Michelle is the founder of Untapped Cities. She can usually be found in New York (where she grew up), Paris, backpacking in South America or Southeast Asia, or in-transit between. She has an obsession with buses, shoots with a Nikon SLR camera, and destroys cellos on stage with her indie rock band. She’s traveled to 35 countries, including working for earthquake disaster organizations in Peru and Sumatra. She is an author of 100 Ways to Make History, published by the New York Public Library. She holds a masters in urban planning from Columbia University, a B.A. from Harvard in the History of Art & Architecture, and is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music. Follow her on Twitter @untappedmich.
The town of Wetzlar, Germany recently celebrated the return of iconic lens and camera manufacturer, Leica, which was founded 100 years ago in this manufacturing enclave outside Frankfurt. The new headquarters, shaped like a camera lens, offers both a look behind-the-scenes into the intricate production process of Leica cameras, as well as an exhibition space that celebrates the company’s illustrious history.
While attending the opening of the new Leica headquarters, we also learned some of the secrets of the company from the staff. One, which particularly caught our attention, was the tunnel system in Wetzlar that enabled Jewish Leica (then the Leitz company) employees to escape Nazi-controlled Germany in the late 1930s. Known by Holocaust historians as the “Leica Freedom Train,” this initiative of Dr. Ernest Leitz II and his daughter Elsie Kuehn-Leitz have all the hallmarks of a Schindler’s List-like story, but remains mostly unknown to the global public. During our trip, we were able to visit the tunnels with a local tour guide.
The craziest thing about these fairy doors is that von Buhler isn’t putting them up herself–it’s her fans. Speaking with von Buhler, she tells us that said fans have been installing them for two and a half years: “About 150 doors have been put up. Some have doormats with secret keys underneath. A few actually open.” Design-wise, the fans have been inspired by von Buhler’s book, But Who Will Bell the Cats?.