Checking out Checkpoint Charlie #SundayTraveler

Last time I went to Berlin, I didn't go to Checkpoint Charlie, and it's something I am really hoping to do this time around.

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best known crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Everyone came through here, including JFK. In fact during a particularly tense moment in October 1961 where his and Nikita Krushchev's tanks faced each other, it was thought that World War III was going to start. The sign, pictured below, became a symbol of division. Until November 9th 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, this was the border between West and East, Capitalism and Communism.

Checkpoint Charlie

A hugely popular spot for tourists to visit, there is actually little here now to recall the atmosphere of the Checkpoint pre 1989. A lot of debating went into what should remain for Berliners, and tourists, to see. The wooden barracks where visitors the Russian sector reported for vetting was removed. The guardhouse that stands there now is a reconstruction (the real thing can be seen in the Alliierten Museum) and cobblestones mark the exact spot of the former border. The sign is also a copy of the original, and the original one can be found at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.

Ironically, these days the checkpoint is more of an entrance than an exit. Friedrichstraße is a street lined with Manhattan style offices and buildings designed by international architects. It's the fruit of the millions of corporate investment into the area in the 1990's. There is even a MacDonalds and a Starbucks at Checkpoint Charlie nowadays for the ultimate in irony. 

Checkpoint Charlie
Source


Have you visited Checkpoint Charlie? What did you think?






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Comments

  1. damn Starbucks are everywhere :-)

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  2. It must be strange to see the checkpoint in the middle of a busy, open road with a McDonalds - but it's also a cool comparison between the city today and it's history. I'd like to see it for myself.

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    1. Right? My friend who I will staying with told me she walks by it ALLL the time because it's right near where she lives. Apparently there's free WiFi there, too!

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  3. Have you visited the nearby museum as well? Truely brilliant: it shows all the ways people tried to smuggle things, or themselves, to West-Berlin. (It's across, ugh, Starbucks)

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    1. Neither yet, when I visit next week if my friends are both up for it maybe we will visit the museum.
      Yeah, I hear Starbucks used to be called Café Adler and reporters used to smuggle things in and out and listen to things going on at the border there!

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  4. Berlin has to be one of my favourite cities... Great combination of history and culture! :)

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    1. Mine, too, I am excited to go back.

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  5. I've been there two times but I didn't really enjoy it because it was so touristy. Crowded street full of tourists and souvenir shops and you have to pay a good amount of money to get a picture with a soldier. Not my kind of thing. There are other sights in Berlin focussing on the separation of the country that are much better and less cheesy ;)

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    1. I've been before, and already seen the Wall, Bradenburg Tor, the hotel where Michael Jackson hung his baby over the balcony (all the important things). Touristy, yes, but historically important, too. Also, I found out it is super close to my friends flat that we're staying in, so we'll be in the area anyway. I like cheesy. I am planning a trip through Italy and I am making sure my trains change in Pisa purely so I can get out and go get the cheesy picture of me pushing the tower back up. Yup.

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  6. We were just talking about the Berlin Wall and the border during dinner today. I was wondering how exactly it ended up being where it was, so I think I'd go and visit just to find out more information. I didn't picture the Checkpoint in the middle of such a busy street, and I certainly wasn't expecting a McD's or Starbucks there.

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    1. Good question, keep an eye on my blog for the next couple of weeks and maybe I'll be able to answer that for you, Michele :)

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  7. Sammi, it’s great to see that you made it to Checkpoint Charlie this time around. It really has become quite a tourist attraction as it is the only remaining memorial of the 13 or so former checkpoints. You are right that it is a shame that it looks out of place nowadays, but at least they kept this little piece of history alive…

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    1. I haven't been *yet* Dennis, this weekend coming is when I go :) I am excited to see it for sure. I didn't even really know about it until recently.

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  8. Very interesting post. It is amazing how many historical places disappear over time!

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    1. Thanks, it sure is. A town near where I live had a hotel that Thomas Hardy lived in for years. Instead of preserving it, these days it's a 99p store.

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  9. I too still have to visit the Checkpoint Charlie. I usually visit Berlin every year, but it's always on business. And I never have enough time to see everything I'd like to. Maybe next time.

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    1. Maybe- this is my second trip to Berlin, I loved it the first time. I just remember feeling lost because the city felt so huge all the time I was there. I hope I don't feel that this time, particularly since I am making my own way on the trains and u-bahn to my friend's flat!

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  10. Hi Sammi, Enjoyed seeing this update. I had covered the falling of the wall and Berlin's first free elections. That night, seeing the American GI and his smiling face inside the tiny "Charlie" hut made me feel all warm and cozy, secure in an otherwise stark and uncertain environment.

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    1. Lisa- I take it this means I definitely figured out how to allow everyone to comment? I am pleased to see you here :)

      Wow! That's amazing, I can't believe you covered it. Someone else asked me in the comments here how the border came to be where it was, do you know? Sounds like an incredible experience, such a great memory.

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  11. I've been to Checkpoint Charlie and it's kind of strange. For such an incredibility important part of history, its been reduced to nothing more than an attraction for people to gawk at. The guards that stand there are purely for people to snap photos of and surrounding it are all sorts of souvenir shops and businesses (I even used the wifi in that McD!). I'm not saying it's bad exactly, it's just very weird.

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    1. It's kind of surreal, actually. Now I've been. I definitely wasn't disappointed by it, but it was super weird.

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  12. Gah, how does Starbucks make the cut here? I have never been, but considering it is so important I prob should make the effort one day.

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    1. There are two on the same street, one on the left about 2 blocks up from the Checkpoint and one about half a block down from the Checkpoint.... and a McDonald's. It is definitely something to see.

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  13. I've never been but I'd love to. I love history. Like others have said, it's kind of neat to see the past and the present together. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

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    1. Yeah, it is for a sure a very diverse area.

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  14. It is really interesting to see a historic relic maintained amongst a modern city!

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    1. It sure is, it is a beautiful memorial of what has happened there. It is just very surreal.

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