On our rickshaw tour of the sights of Berlin we briefly took in a stop at Checkpoint Charlie. The Berlin half-marathon was in full swing and it was a little incongruous to see reconstructed guardhouse with actors in uniform waiting to have their phograph taken with you for 1€, with runners streaming past them on both sides.
On the boards near the Checkpoint you can find information about the history of the wall which was finally dismantled in 1989, symbolising the end of the Cold War and the re-unification of Germany. During the Cold war, Berlin was divided into the Allied and Soviet zones with checkpoints Alpha, Bravo and Charlie to control movement between them, and Checkpoint Charlie as the main gateway between East and West Berlin.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stop at the small Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum, but continued our tour down a long cobbled street past the remnants of the wall. The wall itself looked a rather thin strip of concrete although in many places there were two walls with a no-man’s land in between. The guide pointed out the line of dark stones along the road which signifies where the wall once stood. During the 28 years that the wall encircled West Berlin, 200 people are estimated to have been killed trying to flee from East Germany to West Germany.
As we got to Potsdamer Platz we found a few more sections of painted wall with a thriving tourist industry going on around getting your ‘Visa’ or Passport Stamp for East Berlin. Our girls were entranced by the sales patter from the actors dressed as East German Guards and spent €2 buying their East German ‘Visa’ then posing for photos in front of the sections of wall.
The one place I wanted to see but ran out of time was the East Side Gallery, where a section of wall has been covered with murals by local street-artists and become an out-door gallery. The gallery was created in 1990 and stretches along the river Spree – the nearest station is Ostbahnhof