While I was in Berlin in 1984, we crossed through Checkpoint Charlie from West Berlin into East Berlin. While waiting to pass through the checkpoint, I made this photo of some buildings through the bus window. This was the northeast corner of Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße.
Where West Berlin was a clean, modern city, East Berlin was gray and dingy with many buildings still showing scars from World War II bombings. It was astonishing to me that the Wall went up right down the middle of this street, and that anyone in these buildings had a close-up view of the Wall all day.
Margaret and I visited Checkpoint Charlie on our recent trip to Berlin. It’s a tourist attraction now. All of these buildings are gone; where the “Union Verlag” building stood, you’ll now find a Cold War memorial with lots of photos of this area while the Wall still stood.
Here’s the opposite corner of Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße today.
There’s a little pub in the second building down this street. If you squint, you can see the black umbrellas for its sidewalk seating. We sat there and drank a couple of beers before moving on.
On the street, just a few feet from where we sat with our beers, was this two-block-wide strip of cobblestones. It marks where the Wall once stood.
You’ll find this strip of stones in a lot of places around Berlin. The Wall made a jagged path across Berlin’s north-south axis — see a map here. As we explored this part of Berlin, we came upon these cobblestones in all sorts of places we didn’t expect.
When I visited Berlin previously, I could not imagine this sunny day, drinking beer ten feet from where the Wall once stood. I remember having all sorts of complicated feelings about the Wall when I experienced it — frustration, anger, shame, sadness. I had complicated feelings about its absence, as well — shadows of my long-ago feelings overlaid with triumph and a certain bewilderment that the Wall had ever existed.