I have arrived in a very grey and overcast Berlin but there is something about Berlin whatever the weather. I flew in with Germanwings, a low cost carrier. I have not flown with them before but they were pretty good.
I am a history buff so its obvious why I like Berlin. If I were to go on Mastermind then one of my chosen categories might be on the DDR-GDR-German Democratic Republic, East Germany.
I landed at Schonfeld which is a real bit of DDR history. This was the principal airport during the short life of the Republic. Only the chosen few (mainly Party bigwigs and DDR friendly country diplomats) got to travel through here.
As I stepped off the plane I imagined Erich Honecker et al seeing the same things as me and then walking off the Party motorcade, blissfully unaware of the plight of their own country. I imagined the spies and double agents all flying in here. Berlin was absolutely crawling with spies and real life James Bonds back in the day.
The train from the airport snakes its way into central Berlin from the East. It reminded me in some ways of parts of the Swansea Valley, an area once rich with industrial manufacturing but now left to decay.
Its not a pretty view for ignorant tourists but those in the know are able to picture the scene as the train ambles closer and closer to the Berlin Wall and the West.
I got off at Friedrichstrasse station, many years ago I would have been kicked off at this point by the ‘Peoples Police’ as this was the end of the line for DDR citizens.
I hopped in a taxi to my hotel. The taxi driver was a talkative one and it wasnt long before he was talking about the DDR. I didnt mention it first honest. He hated it and was telling me how nice it was to have the freedom to travel. He actually went to Sweden for his first trip and described the pleasure of eating a fresh apple. He also went on to talk about the student riots in 1968. He recalled hear the West Berlin students clamouring for change and Maoism but not for Marxism as other students in the West had. The Wessies were way too close to Berlin to actually choose such a system. I told the driver about seeing cans of ‘Cuba Cola’ in a cafe in Sodermalm. We both laughed as we imagined these kind of people living in the DDR. They would be crying out for Coca Cola no doubt.
We joked about how similar Sweden is in some ways with the DDR. The paperwork, the bureaucracy, the red tape, the state interference. However he was quick to point out that the Swedes are able to travel, and have ‘real currency’. He is right of course.
So I need to finish up some emails and then tonight I am off the DDR Museum. I am a collector of DDR memorabilia so this will be right up my strasse. I shall report back.