Berlin, West & East, The Wall

Section 3

Berlin, West & East, Driving Around The East

The "East Pass," our card for access to and travel around East Berlin.   We first check in at the Army's Checkpoint Charlie where we receive our briefing booklet and other materials.   Then we drive slowly to the first barrier awaiting the tower guard to admit us to the first checkpoint in the East.   At the first point, we usually wait and wait and wait.   Finally a guard will leave his building and walk around our car, never touching it.   We hold our passes up to the window so that he may see them.   Then turn them over to show the photograph.   When we have guests from outside Berlin, they merely show their passports.   Again we wait and wait.   Finally, we are directed to the exit from the crossing area where we, yup, wait again until the guard feels like opening the barrier bar.   Total time has been as little as ten minutes, and as long as thirty.   During my three years in West Berlin, I made the crossing 87 times.   All but a few were with at least five other members of my organization.   Most were just to go for shopping and dinner.   A few were longer tours as far as Kopenick and the big lake, Grosser Mueggelsee to the east and up to Pankow to the north.   There is a lot to do in the east.   There is the zoo, the live theater, the opera, Treptower Park with the large Soviet Memorial Cemetery, shopping for necessities, shopping for impulse buying of crystal, souvenirs, clothing, food and lots more.   Because we were not stopped and searched like normal tourists to the east, we took lots of East German Marks (EM) with us for paying our bills.   We would convert our U.S. dollars for West German Marks (DM) at our American Express Military Bank where rates were better than elsewhere.   Then we would convert the DMs for EMs at the German Banks in West Berlin at rates ranging from as little as 3 EMs for 1 DM, up to 5 for 1.   The lawful rate of exchange in East Berlin was DM1 for EM1.   At about EM15 for our $1.00, we could buy a lot at really great prices.   Remember that the 1980 Olympics in Moscow was not attended by the Americans (as well as others)?   Well, the Soviets had made up thousands of souvenir items for the Westerners to buy at Western prices.   The Americans did not show up and those who did, did not buy them at the rate Americans usually do.   At a store in East Berlin, that we called "Natasha's," were all of these items on display.   It was a popular store for the Forces, for we could buy all sorts of items a a fraction of the price they were asking in Moscow.   The photos below will show some of the places where we have been.

The Berliner Dom, Berlin Cathedral, had been damaged quite heavily during World War 2.   In 1974 it was still an unused partial ruin.   By 1983, reconstruction had progressed here as well as on other former churches throughout East Berlin. It was built from 1894-1905 replacing the Cathedral built in 1750 by Friedrich The Great.   The Hohenzollern Vault was not accessible at the time, but it contained the coffins of the past three centuries.   They include The Great Elector, the kings Friedrich I, Friedrich Wilhelm II, Prince Louis Ferdinand.   In the background is the Fernsehturm, the Television Tower.

The Soviet's museum in Karshorst, near the Soviets Military housing area.   One of the few places in East Berlin that rarely has American visitors.   Here is laid out the exhibits on the Soviets entry and takeover of Berlin at the end of WW2.   They have all the gruesome photos of the executed top NAZI leaders.   They also show movies of the Soviets's heroic actions in Russian, English and French in a small theater.   In the rear hall, shown below, they have preserved the room to look as it did when they presided over the Surrender of Berlin and Germany in May, 1945.

The Staatsoper, The German State Opera, was one of the first buildings rebuilt from the ruins of WW2, in 1945, and rebuilt again in 1952-55.   The original opera building of 1741-43 burnt down in 1843.   It was rebuilt then and reshaped in 1926-27.   It has three galleries and just 1480 seats.   We saw several operas there, including "Die Hochzeit des Figuro," "Spartacus," "Schwanensee," and "Romeo and Juliet."  And during the intermissions, we always had champagne and sandwiches served in the lounge area.

Alexander Platz, one of the main commercial centers of East Berlin.   On the right is the giant Centrum Department store orignally built in the 1930's, and on the right out of view is the 41 story Interhotel Stadt Berlin, which had a great "Gourmet" restaurant on the top floor and several others at ground level..   On the left is another remnant of the 1930's, the Berlinahaus, which was the town hall of the Mitte Borough.   I could not find more photos of this total area.   It is an awesome locale for the Americans to come and spend the day.   As a matter of fact, to most American military buses and visitors, this was the full extent of East Berlin.   On any given Saturday from about 10 am til about 2 pm, the place was loaded with them.   There is a vehicular tunnel over 300 yards long and stations for many U-Bahn and S-bahn lines that cross there.   Karl-Marx-Allee is the main street along the Alexander Platz.   On the north side of this street, and two cross streets, were numerous specialty stores that featured items such as cameras, optics, records and tapes, leather goods and souvenirs of all types.

The World Clock stands on the Alexander Platz.   It rotates and as it does indicates the time in all 24 time zones of the world.

The Rathaus, the Town Hall of East Berlin is a big building.   It is 325 feet long and 290 feet deep, and has three courtyards.    The tower is 243 feet high.   It was erected in 1861-70 and when built was in the heart of the city, taking the place of its medieval predecessor.   It was badly damaged during WW2, but was fully restored.   We have been in its Ratskeller several times for beer and snacks.

Sowjetisches Ehrenmal, the Soviet War Memorial is in Trepow, and was inaugurated in 1949.   Shown in this view are the large common burial areas where 4800 Soviet War dead, in the Berlin battle of 1945, are buried.   Most of the materials used came from the Reichskanzlei, the old German Chancelery.   It is 550 yards long and 220 yards wide.   Another 200 are buried under the hill as shown on the right photo, called Mausoleum Hill.   At the top is a 42 foot high statue of a Soviet warrier holding a child in his arms and resting his sword on the smashed swastika.

  Inside the structure is a mosaic frieze that shows representatuives of the sizteen Soviet Republics honoring their dead.   There is a book that has the names of those that have fallen.

The Church of Reconciliation, an Evangelical, on Bernauerstrasse is today no more.   It was unfortunate that it lay in the no-man's land between the inner and outer walls.   It was blown up by the East Germans in 1985.   It was built in 1894 and could hold 1000 worshippers.   It was badly damaged in WW2, but was restored and served as the parish church for the city's eastern sector until 1961, when the wall was started.   We have walked in the cemetery behind the church, just to see what it was like.   But, we were challenged by a border guard, who let us go after seeing our "East Passes."

From the Television Tower's observation platform we took these photos in October 1982.   The top view is looking north, the bottom is looking south.

The Altes Museum, the Old Museum was built in 1824-28, and was opened as the Royal Museum in 1830.   As other museum buildings were built, it was used mainly as a museum of Antique Collections until WW2.   Since its final restoration in 1966, it (in the time we were there 1981-84) housed modern art and collections of drawings and engravings.

The Bode Museum, opened in 1904 as the Kaiser Friedrich Museum.   It was changed in 1958 to honor Wilhelm Bode (1845-1929) who did much to have the Berlin museums gain worldwide fame.   Inside are the Egyptian Museum, Early Christian and Byzantin Collection, the Picture Gallery and Sculpture Collection, the Cabinet of Coins, and the Museum of Pre- and   Early History.   We have visited this museum three times and have yet to see it all.

The Pergamon Museum was started in 1909, but was not complete until about 1930.   There are two display wings coming out of a connecting cross display room.   In this cross room is the huge full sized 394 foot long architectural display of the Pergamon Altar.   It was built around 180-160 BC, and dedicated to the Gods Zeus and Athena as a thanks for their support to the city of Pergamon, located in Asia Minor, against the Galatians.   It was excavated in 1876-86 and moved here by the German Archealogists who found it.   On either side in other rooms are more ancient buildings from Hellenic and Roman periods.   The North wing has the rest of the Antiquities Collection.   That includes Archaic, Greek, Roman copies of Greek, Hellenic and Roman Sculptures.   The South Wing had the Near Eastern and the Islamic Museums.   It is divided by periods such as Chattushash, Tell Halaf, Zenjirli, Sumer, Akkad, Uruk, Babylon, Persia, Processional Way (reliefs), Ishtar Gate (Architectural), Assur, Nineveh and Kalakh.   I have been in this particular museum at least ten times while leading groups on tours of the East.   I have always been amazed at its greatness.

The National Gallery was built in 1866-76 and has the form of a Corinthian temple.   At the top part of the large steps is a statue of King Friedrich Weilhelm IV on a horse.   It contains a few scuptures, but is mostly paintings by   just about every famous German painter.   There are also paintings from the modern East German painters as well.   Some of the more famous of foreign painters are Goya, Degas, Rodin.   All told the paintings represent the works of well over 40 German and 16 foreign painters and sculpturers.   There are numerous sculptures in the gardens around the museum.   One of them is the original casting of Louis Tuaillon's 1895 "Amazon."

Not shown here is the remains of the Neues Museum, the New Museum.   It was built in 1843-59.   It was pretty well bombed out in WW2, and as of the time we were there, was still in ruins.   We heard that it was to be rebuilt sometime and would house the Egyptian Museum.

St. Hedwigs Roman Catholic Cathedral was built in 1747-73.   Frederick the Great had it built in the style of the Pantheon in Rome.   It was destroyed in the WW2, but when rebuilt in 1863 had a different dome and had a cross on the top.

Here is a view of the staircase that leads to the lower part of the church which is surrounded by a number of chapels.   In the lower chamber is also a number of sarcophagi of past bishops, archbishops and a Cardinal von Preysing, who died in 1950.


Produced and assembled 14 June 2002, upgraded 17 January 2006, by that great guy,
Lester Peter Gideon

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