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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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Travel But No Sex On The Night Train Of Years Ago

women-in-pullman-section-berths-january-1930-hulton-archive-getty-images_600px

The night train goes between Halifax and Montreal, and Montreal and Halifax. You can’t get there from here in daylight . . . by train. The train chug chug chugs out of Halifax early afternoon, and out of Montreal early evening. The two pass somewhere in Quebec. Arrival in Montreal is early morning (breakfast time) and early evening (supper time).

Although I’ve had some association with trains for decades (the father of a next-door childhood friend was even the conductor on a train) I came to my pleasure and interest in trains from my first trip to Europe. Both in Great Britain, and the continent, I had great pleasure on the trains (much due to the scenery I had never seen). It was really after that first trip that I travelled with any seriousness by train in Canada. And, as I said, any travel from east to west must include the night train to Montreal.

I have been blessed in that I have never had to ‘sit up’ on this trip (though, these days, even that is not too bad). I’ve had berths (upper and lower) and compartments (these days – again – even with their own shower). And I love the dome cars, sitting there for hours even after dark. It is a grand sensation travelling though the darkened forests with often no more than moon light and stars. And the red and green signal lights of the track itself.

Back ‘in the day’ I even almost had a Night train romance.

This was in the upper berths, where nothing more than a curtain flap and a zipper kept the sleepers private. One usually undressed while supine upon the mattress, sloughing off one’s outer clothes.

On one particular journey to Montreal, in the dark of that Quebec landscape, across the narrow aisle, was a beautiful teen-aged gal, not many years younger than myself. And she indicated ‘interest’, with smiles and giggles and some gentle teasing of undress.

However, she travelled with her (I presume) parents, safely ensconced in the lower berths. And Daddy looked as if he:

a) would brook no nonsense

and (more to the point)

b) would cease and desist any interest by me

The sweet lass keep appearing from behind her curtain with smiles and gestures, but finally realized that an athletic leap from my side to hers was neither safe nor wise. We arrived in Montreal as pure as we set out.

*Sigh*

(image)http://www.museumoftheamericanrailroad.org/Portals/0/Gallery/Album/21/Women-in-Pullman-Section-Berths-January-1930-Hulton-Archive-Getty-Images_600px.jpg

Memoir Of The Chickens And The Nazi

racist-grafitti
An Oldie Rock station just played Spinning Wheel by Blood, Sweat And Tears. This always – always – brings back my memories of working on a farm in Germany during my university days. It was a hit of the time.

And, since I am currently well into reading Alan Bennett’s new Memoirs, Keeping On, Keeping On, I did what I have not done for years. I excavated my Journals about my three month summer in Europe, and turned to the day which mirrors this.  And, since it proved to be a notable day, I’ll transpose it verbatim (well, except I’ll clean up the spelling).

18 June

An interesting day, in a rather strange way. I got to work some of the morning with the hired hand, Herr Steiner, alone. He could speak no English and I was surprised that I could converse with him as well as i could (we had lots of time and I could speak slowly and I could think things out. We were, as a point of interest, filling wool sacks.


He told me that he  did not care for the place very much and was planning to leave soon. I can not say that he gave me ideas. I already had them.

And then the other interesting queer occurrence. I am tempted to drag all the dramatic interest I can out of this episode, but I may as well tell it in a simple manner, for it happened in a simple way.

I was going into one of the egg houses to collect the noon-time eggs, and as i stepped through the door, I saw it. Now, I had been collecting eggs there twice a day for two weeks, and had never once noticed what i now saw.

There was a swastika scrawled on one of the walls. It was covered in dust (like everything else) and something beside it has been scratched over. I suppose one can not think of Germany without thinking of the Hitler era, and I had wondered what I would do or think if I came across something like this. I had made jokes about the Bunker on the back forty, or the tattered painting of Hitler in the attic.

I put the thing down to its most logical explanation, the imitative scrawl of a six or seven year old child. Even so, rather bigger thoughts went through my head every time I saw someone use a whip rather forcefully.

DE

(image) https://i.cbc.ca/1.3995470.1487856081!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/racist-grafitti.jpg

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