Section 5

West Berlin, Traveling to West Germany

The "Flag Orders," our pass for travel from West Berlin, through East Germany to West Germany.   By car, along the Berlin to Helmstedt Autobahn.   By rail on the U.S. Duty Trains to Frankfurt and Bremerhaven, the British Duty Train to Braunschweig, and the French Duty train to Strasbourg in France.   None is needed when flying from Tegel Airport.   To travel the autobahn, we first checked into the U.S. Forces Checkpoint Bravo in the Nikolassee area.   After a short briefing and check of our orders, we proceeded slowly along the autobahn until we reached a barrier controlled by the Soviets.   As always happens, we wait and wait for them to raise the barrier for us to be admitted to their checkpoint.   We stop the car, get out, show our orders and ID cards or passports to the guard who looks them over.   When satisfied, he waves us into the building of the checkpoint.   We pass the papers through a small slot in the side of the wall.   We never see the other side.   Here is where the ability to show patience pays off.   I have waited as little as about ten minutes to almost an hour here for them to process the orders.   You can tell when it is about time to go, there is a rapid banging noise from the stamping of the orders.   They are passed back, we leave and again wait, but not for long, until the exit barrier is raise.   From here we join the other travelers along the autobahn being careful to make the correct turns to other autobahns along the way until we get to the Marienborne Soviet Checkpoint.   We were not subject to the laws and police of East Germany, but only of the Soviets Military Police along the way.   Never the less we only drove at no more than 100 km per hour.   Many times we would stop in one of their rest areas and have a picnic lunch.   It seemed that always an East German Police car would pull up within sight to observe what we were doing, probably to make sure we did not "kidnap" an East German citizen.   When we reached the Soviet checkpoint the procedure was just the same as starting with just one slight difference.   We found that we might not have to wait long if we offered to buy Soviet Army belt buckles, caps, or patches, which seemed always to be available from the guards at 20 West German Marks each.   We then check in with the U.S. Forces Checkpoint Alpha, give up our travel kit, get stamped out and leave free as a bird in the West (Well, almost free that is!).   Travel on the duty trains is a really great way to get out of Berlin.   The British train is a morning out and afternoon back one day affair.   They serve a really great English breakfast going and a nice English style dinner returning.   The American and French are both overnight sleepers each way.   The French train has a snack car, but the American's do not.   The cost of each is great, absolutely free, except for a small amount on the French train to pay for the few kilometers it travels from the German border to Strasbourg.

Tegel Airport in the French Sector was the only commerical airway in and out of Berlin.   However, the only commercial airlines allowed were those of the three occupying forces.   They included PanAm, British Air, Air France, and an assortment of smaller carriers.   Today, Lufthansa, which before could not land there, is a major airline.

Checkpoint Bravo.   Located on the overpass was the check in and out point for all the U.S, British and French Forces and sponsored personnel.   Your "Flag Orders" had to be error free and could not have any erasures either.   The names had to be spelled exaclty as the identity document used, the auto license had to be of the forces or you were given a temporary set of plates to get you through to the other side.   First timers had a mandatory briefing, while others were optional.   And then you started on your way.

The West German side, Soviet Checkpoint sentry post where you show your orders and ID documents.   When he is satisfied that all is in order, he will wave you on to the Soviets office building where you give up the papers and documents and wait until they get ready to give them back.   I often wondered why they just kept us in limbo for up to an hour or so.   Was it for some reason?   Maybe they had to go through some sort of check with a headquarters somewhere.   Oh, well, we did note that when we buy the buckles from the sentry, things do get speeded up a little.   Even though this photo is of the Marienborn checkpoint, the Berlin side is just the same.

The Soviet Checkpoint at Marienborn.   I remember being in the waiting room when some contractor who was authorized travel came in and after waiting a while started complaining out loud and calling the Soviets not so good names.   I tried to shoosh him.   His response?   "Stupid Ruskies can't understand English."   First off, every Soviet officer speaks fluent English at that post.   Second, they must have heard him, because we waited even longer than normal to get out.   Normally, when in these waiting rooms, nobody says a word to anybody.

Driving along the autobahn from Berlin to Helmstedt is a nice ride. The road is well maintined and the speed limit is 100 km or about 63 mph. And just like everywhere in Europe you will find the police ready and waiting. There are two popular locations for them to have speed traps set up, mainly for the West Germans and their big cars used to unlimited speeds on West German autobahns. They are hidden behind trees with side looking radar devices. About two km further down the road is the spot where the police take the offenders off. The easy way they do it is close one lane, making cars go about 30 km through their checkpoint. The radar unit will radio ahead the description of the offenders and they take them off there. The West sponsored forces are exempt from being stopped by the East Germans, although they sometimes try. However, you are clocked in and out of the Forces checkpoints. Considering the times entered by the Soviets, they do check the time you were on the road. If you get there sooner than the calculated time going 100 km per hour, you may get in deep trouble.

Traveling the autobahn is easy.   All you need do is be sure you are on the correct autobahns at all times.   As you leave Berlin, you turn right, then right, then right again at the various directions signs.   Always will I remember, right, right, right.   From Helmstedt, it is left, right, left (or was it right, left, right).   The top photo here is the sign post showing how vehicles should proceed to the various check points at Marienborn.   We follow the "Military" direction.   The lower photo shows the same as you approach the Berlin side.

Here is one of the rest stops with a picnic area.   There was no restriction on stopping here, but we were not permitted to stop in the rest area with the gas station and restaurant about half way along the route.

Here is the Strasbourg, France, Railroad Station.   The French Duty Train went from Tegel's train station to Strasbourg.   We did it two times and on one trip had a wonderful time walking all over seeing the sights of Strasbourg.   The second time, we came here and then took another train on to Paris.   The French only use one train and make the round trip in 2 nights.

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

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