Passport to the World over 64 years. Pages from my Travel Diary
Tuesday the 10th. of May and several subsequent days in 1963 - Berlin
This wall was erected in 1961, and stayed in place until its demolition 28 years later in 1999. It divided the city of Berlin into two distinct halves, the East under the control of the Communist regime, and the West, a democracy, and a total contrast.
I flew into Templehof airport in a commercial aircraft from Paris. During the last approach to the airport, we were escorted in by two Russian fighters, flying so close, that I could see the faces of the pilots, all very scary.
I was met by Hans Mueller, a local, working for Grace in that city, and then taken to the Berlin Hilton for my stay here. On my first night, Hans and his wife Gretel collected me for dinner at a very swish establishment, complete with a large all female dance band, in full cry. The atmosphere was very much pre war, and Cabaret style, Hans later asked me for my impressions of the place. My response was, there is something different about it all here, but I am unable to actually put my finger on what it is!
Hans smiled, and said "Well! the seemingly all female band, is in fact an all male affair." Quite weird.
I came away from my first time in Berlin with three abiding remembrances.
( 1 ) The utter contrast, of the well being of the West to my apparent run down impression of the East. I could only guage that from my views over the Wall, I was unable to physically visit the East as my passport was specifically endorsed "Not available to visit East Berlin."
( 2 ) The Russian War Memorial dedicated to their success in WW2 was physically located in the Western Zone. It needed to be guarded by West Berlin Police to prevent the local citizenry from damaging it.
( 3 ) The foreboding presence of the East German Armed forces atop the Brandenburg Gate, stark behind the Wall and its maze of barbed wire, squatting right on the border between the two zones of East and West. A wooden viewing platform was erected in front of this landmark on its western side, from this structure, I made a defiant and quite rude finger gesture at the East German guards manning their machine guns on top of the Brandenburg Gate. That moment was very pleasing!
For me, West Berlin stood out like a small beacon, a tiny island of democracy totally surrounded by its sea of Communism, and I was very pleased to live in the West.
My first visit to this fine city has never been forgotten.
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