Monday, May 30, 2005


Dispatch from Berlin: Checkpoint Charlie

At the corner of Friedrichstrasse and Zimmerstrasse, is the site of the former border crossing point between East to West Berlin: the passage through the Berlin Wall in which Soviet bloc and U.S. military checkpoints (and, in a 1961 incident, tanks) faced each other, also known as “Checkpoint Charlie.”

Today, the spot is a tourist attraction, ringed by souvenir stands, the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, and a mockup of the checkpoint booth on the Western side.

Either way, “mockup” is the right word. The tourist employees posing in military uniforms of the Western countries that occupied West Berlin after the war – France, Britain and the U.S. – holding flags and posing for photos with tourists gives the scene the air of a wax museum with particularly lifelike live people standing in for wax figures.

The museum was packed and, frankly, looked way to hokey to bother going in.

The site is well worth a visit for the abiding feeling it leaves you with that German reunification was a good thing. And if the Germans want to memorialize this piece of cold war history in a somewhat mocking vein, I say, “it’s your country. Go forth and smile.”

Berlin wall remnant, a couple of blocks away from Checkpoint Charlie. I had no idea how thin the wall was!

Souvenir stands around Checkpoint Charlie selling simulated Cold War memorabilia.

Tourists getting ready for photo op with western “soldiers.”

Get a load of the shoes on that "U.S. military police" gal.

Right, the checkpoint. Left, the inside of the museum, packed with tourists. Hey, there’s Nixon!

The look of reunified Germany: you can drive right through on the Friedrichstrasse toward the chichi shops near Unter den Linden.

A bit more serious on the East Side. Steel crosses memorialize East Germans who were killed under the DDR’s shoot-to-kill order try to cross to the West.

This says it all, doesn’t it?


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