One of the places I was lucky enough to visit when I was in the US Army was Berlin. Or more accurately, West Berlin and East Berlin. The city was still divided by the Berlin Wall when I went there with my company in 1985.
We visited Berlin in the summer. There were certain agreements in place at the time between the US, the old Soviet Union, East Germany and West Germany, which allowed us to travel there. Our primary purpose for going to Berlin, of course, was to conduct training in Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT), the military jargon for city fighting.
My first impression as we approached West Berlin by train was an eerie, ominous feeling. The city was walled off and our train was stopped and inspected by East German and Russian soldiers. I wondered back then how much of this was out of legitimate concerns and how much was just harassment by the communist government.
Our days in Berlin were mostly spent training, except for the one day where we took an authorized trip into East Germany (I'll write about this part of the trip in a future post). At night though, we did what young soldiers all over the world do when they have a little money and some time off: party!
We went bar hopping all over the place. I specifically remember visiting the Kurfurstendamm, a famous street with many bars. What I still remember was that there were bars open 24 hours back then. I don't know if that's still true today.
One of the members of our company got into trouble for partying too hard: our Commanding Officer (I'll also write about this in another post in the future)!
Of course, there were lots of other things to see besides the bars and I took in many of the sights. I saw the Berlin Wall. I went to the Checkpoint Charlie museum, which featured exhibits of the many ingenious ways people desperate for freedom used to escape from the communist East German dictatorship. I visited the Brandenburg Gate. I visited East Berlin as well (more in a future post).
I enjoyed my visit to Berlin and would like to go back and see what it looks like now, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification.
Have you ever been to Berlin?
PHOTO CAPTION: The photo is old, but I believe that is Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.
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