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#1 Oct 11, 2017 11:55 am

New Historian
Active

Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

I was born in Grenada, one of the most beautiful places on God’s earth. But also one of the least known, which goes with the territory when you’re the tenth smallest country on the planet. So you when your job involves travelling the world on a Grenadian passport, it calls for a lot of patience and planning – plus occasional doses of guile and cunning. Thus far my trusty Grenadian passport has carried me to seventy-six countries, both on and off the beaten track.

The toughest border I’ve ever crossed was Checkpoint Charlie in 1976, at the height of the Cold War, going the “wrong” way. I was on a six-week boondoggle all over Germany sponsored by a political organization called the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Part of the trip included a day trip into East Berlin, through the infamous Checkpoint Charlie. We spent a fascinating day in the East, including a ceremony honouring the millions of Russian War dead.

Then, it was time to leave.

After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany there were many political, ethical and legal conundrums to deal with, not least of which included: what to do with the former East German border guards. These guys definitely enjoyed their jobs too much and had unlimited powers to boot. They didn’t often have to deal with Westerners passing through the Wall, especially a bunch of schwarz Westerners. We definitely aroused their interest.

Especially me. I was twenty-three years old at the time, looking totally different from the fresh-faced sixteen-year old of my passport picture: it strained credulity. It certainly strained theirs – and then some. I was taken through a line of increasingly senior border guards, each of whom held my passport up to my face and really, really stared at me for what seemed an eternity. Our West German minder was nowhere in sight it was just me and them. Every now and then one of them would hurl a question at me in German, while two others watched my reaction. This was beginning to getting a bit hairy, people disappeared in here.

Finally, after many facial examinations, they reluctantly gave me back my passport and let me leave. As I walked down that narrow corridor of safety through the Berlin Wall, with its razor wire, machine gun turrets, mines and automatic firing machines I got a slight, very slight sense of the relief that must have washed over those few East Germans who made it safely through Checkpoint Charlie.

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#2 Oct 11, 2017 12:22 pm

Real Distwalker
Active

Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

Germans.  They make me nervous to this day.

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#3 Oct 11, 2017 4:59 pm

New Historian
Active

Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

Think ze Germans are bad? Try crossing the border into Israel. From Egypt. On a chicken bus lol! Soon come with that one.

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#4 Oct 11, 2017 5:04 pm

Real Distwalker
Active

Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

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#5 Oct 11, 2017 6:53 pm

Dancer
Active

Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

New Historian wrote:

I was born in Grenada, one of the most beautiful places on God’s earth. But also one of the least known, which goes with the territory when you’re the tenth smallest country on the planet. So you when your job involves travelling the world on a Grenadian passport, it calls for a lot of patience and planning – plus occasional doses of guile and cunning. Thus far my trusty Grenadian passport has carried me to seventy-six countries, both on and off the beaten track.

The toughest border I’ve ever crossed was Checkpoint Charlie in 1976, at the height of the Cold War, going the “wrong” way. I was on a six-week boondoggle all over Germany sponsored by a political organization called the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Part of the trip included a day trip into East Berlin, through the infamous Checkpoint Charlie. We spent a fascinating day in the East, including a ceremony honouring the millions of Russian War dead.

Then, it was time to leave.

After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany there were many political, ethical and legal conundrums to deal with, not least of which included: what to do with the former East German border guards. These guys definitely enjoyed their jobs too much and had unlimited powers to boot. They didn’t often have to deal with Westerners passing through the Wall, especially a bunch of schwarz Westerners. We definitely aroused their interest.

Especially me. I was twenty-three years old at the time, looking totally different from the fresh-faced sixteen-year old of my passport picture: it strained credulity. It certainly strained theirs – and then some. I was taken through a line of increasingly senior border guards, each of whom held my passport up to my face and really, really stared at me for what seemed an eternity. Our West German minder was nowhere in sight it was just me and them. Every now and then one of them would hurl a question at me in German, while two others watched my reaction. This was beginning to getting a bit hairy, people disappeared in here.

Finally, after many facial examinations, they reluctantly gave me back my passport and let me leave. As I walked down that narrow corridor of safety through the Berlin Wall, with its razor wire, machine gun turrets, mines and automatic firing machines I got a slight, very slight sense of the relief that must have washed over those few East Germans who made it safely through Checkpoint Charlie.



I will ignore the 2nd statement  and just say seventy six countries. eh ?
That is quite  impressive.

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#6 Oct 11, 2017 8:06 pm

New Historian
Active

Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

"I will ignore the 2nd statement" Because you don't like it or don't agree with it?

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#7 Oct 11, 2017 8:26 pm

houston
Active

Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

Real Distwalker wrote:

Germans.  They make me nervous to this day.

I'm with you on that one. Could swear every each of them have a swastika tattooed on them somewhere.

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#8 Oct 11, 2017 10:09 pm

New Historian
Active

Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

houston wrote:
Real Distwalker wrote:

Germans.  They make me nervous to this day.

I'm with you on that one. Could swear every each of them have a swastika tattooed on them somewhere.

That's not nice. Only Germany has opened its doors to refugees.

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#9 Oct 12, 2017 7:30 am

Slice
Active

Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

As much as ah hate Air planes, they could not pay me ten million dollars to do all that travel.  The interesting thing is my wife travels ah whole lot and most cases, ah could travel for free, but not me, I ent going.

Traveling from America to Grenada, ah have to visit me doctor for pills.

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#10 Oct 12, 2017 10:26 am

Dancer
Active

Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

New Historian wrote:

"I will ignore the 2nd statement" Because you don't like it or don't agree with it?


Good question , New Historian ....  lol

Neither , neither  ....

My reading comprehension is at fault .

I thought you were going to say ' the most beautiful island in the Caribbean.'
Had me confused . lol.

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