographer explores the traces of a standoff that divided Europe for four decades.

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