Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie

Berlin street artDespite my best efforts I woke up at 3am this morning. While laying there not sleeping I did all the jetlag math – how long have I been asleep, what are the odds I can go back to sleep, can I possibly have gotten enough sleep… etc. and yet still couldn’t sleep. I refused to get up before the sun, but after laying in bed – AWAKE – for 2 more hours, I gave in and got up at 5.

My lovely, albeit incredibly early morning, was diminished by the discovery that my internet router had shut itself down in the middle of the night. It was hiding somewhere I couldn’t find it so I finally gave up on being connected to the outside world and just read and drank tea for a couple of hours before going to yoga.

Wow, Bikram yoga in German. That was something. I’ll devote a post to it this weekend.

Post-yoga I found free wifi on the street, as a traveler does, and stood on the sidewalk for 20 minutes checking my email and letting my air bnb host know that her internet wasn’t working. She’s in Australia, btw, so that’s a bit far for IT problems but I have no contact info for her or people here.

Went home, still no internet. Started laundry in my pocket sized washer but couldn’t figure out the various cycles because the dial has no text and instead depends on incomprehensible pictures.

Berlin washer

I think that fluff in the corner might indicate cotton? What do I suppose the ball of yarn and the feather mean? Finally I settled on something that looked like a cold water cycle and it told me I had an 1 hour and 49 minutes until my wash was finished. How in the world does a wash cycle take almost 2 hours?? Although it gave me plenty of time to find internet elsewhere.

Found a breakfast spot called Factory Girl! where the motto is “New York is King but Berlin is King Kong!” I don’t even know what that means but it’s a cute quirky place with what looks like denim pant legs laid over the chair seats. I waited forever for the most picturesque breakfast imaginable

Factory Girl! Berlin

How pretty is that! The caprese-ish omelette and café au lait revived me, as did the free wifi, until I found out that for the second day in a row Microsoft has decided my email is hacked and they’ve shut me down. What’s the security solution to that? A phone call or a text to my American phone. And what does my American phone not receive while I’m out of the USA? Phone calls and texts.

There’s probably nothing on earth that makes me want to go home like a lack of internet and email. I suppose that says terrible things about my character but one can deal with only so much after waking up at 3am.

I finished my breakfast, walked home, got my computer, found yet another café with free wifi and spent an hour with Microsoft troubleshooting my email. By this point it was noon, I’d been up for 9 hours and had basically accomplished breakfast and yoga. I’ve had better mornings.

Which probably explains why I decided to be a big ol tourist and go see Checkpoint Charlie. I figured that there are a lot of serious historical landmarks here so I should get the silly one out of the way.

Checkpoint Charlie

To be fair, Checkpoint Charlie is an important part of Berlin’s history as it was a major crossing point through the wall. But now it’s a giant tourist attraction where those actors in uniform will pose for pictures with you and stamp your passport with fake East/West Berlin stamps. Also, McDonalds.

And the remains of important things like signs

Checkpoint Charlie Berlin

And sad remnants of the wall for photo ops

Berlin Wall

I didn’t expect to enjoy the Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie

Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie

which started as just two rooms in 1962, right after the wall was erected, as a human rights protest. Now it’s a major tourist hub and has expanded to a four floor edifice detailing the entire world history of oppression since 1950 by covering each wall with giant panels of text. That’s a lot of reading my friends…

However, the Berlin Wall is a pretty good example of good guys hanging out while evil flourishes. I mean, I understand why the world was reluctant to strengthen Germany after their part in the world wars but still, 30 years of Soviet oppression? And those 30 years… my God. Just one long dark stretch of demonstrations and riots by the desperate East Germans followed by imprisonment and executions followed by protests and pleading by the West German chancellor to have someone, anyone really, step in and help abolish the Soviet rule.

The madness brought out some real heroes though, like this guy Hasso Herschel who helped over 1000 people escape East Berlin and was better known as a great restauranteur. That’s my kind of guy. Or the diplomats who smuggled people out in the trunks of their cars and the guy who built a zip line with homemade rope “chairs” and got his whole family over the wall. Fantastic stories from a very dreadful time.

I spent a long time in that museum just trying to wrap my head around the sequence of events that led to the building of the wall and then the tearing down. I’m still thinking about it and wondering how many other kinds of oppression are happening right now, the stories of which I might encounter in a museum someday. Sobering.

I bought postcards with alleged pieces of the Berlin Wall attached to them that I’m 99% certain are fake. But still, they stand for a time when the right set of imperfect leaders finally stood up and did something about evil and oppression. And they succeeded.

Checkpoint Charlie Museum

2 thoughts on “Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie

  1. The cotton fluff ball thing is natural fibers. The feather is for delicates. Just above that is the rinse and spin only. Not sure about the rest. I should have given you some Get Some Z’s tea to take with you. Sorry about the jet lag and the internet. Hope you find the modem to re-set.

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