East Berlin – Past Checkpoint Charlie

This (above) reminded me of that (below) – and I finally got the slide-scanner running under Windows-7 so I can transfer some images.  It’s a Nikon LS40 Coolscan IV and about seven years old – and no longer supported by Nikon so the drivers didn’t work.  I found a program that does, VueScan, and I’m very happy with it but still dealing with the learning curve.

Anyhow…you go in on the right side of the road and exit from the left: Checkpoint Charlie.
There wasn’t a lot of traffic, these cars were parked. I brought my camera because I went everywhere with it – and if I left it at the Youth Hostel I had no assurance it would still be there when I returned. It was small and quiet, an Olympus OM-1 – a beautiful machine that was stolen years later in Spain.

Despite being the crown-jewel of the East-Bloc system with a healthy income from other, worse-place cage-free tourists like Albania, the Ukraine, and Yugoslavia, they kept a bunch of standing wrecks around to remind people to be grateful for the things they were doled-out and that things could be worse. This was a church so it was super-low priority anyhow, and how better to remind hopeless people that “God is Dead.”

Vopos were everywhere but I didn’t receive much scrutiny (as far as I could tell), I was just a long-haired hippie in blue jeans with a Mao-cap.

Nobody would talk to me anyhow – too great a risk I suppose. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall we have since come to find out that a huge number of the population, (I wish I had the percentage) was busy spying on each other for the STASI – the State Security apparatus. A bureaucracy three times the size of Hitler’s own Gestapo was occupied with monitoring the business of a population one quarter the size of the former Nazi Germany. Socialists don’t do things half-way, they like big monuments to themselves (like Obamacare) and check it out, our own Socialists plan to use the IRS as the spy and enforcement arm of their crown-jewel “Democratic” Republic, once they take-over control of the insurance companies and swamped the economy.

From the inside out you could get an unobstructed view of the Brandenburg Gate. This is quite the icon of the Cold War era and a cover backdrop for countless spy novels.
Even so, here in the Workers Paradise you still couldn’t approach it.

I watched the changing of the guard a monument to fallen WWII East Germans – and they continued to surprise me.
The helmets were different but boots and the walk was the same.

I couldn’t wrap my head around that because I still retained the illusion shared by many today, that there was some kind of difference between Socialist and Fascist.
Still, once you see it repeated you begin to realize that if it duck-walks like a Nazi but calls itself something different – it’s just found a new expression for the same old flavor.

Looking at the picture I wonder, who’s the old guy in the blue lab-coat? Then I realize that a lot of the people in the picture, kids included, are there because they have to do a STASI-Twitter – and they will go home to write a book report on their parents or neighbors, just to earn a few Pfennig to buy smokes and a magazine.
But then the sun was out from under the typical mid-European overcast and I had other things on my mind. I was making my way (walking) over to the Charlottenburg and the Egyptian Museum inside. As a kid our family travels had lead us to a lot of antiquities and ancient sites, and Archaeology was already a passion especially after doing some digging in South India before leaving on this trip. I had a destination and it was across the middle of a large park, and the hours were drawing close.

I had to hold my breath and be very still and steady – the exposure was about a 16th of a second at f5.6 in dim museum lighting. I never worried about taking pictures in places because I didn’t have a flash anyhow and it was that which was always forbidden.
She’s petite, but real-sized – not a doll, and her ears stick out a bit. Gorgeous looks are never going to go out of style, and never have. One of the first things I noticed was the asymmetry – she’s not perfect from side to side – like a real person would be, an ear slightly higher than the other, one nostril a bit lower. The Egyptians were quite capable of producing idealized ivory-doll like perfection and often did just that, but this is a likeness of a real person, and you notice that and it makes it/her all the more remarkable.
And then the Guards were calling to close the museum.

It was time for me to leave this ghastly city of Socialist zombies with its single saving grace. Going back through Checkpoint Charlie I had to wait in the “cooler” for about an hour. Given what we know today, they must have been going over whatever videotape and book-reports they had received about me. Then in a final show of cheapskate Socialism the guards counted my leftover coins and complained that I hadn’t spent enough of the money I had been forced to convert – and took what I had left. Fuck them forever in hell, I had better things to do in a Free World.

I left West Berlin the next day, and went to the edge of the city to hitchhike. At the start of the free-freeway were other youths and couples with their thumbs out, and I caught a lift through “The Corridor” with a hearty family of West Berliners. In a few days I was back visiting my old friend Stephen who lived in the Eifel, and his dad took us for a ride in the country. It was not just any ride however, but he plunked down about ten Marks and we drove the Nürburgring in his V-8 4-door Opel Dioplomat! Yee-haw!! Yeh ok, I was 18 and had an “International Driver’s Llicense” – but his dad wanted the fun too and it was his car.

About NotClauswitz

The semi-sprawling adventures of a culturally hegemonic former flat-lander and anti-idiotarian individualist, fleeing the toxic cultural smug emitted by self-satisfied lotus-eating low-land Tesla-driving floppy-hat wearing lizadroid-Leftbat Califorganic eco-tofuistas ~

6 thoughts on “East Berlin – Past Checkpoint Charlie

  1. I saw that changing of the guard, too! I was somewhere between 7 and 10, and I was convinced one of the goose-steppers was going to kick me in the face!


    • It was in the summer of 1976, in June. I stayed at the West Berlin Youth Hostel and took a day-trip into the East, through Checkpoint Charlie. They ripped me off for about $50 because I HAD to change a bunch of money into their worthless currency – and then couldn’t spend it anywhere else, so I blew it at a lousy “International Cafeteria” near the Brandenburg Gate on cheap beer and bratwurst. Nobody would approach or talk to me. BUT I really just went because I wanted to see the bust of Queen Nefertiti at the Egyptisch Museum at Charlottenburg.


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