Checkpoint Charlie and other Berlin Wall stories

May 17, 2009 by  

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.

Checkpoint Charlie on Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie on Berlin

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.

Remnants of the Berlin Wall

Remnants of the Berlin Wall

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.

Getting our East Berlin Visas near Potsdamer Platz

Getting our East Berlin Visas near Potsdamer Platz

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

With my East German Visa near Potsdamer Platz

With my East German Visa near Potsdamer Platz

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Comments

10 Comments on "Checkpoint Charlie and other Berlin Wall stories"

  1. Monna on Thu, 21st May 2009 9:17 am 

    Heather, I have really enjoyed your posts about Berlin. As always, great photos and a wonderful narrative of your adventures. Berlin was on my list of places to visit while we lived in Barcelona but it seems that I have run out of time. Some day!

  2. Friday photo - the queue for the view at the Reichstag in Berlin : Heather on her travels on Fri, 29th May 2009 8:56 pm 

    […] may also enjoy Checkpoint Charlie and other Berlin wall stories Blue Glass reflections at the Kaise Wilhelm memorial church in Berlin Children at the Holocaust […]

  3. Nicky Gardner on Mon, 1st Jun 2009 12:59 pm 

    It is perhaps worth taking a moment to consider the trade in DDR souvenirs (such as phoney passport stamps, fake visas, etc) which you endorsed in your article. This fetishisation of just one aspect of the East German experience is demeaning to all who lived and worked in the DDR. Organisations like the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie have aggressively pushed their political line for decades, it is in short a form of pro-American propaganda that has raked in a handsome profit. The DDR was a many faceted state, one that some now look back to with some nostalgia, regret and a myriad of other complex emotions. That lived experience of an entire country is now ridiculed by the trade in fake visas – advanced capitalism at its very worst.

    I liked your report, Heather, but like many Berliners I do so wish that you and other tourists who visit my home city would be more critical of the propanganda offensive conducted by those folks at Checkpoint Charlie.

    You are of course absolutely right to point out that over a spell of 28 years, some 200 folk died trying to cross the Berlin Wall. The scale of that human tragedy should not be minimised, but let us get it in perspective. Every year, well over 1000 people die trying to enter the EU. The barbarism of modern borders goes unremarked, while Americans and some west Europeans focus with horror (and very little understanding) on something that is now history.

    Nicky Gardner
    editor / hidden europe magazine

  4. Heather Cowper on Mon, 1st Jun 2009 8:48 pm 

    Nicky, thanks so much for your comment and insight into a different perspective of the Berlin Wall, which as you say conveniently sweeps aside the reality that was lived by the people of Berlin, in the name of Tourism.

    And there was I thinking we were just having a bit of fun on holiday!

    I think that the more curious traveller should try and make connection with the locals wherever they go, to get just these sorts of insights and different viewpoints.

  5. A cool street-art hangout at Kunsthaus Tacheles - in Berlin : Heather on her travels on Sun, 7th Jun 2009 9:01 am 

    […] may also enjoy Checkpoint Charlie and other Berlin wall stories Our 36 Hours in Berlin Children at the Holocaust Memorial in […]

  6. How to get from Schönefeld airport into Berlin : Heather on her travels on Mon, 29th Jun 2009 9:20 pm 

    […] may also enjoy Checkpoint Charlie and other Berlin Wall stories Our 36 hours in Berlin Budget boutique bliss at Circus Hotel in […]

  7. Berlin City on Thu, 30th Jul 2009 11:53 am 

    Very nice post. Friedrichstrasse Street is famous for shopping.The Potsdamer Platz Arkaden is one of the famous commercial hub in berlin. There are many attractive places in berlin like Film Museum Berlin, Arsenal cinema etc.Don’t fail to visit museum island which is a set of five Museums. One can trek up the scenic Victoria Park cross hill located in Kreuzberg for some magnificent sights of Berlin. For more details refer http://www.journeyidea.com/beguiling-berlin-encore-part-i/

  8. My travelling year in 2009 | Heather on her travels on Fri, 8th Jan 2010 8:27 am 

    […] vibe of Berlin, an ideal city to please the most picky teenager. For more Berlin stories read; Checkpint Charlie and other Berlin Wall stories Blue Glass reflections at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Our 36 Hours in […]

  9. Shehzan azad on Mon, 4th Apr 2016 11:49 am 

    Hello Heather,

    I have just checked your website. We are publishing interesting facts about various places around the world. Would like to use a picture of the Berlin wall. We would also be interested in linking to you. If you find our website interesting and helpful, please link back to us as well.

    thanks for a beautiful and useful website.

    Regards.
    Shehzan azad´s last blog post ..43 Interesting Facts About Colombia

  10. Heather Cowper on Mon, 4th Apr 2016 4:06 pm 

    @Shehzan Feel free so long as you credit any of my photos you use with a link back to the site. Thanks

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