In what had been the communist east, the buildings were drab, especially the grey-brown blocks of apartments which had been built for the working class. Even the famous ‘Unter den Linden’ avenue was almost deserted, and Potsdamer Platz, once the social and shopping hub of pre-war Berlin, was said to be the biggest building site in Europe.
The pre-war buildings had been reduced to rubble by bombing raids in World War 2, and the huge open square was left derelict, as it contained the border between the east and west sectors of the city. After 1961, the Berlin Wall was built right across the square. Only after the fall of the Wall in 1989 did any new building start, and now Potsdamer Platz contains many new office buildings, shops, restaurants, and entertainment complexes.
One of the most well known places of the ‘Cold War’ was Checkpoint Charlie, the only place in the city where foreigners and member of the Allied Forces could cross into the eastern sector. One member of our tour group had served in the RAF and was based near Berlin. He told us how they used to go through the checkpoint to various restaurants in the eastern sector. It was the first time he had been back to Berlin since the wall came down, and he stood wide-eyed watching the traffic now flowing freely along Friedrichstrasse, and said, “I can hardly believe what I’m seeing.” The line of the wall is marked by a double row of cobblestones.
|The site of Checkpoint Charlie in the 1990s with the original sign |
and East German watchtower (on the right)