36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 352: East Berlin


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 352 — East Berlin
19-Jul-1972 (Wed.)


TV Tower in Alexanderplatz, East Berlin
TV Tower in Alexanderplatz East Berlin


Left my room. Said goodbye to Frau Artzt. Without her help, the week would have been certainly less good.


No trouble going through border. A little wait. Only had time to walk around the tourist area. Was very surprised, this part was all built up and fairly nice. The drabness is not as apparent here because buildings are newer. (Advertising has something to do with livening it up.)

Saw Pergamon Museum. Unbelievable, in that the Greek ruins are inside the building.

For me, the Museum of German History was much more interesting. Very heavily filled with propaganda. Their history is all told in the struggle of wars, and people of course—Marx, Engels, and Stalin—are held up big. Hitler, of course, is not!

The color red is seen quite a bit.

There was also one other interesting thing. A memorial to those who died under fascism. There are two soldiers who always stand guard—in memorial. The thing I didn’t like was that some tourists heckled them. When they marched in a changing of the guard, they used the Hitler-ish strut.

Met a couple of students in the center. Had a nice conversation (in German). They don’t really like it there, even though they say that life isn’t too bad. Mostly because they want the freedom to be able to go anywhere they want. They wish they could go, even if just for a visit, away. They also don’t like the drabness of the life. I will write to them with cards. One, especially, wants one of Broadway in New York.

It’s amazing how many people think that way (it’s natural of course). Freedom is an inborn type of desire that must be in every person.

Well, after quite a bit of walking around. Very clean, nice, and modern. Went back to Berlin.

Leaving for Munich, perhaps just to travel through.


Leaving the pension. I’m leaving wonderful Frau Artzt at the pension. Through her kindness I save a little money. I thank her for her generosity. I probably placed my suitcases in the West Berlin train station. I’m off to East Berlin for the day.

Checkpoint Charlie. I was very surprised that I didn’t write about Checkpoint Charlie in the journal. I remember going through the checkpoint at the American sector—where you go from free West Berlin to communist East Berlin. The Berlin wall, seen earlier in the journal, was the amazing symbol of repression that divided the principle of freedom from that of oppression. On this summer day, I am the tourist, with camera and lenses around my neck, walking through the dead-man’s zone between the two Berlin Walls that separated the two Berlins.

Going through Checkpoint Charlie
Going through Checkpoint Charlie

Off the path. Another journal item that I didn’t write, but that I remember, was my wanting to see the “real East Berlin.” I remember walking down the main tourist boulevard in East Berlin heading towards the main center of “modern” communist Berlin, symbolized by the tall communications tower, and then going off-track by a street or two and walking down the “normal” street towards the center. I don’t remember much detail but that it was not as fancy as the tourist area. In my youth, I was not worried about being robbed, despite my cameras and being the tourist, or that I could be whisked off the streets by the secret police for wandering off the tourist path.

Pergamon Museum. Why was this museum named after a city in Greece? For one thing, the museum had a full-size replication of the Altar of Pergamon displayed within the museum. (See photo below.) Amazing. The museum included other life-like displays and fascinating relics of antiquity.

Museum Island. This was a series of museums clustered together. In addition to the Pergamon, I saw the Museum of German History which, at that time, included the representation of Germanic nationality from the viewpoint of the eastern bloc—there was much communist propaganda espousing the communist view of history. As a patriotic American, I didn’t like this communist rhetoric but I was glad that I saw it.

Soldiers. One item that bothered me a little was the heckling, by tourists, of the soldiers that were at the Memorial to the Fallen Soldier in East Berlin. A soldier follows his duty and orders. There is no need to heckle them. Perhaps underneath the uniform, they want to escape to West Berlin as well. However, the “goosestepping” march seen in East Block countries is a bit unnerving. Regarding the soldiers, I can understand that people don’t like the symbols that represent repression.

Memorial to the Fallen Soldier
Memorial to the Fallen Soldier 01

Modern East Berlin. I remember that the “tourist” area of East Berlin was extremely large, clean, and very modern. The government built it up to impress tourists. In the slides below, you can see the Alexanderplatz (wide plaza) and the TV tower, and several other photos of this East Berlin modernity.

Two East Berliners. I also remember sitting in the wide plaza and meeting two students. They knew I was a tourist and we started talking. Then they asked me if I had a car—that surprised me. Then we parted. To this day, I wonder why they asked me that question. I suppose they just wanted to ride around in a car, and not attempt to make a dash across the border—getting us all killed in the ensuing shootout. I did get their addresses and send them postcards of America, which they wanted. As always, the meaning of “freedom” is always most appreciated when you visit societies where true freedom does not exist or is restricted. These two students probably just did want freedom.

Off to Munich. I leave East Berlin and head back to West Berlin where I am taking the train to Munich. How long will I stay in Munich? Uncertain.

East Berlin photos. Since I have many photos of East Berlin, I will place them below. Enjoy.

Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie 02
Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall 01
Berlin Wall 02
Walking through East Berlin
Walking through East Berlin 01
Walking through East Berlin 02
Walking through East Berlin 03
Memorial to the Fallen Soldier
Memorial to the Fallen Soldier 02
Memorial to the Fallen Soldier 03
Pergamon Altar in the Pergamon Museum
Pergamon Altar in the Pergamon Museum
Alte Nationalgalerie
Alte Nationalgalerie
Museum of German History
Museum of German History 02
Museum of German History 02
Alexanderplatz 01
Alexanderplatz 02


Pergamon Museum in Wikipedia
Pergamon Altar


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