I'm back from my European vacation. Thanks to Cranky Media Guy for minding the madhouse while I was gone.
I spent nine days in Germany and four in England. The purpose of the vacation was to visit relatives, but since I was over there I, of course, had to take the opportunity to drag family members around to visit various hoaxy stuff.
For instance, I found the approximate spot on top of the Reichstag in Berlin from which Yevgeny Khaldei, in 1945, took his famous shot
of soldiers raising a Soviet flag. Khaldei's shot (below on the left) was actually posed, and Soviet censors later erased the multiple wristwatches on the soldiers' arms (evidence they had been looting). Khaldei also added smoke into the background. On the right is what the same scene looks like today. (Well, as close as I could approximate it. It's not possible to stand in exactly the same place where Khaldei stood because there's a restaurant there now.)
I next visited the town hall of Köpenick (a suburb of Berlin), in front of which stands a statue of Wilhelm Voigt, the so-called Captain of Köpenick
. In 1906 Voigt, who was an out-of-work shoemaker, dressed up in a second-hand German officer's uniform, approached a group of soldiers marching down the street, and assumed control of them. He then led them to Köpenick, where he arrested the mayor, took 4000 marks from the treasury, and disappeared with the money. The incident became famous as a symbol of the blind obedience of German soldiers to authority -- even fake authority. Inside the town hall is also a museum dedicated to Voigt (a Museum of a Hoax, as opposed to a Museum of Hoaxes). On display is a German officer's uniform identical to the one Voigt wore.
Finally, in London I tried to locate 54 Berners Street, site of a famous prank
in 1810. Author Theodore Hook had bet a friend that he could make any house the most talked-about address in London in only a week. His friend chose 54 Berners Street as the address. Hook won the bet by sending letters to tradesmen and dignitaries throughout the city, asking them to come to that address... on the same day. This resulted in a massive crowd gathering outside the house. Even the Mayor of London supposedly showed up there, having received one of Hook's letters.
I found Berners Street, but 54 Berners Street no longer exists. On the site now stands the swanky Sanderson Hotel
. There's not even a marker to note where the hoax occurred. I was quite disappointed. People nowadays just don't value the history of hoaxes.