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Going Through Checkpoint Charlie Where East Meets West (Berlin)

berlin_-_checkpoint_charlie_1963

[Checkpoint Charlie]

30 May

I first visited Europe years before the Euro was the accepted coin of the realm. In fact, there were many coins of many realms, and all that money caused a fuss.

I kept a daily diary of this trip, and plan to make it a part of any memoirs I might write. So I’ve hauled it out and will make some blogs from it. But they will be greatly abridged.

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30 May

Around ten o’clock I set out for Checkpoint Charlie. I say that I set out for Checkpoint Charlie, but i would be less than truthful if I stated I got there easily. In fact, I threw my destiny into the hands of Fate to get there at all. For the first time I did what I understand is a favourite pass time of tourists, I executed a complete circle and returned to the Hostel. At least I wasn’t lost.

I set out again, knowing I was to go past a particular building, and also go through a large field. Surprisingly enough,  after a ten minute walk, I unexpectedly came to Checkpoint Charlie. And there were the people from the group I was travelling with, who shuffled me into their midst and thus near the front of the line.

Going past the British soldiers was a matter of seconds. You gave your name and the time you expected to return and that was it. Then told you were not allowed to take any photos, you headed to the East German barrier. Here they took your passport; you filled in forms; you had to exchange some of your money for East German money (which you had to spend in the East); got little slips of paper stuck into your passport; walked to a further barrier where you again showed your passport, and then the next thing you were doing was walking in East Berlin.

We had been told to walk along the street until we came to Unter den Linden and then stay on it. We could go down side street, but always return to Unter den Linden. And that is what we did – more or less.

What I had expected of East Berlin was a dark, grey, dirty city, with haggard, suspicious-looking people in 1950’s clothing slinking along the streets with large bundles in their hands. I actually saw little difference in the people, or the place, than what I had seen in West Berlin.

Yes, it was more run-down looking, and there were more ruined buildings, and even buildings that were war-scarred, but it was clean and neat, and the people were like anyone else, though there were far fewer on the streets.

[More to come another day]

 

 

 

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Coffee To Go – No Strings Attached

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I was standing in line in a coffee shop, waiting to place my order. I was third in line, the end in sight.

A voice came in my ear.

“Thanks, Man. It was kind of you.”

I turned, cautious and obviously puzzled. A clean-shaven and well dressed middle-aged man was not exactly in line behind me, but more to my shoulder.

“I appreciate the help.”

I didn’t feel overly anxious in the midst of a well-peopled coffee shop, but I was glad he didn’t look unhinged. I was wondering what obvious response to make: “Pardon me?” “I think you’re mistaken.” “Can I help you?” But then he spoke quickly.

“You helped me out back there.” He pointed to the street. “Up on the corner. You gave me money.”

I had had no such encounter, and was concerned that any sort of response might elicit offence. Plus, his stability now came into question.

“Wasn’t that you?”

“Sorry. You are mistaken.”

“Looks like you.”

“Then he’s a lucky fellow, whoever he is.”

This did get a laugh. Then, though I might have been expecting many things, I did not anticipate what he did next. He took out a gift card for the Coffee Shop we were standing in.

“Hey, can you give me $5 for this. A lady gave it to me earlier. It’s real.” We both moved forward as the line moved. “I don’t need coffee, but I need strings for my guitar. That’s how I make money on the street.”

As soon as he said this, I remembered someone playing a guitar across the street I had been on. There was no way I could tell if this fellow was him – but what are the odds?

“I can’t play without strings.”

I did not know at the time, nor do I know now, if this was a well-honed and practised routine to get some money. But it was only $5, I’d soon know if the card was real, and if it was a fraud I figured he’s earned $5.

So I gave him the $5.

“Thanks, Man. I swear it’s real. I play along here all the time. I can’t risk my reputation.”

A couple of minutes later I made my purchase. I used the card for part of it.

It was real.

DE

(image)http://champ.d.umn.edu/sites/champ.d.umn.edu/files/styles/hero_interior_710x326/public/umd_interior_home/northern_shores_coffee_shop.png?itok=SorWnqf6

A Badger Takes A Languid Stroll Through A Graveyard

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It was a sweltering day, which August sometimes keeps in reserve. There was no mad walk in the noonday sun for me. I waited until some semblance of evening appeared before I went outside.

It was to be a brief walk, twenty minutes or so. Through a graveyard, along city streets, crossing the “Bridge To Nowhere” (a pedestrian bridge over four lanes of traffic) to watch the broad river. Then back.

As I walked through the historic graveyard (more than two centuries of the dead) I saw an animal deep among the grave stones. Larger than a cat, smaller than a dog. I went to investigate.

I was reasonably close when I realized it was a badger. Not a beast to toy with. They can be vicious, so I was careful to keep my distance. Feet and toes in sandals might be too inviting. The badger kept a close eye on me as we approached each other.

I reached the point where I had decided to go no further. When I stopped, the animal made a quick run and disappeared under a gravestone. It was a long stone, flat to the ground, covering the length of the grave. On closer inspection I noted burrow holes at either end of the stone. Entrance and escape when necessary.

I had the desire to investigate further, but good sense and the heat of the day dissuaded me. I listened a moment for any rustle underground. Any gnawing on bones. However, I wanted my own fingers and toes intact. I left, pondering what its burrow might consist of.

DE

(image)https://s3.amazonaws.com/gs-waymarking-images/c00591ee-0251-4bf2-a8fa-271ba4f2898d.jpg

Pictures With Banff & A RobinThis week’s best under #Canada (20 Photos) — theCHIVE

via This weeks best under #Canada (20 Photos) — theCHIVE

This weeks best {Maybe} photos under #Canada (24 Photos) — theCHIVE

From country to city. Not my personal choices, but there is still much that is interesting and evocative.

DE

via This weeks best photos under #Canada (24 Photos) — theCHIVE

Lock Up Your Sailors – Daughters On The Loose In Town

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I http://www.searlecanada.org/volturno/images/sailorWW1postcard2.jpg

Sailors from ten or more countries were in Halifax a few years ago, to participate in a fleet review for the Canadian Navy’s 100th Anniversary. HM Queen Elizabeth took the review from a Frigate plying the harbour.

As I walked myself up the hill from the harbor, I fell into step behind a couple. They were in their late teens or early twenties.  As we ascended, a Military bus descended. Because this happened in real-time, I can not be certain of what exactly occurred, though the gist is certainly true.

The young lady shouted something at the bus. It, in truth, did not sound derogatory but, shall we say, encouraging. When the incident was over, I noted she wore a T-shirt which proclaimed, over her ample bosom, NAVY. It is possible this is what she shouted. It is also possible she shouted BABY. There was an “AY” at the end of the word. And – yes – although this is Canada, she did not just shout “EH?”

As the bus passed me, and thus was nearly past the couple, an American sailor in his whites put his head out a window and shouted “I’ll be your Daddy!” The bus was not moving quickly, and the male of the couple in front of me took umbrage. He started toward the bus.

He yelled.

“What?”

“Excuse me”.

“What did you say?”

The sailor was still looking from the window. There was a lot of laughter from the rest of the bus. The male stepped from the sidewalk and started toward the bus.

The ample female in her NAVY T-shirt grabbed his hand and pulled him back.

I thought this a wise decision.

We all continued on our way.

DE

Eagle And Crows Face Off By A City Graveyard

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I http://www.naturebob.com/zenphoto/cache/Birds/hawks-and-eagles/bald-eagle-and-northwestern-crow_595.jpg

I was within three minutes of finishing my daily walk.This particular route takes me through an historic graveyard in the centre of the city. The graveyard encompasses two city blocks and is surrounded by a metal fence. One walks through a gate, along a cement path, and through another gate. The second gate is three minutes from my residence.

I was part way through the graveyard when I saw a group of people crowded together near the path. I assumed it was a group of youth, who often use the graveyard as a ‘park’. I assumed they were just hanging out, but i did keep an eye on them. When I was close enough I realized it was a film crew of seven or eight. They were clustered around a boom camera, one which can rise to a moderate height. As they were directly across from an historic cairn, I thought they might be filming some sort of documentary, and photographing the cairn. I passed them by, making a point not to gawk.

Just past the other gate I was about to cross the street. As i looked both ways for cars I saw, about five car lengths away, a bald eagle standing on the pavement. if one can not ‘literally believe their eyes’, this was the time for me. However, realizing it was there, I figuratively rubbed my eyes. It was standing stock still. I immediately thought it was a) stuffed and b) it was some sort of prop for that movie crew. Such is the imagination.

Within seconds the tableaux changed. The bald eagle started (or returned to) hopping around. And, now taking in more of what was before my eyes, I saw a crow overhead. The crow was diving at the eagle. Then, as quickly, I saw other crows in the sky, a half dozen or so. They were all circling overhead, and were taking turns aiming at the eagle. The eagle started hopping around even more.

I do not know what had happened to make this encounter occur. Now I wondered if the eagle was injured. It was moving slowly and kept its wings folded. The crows were not (I assume – wisely) making contact with the big bird. They were, however, constant and raucous. The term “dive bombing” comes to mind. The eagle became more agitated.

Without any effort (so it seemed) the eagle lifted into the air. This caused an increase in the vocal alarms of the crows. The eagle started a steady ascent toward the south, looking as magnificent as eagles are supposed to do. All the crows now circled continually, keeping their distance and cawing incessantly. The eagle was soon high above the tops of the trees. It made a slow alteration of course and headed toward the river, which is five blocks away from the graveyard. It kept gaining altitude and the crows kept pursuit. All the birds became too distant to observe.

As they all departed I heard a shout behind me. I turned in time to see the camera on its boom extended high, pointed toward the first gate I had entered. Within seconds a young man was running along the cement path through the graveyard. The camera lowered and tracked him until a voice shouted “Cut!” he stopped right in front of the memorial cairn.

Three minutes later I turned into the driveway of my residence.

DE

Angry Street Fight In The City

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I http://s1.dmcdn.net/KL5-F/1280×720-fVj.jpg

Dusk had already fallen as I stepped from a bus. I was intent about making a close connection to another bus. Haste, in this case, not making waste.

It was an articulated bus – some refer to them as accordion buses – segmented in the middle with three exit doors. They actually do bend in the middle and hold more passengers. I left the bus by the front door and was walking quickly along its length. I was just passing the middle door when, from the last door, two young men (I don’t think they were teenagers) tumbled and shuffled out of the third door onto the sidewalk. They were a few steps in front of me.

One of them was yelling and shoving and swinging at the other.

“Do you want me?”

“Were you looking at me?”

“What is it with you?”

These were the type of questions from the aggressor. He was dressed decently and had a cap. The other fellow (they looked the same age) had a bag over his shoulder and headphones on his head. He was more decently dressed and wore glasses. I took him as a university student. As could have been the other chap.

It appeared something had happened on the bus, though there certainly had been no altercation there. The aggressor was shoving the other one across the sidewalk to the grass verge. His headphones were knocked off and he had trouble holding to his briefcase. The aggressor seemed to just repeat variants of what he was saying. Angry questions.

I was in a hurry. I also did not want to get in the middle of a fight. The police tell us to steer clear and to contact authorities. City fistfights can quickly turn to weapons. I was aware of all this but … I was thinking, well, if that were an elderly person being hit, or a child, or a female, I would have felt obligated to do something. Intervene verbally, at least. Make some commotion to perhaps diffuse the situation. If it was a person being struck who was beyond self-defence, I would have intervened with the supposition that someone else would come to assist. Such thoughts jumbled through my head.

The fellow with the briefcase was on the grass verge, and down he went. He lost his grip on the briefcase. I don’t know if he was struck with such force to make this happen, or if he slipped on the grass, or if he slipped attempting to get out of the way. The aggressor was standing over him and yelling, but he did not (as they say around here) ‘take his boots to him”. The fellow on the ground said: “Corbin, I don’t want to fight with you.”

All this, of course, took place in less than twenty seconds. I had slowed my stride and I was watching, but I had not stopped. That they knew each other (as they say around here) “changed the water on the beans”. In retrospect, I realise I had noticed an element of ritual”about this event. The aggressor had not gone for a blow to the face, and did not take undue advantage now. However, he was still furious.

“You earned it.” He was sputtering. “You deserve it.”

The fellow on the grass scrambled after his briefcase and his headphones. As he got to his feet the other fellow shoved him again. He skittered, but retained his footing and dashed out into the street. The aggressor started to give pursui, but some traffic slowed him just a bit. The other fellow ran along the sidewalk on the other side, then started to walk more normally. The aggressor did not cross the road.

I did get my bus.

DE

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