Once the symbol of the Cold War, starkly separating the East from the West, today Checkpoint Charlie is a nothing more than a tourist attraction. Or as the Independent deemed it, “a tacky tourist trap.” That said, I still feel it is one of three important sites to visit in order to fully experience the Berlin Wall. (The other two are the East Side Gallery and Berlin Wall Memorial which I’ll blog about shortly.)
At the actual site of the former crossing stands a replica of the simple guard house with mock American, British, or French guard in period uniforms. For a fee, you can take your picture with them and get your passport stamped. The morning we were there, one of the actors looked hung over. All in all, it was awfully cheesy, but simply standing in that spot and experiencing how different it is today is still memorable.
“No, I don’t speak English really – I’m from the Czech Republic,” the young man clad in what looked like a British Army major’s uniform said. “Want a picture?” he asked. “It’s €2.”
~ Tony Paterson, Independent
Here are three different photos of my Checkpoint Charlie experience, hopefully with limited cheese.
Checkpoint Charlie Photo #1. Checkpoint Charlie was regularly featured in spy movies, perhaps because it was the most notable checkpoint along the Berlin Wall. This is the eagle outside the building that once housed Cafe Adler (the Eagle Cafe). It is located right at the checkpoint and was a desirable place for Allied officials, Armed Forces, and visitors to sit, eat or drink, and look into East Berlin.
Checkpoint Charlie Photo #2. A replica of the sign immortalized in John le Carré’s “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” has been reinstalled near the site. The original sign was apparently stolen by an American advertising executive who was living in Berlin in 1990.
Checkpoint Charlie Photo #3. The double row of cobblestones in the foreground indicates where the Berlin Wall once stood. Had I been standing in the location where this photo was taken before the wall fell, I would have only been allowed to return to the Western side if I were an Allied diplomat, military personnel, or a foreign tourist.