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#1 Mar 24, 2019 8:18 pm

New Historian
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Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

The toughest border I ever crossed was Checkpoint Charlie, in 1976 – at the height of the Cold War. What was worse, I was going the “wrong” way: from East to West. I was on a six-week boondoggle through Germany sponsored by a socialist organization called the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, part of which included a day trip into East Berlin. Getting into East Germany was a breeze, and we spent a fascinating day in the East, witnessing ceremony honoring the millions of Russian dead of World War II. The trouble started when it was time to leave.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, there were many legal issues to resolve, not least being what to do with the former East German border guards, the Grenztruppen . These guys enjoyed their jobs a bit too much, and had unlimited powers to boot. They didn’t often have to deal with Westerners, and for some reason I seem to have aroused their interest.

Maybe it was because my passport picture, of a cherubic sixteen-year old, bore no resemblance to the bearded hippy standing before them, but for whatever reason they decided to have a closer look. In a separate room. I was taken to an adjoining windowless room where I was repeatedly examined by increasingly senior border guards, you could tell their seniority by the size of their hats. Each one of them held my passport up to my face and really, really stared, for what seemed an eternity. By this time 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 others watched my reaction. This was beginning to getting a bit hairy: people disappear in here!

After many, many examinations they reluctantly gave me back my passport and let me leave. As I walked through Checkpoint Charlie, with its razor wire, machine gun turrets and minefields, I got a slight, a very slight sense of the immense sense of relief that must have washed over those few East Germans who made it safely through this deadly crossing.

Berlin.jpg

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#2 Mar 24, 2019 8:30 pm

Real Distwalker
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Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

I wish you would have tossed them the finger over your shoulder as you crossed safely into West Berlin.

I dunno, man.  There isn't much in the recent world more intimidating or more contemptible than an East German border guard.  You had to have been sweating.

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#3 Mar 24, 2019 8:33 pm

Real Distwalker
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Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

Nice bell bottoms, by the way. smile

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#4 Mar 24, 2019 8:48 pm

New Historian
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Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

Real Distwalker wrote:

Nice bell bottoms, by the way. smile

I could've sold them for a fortune - in East German Marks lol!
Berlin2.jpg

Berlin5.jpg

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#5 Mar 25, 2019 11:47 pm

Expat
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Re: Crossing Checkpoint Charlie

New Historian wrote:
Real Distwalker wrote:

Nice bell bottoms, by the way. smile

I could've sold them for a fortune - in East German Marks lol!
https://i.postimg.cc/23XTGzWt/Berlin2.jpg

https://i.postimg.cc/7CVn2DDm/Berlin5.jpg

Always the pedant, Were they not flairs rather than Bell Bottoms? It may not be obvious in the photo, but it doesn't look like the rapid belling out of bell bottoms... I don't think you had platforms on either, at least a decent Cuban heel should be worn... smile

I note  a bit more hair on show.... smile

Judging by the scruffy spectators in the marching picture, they were not East Germans either.

Last edited by Expat (Mar 25, 2019 11:50 pm)

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