Taxi Tour Guide

(Lunch…. looking like a green moustached little man?)

We had a very interesting conversation with our taxi driver on the way to the airport. He’d lived in Berlin for sixteen years and loved it. As a teenager he’d been taken on a school trip to east Berlin, while it was still under Russian rule. He was fascinated by the place and wanted to come back. So after he left school he visited Berlin many times, but just the west part.

(Anyone for some Sachertorte?)

It was a difficult journey. It took twelve hours from his home, the same journey now takes five. Going back to our history lesson….. the free Berlin, the west part, was surrounded by a wall (well.. two walls with the no-mans land filled with mines and guard dogs in between all watched over by guard towers…. to be precise). The further complication was that Berlin was also situated in the Russian (not so free) part of Germany, to the east. Maybe a picture would help?

(Former West Germany in purple, former East Germany in yellow. City of Berlin in middle of yellow. Barbed-wire lined road corridor ran from purple west Germany across Sachsen-Anhalt to Berlin)

So…. to get to Berlin (while the wall was still up) our taxi driver had to drive along a road corridor through east Germany to west Berlin. Are you keeping up? He was questioned at the border checkpoint and if anything was amiss he would not be allowed through or could be held prisoner. If he did get through his journey was timed and if he arrived at the Berlin checkpoint later than expected then he was in trouble. If he arrived sooner than expected this was also a serious problem. And yet he continued to make the journey…..

(Checkpoint….. Charlie!)

Incidentally….. the first border crossing checkpoint at the start of the corridor was called Alpha (from the phonetic alphabet for A), the second one was called Bravo (B) and the one between the American sector and Russian Berlin was Charlie (C)…. thus Checkpoint Charlie.

Over and out, Mairead.