|Potsdamer Platz East Berlin 1984|
here. The train was boarded and documents checked at various stages and and there is the stark message telling us that between Helmstedt and Marienborn we should look out on both sides for guard dogs, barbed wire, minefields and watch towers.
The overriding impression from the train windows of the East was of an austere, colourless and gloomy landscape. The contrast on arrival in West Berlin came as a relief. We were able to see the sights of East Berlin but we were ferried around in a military coach from which we were not allowed to alight and which once more came under scrutiny constantly. We were told to hold our British passports up at the coach window and were not allowed to show anything else.
At the famous 'Checkpoint Charlie' we were warned that we were 'Now leaving the American sector' as can be seen on the sign on the right of this picture. This was a crossing point in the Berlin Wall for foreigners and members of the allied forces. It frequently features in spy books and movies.
Brandenburg Gate, was enclosed and inaccessible, sited next to the wall itself. I was only able to photograph it through the windows of the coach, hence the reflections of buildings and trees, which add to the ghostly and unreal feel. The gate dates from the 18th century, and was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace. Over the years it was the site of many historic events and stood as a symbol of a tumultuous Europe. Since the fall of the wall, only five years after these photos were taken, it once more represents a time of European unity and peace.
Neue Wache. In 1984 it still represented a memorial 'to the victims of Fascism and Militarism'. After re-unification it was re-dedicated as 'The Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny'.
During our visit it was guarded by goose-stepping soldiers who made the very ground beneath our feet tremble as they marched past; even the memory makes me shudder.
Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche, nicknamed 'The Broken Tooth' by Berliners and left as a symbol of the ravages of war. The church still stands in former West Berlin, but is currently under new threat from traffic and water damage as this Reuters article explains. Even at that time it was covered in scaffold but was joined by new buildings on either side, also given the nicknames of the lipstick and the powder box, because of their distinctive shape.
The Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park was one of the most moving sights. The monument also served as a tomb for 5000 of the 80,000 Soviet troops killed in the Battle for Berlin in 1945.
All members of the Forces had to wear their uniform whilst on this trip. Here is my husband in front of one of the memorials in Treptower Park.
We did get to see some of Berlin by night. This is Theodore Heuss Platz, where our hotel, Edinburgh House was. I seem to remember we even visited some of the bars and 'nightclubs' very briefly, but this wasn't the Berlin of 'Cabaret'. Recently David Bowie recalled his time in Berlin (from 1976- 9) in his single, 'Where Are We Now?' and he recalls shopping in KadeWe, a huge department store similar to Harrods. He also took the train from Potsdamer Platz, bringing us full circle to where this post began.
That's where we were in April 1984; so where are we now? Well we Sepians are in the best place, as we can visit other contributors to this week's Sepia Saturday and see what they made of the picture prompt. Why not join us? We also have a Facebook group where we share further ideas and pictures.