Berlin Kreuzberg – Travel Notes – Before and After the Fall of the Berlin Wall
In the three year time span of my first Berlin visit temperatures hovered around always under minus twelve, even minus thirty. I worked outside in these conditions sweeping snow off the streets for a month. Travel out of Berlin was by default limited. Early on I travelled by train to Berlin across East-West borders.
Not by air – Templehof was still an American airbase and Shonefeld still in the east. In 1978 I met a group of English graduates in Berlin. They were reading Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood which seemed to have drawn them to Berlin. My value was my ortskentnis – local knowledge and German which I had learnt living on a Fabrik Étagère Wohngemeinschaft (Commune), from Kreuzberg street life and intercourse with a broad section of Berliners, many of whom were émigrés from abroad or West Germans avoiding conscription. Speaking German exclusively, for 1 year one is forced to learn. The ringleader was Martin Rimmer from Newcastle who, like me, taught English. Anna Bennent a Swiss/Berlin actress, was his girlfriend. Together we visited contacts in Kopernick. We were told to speak softly because the Informal Mitarbeiter (IM) syndrome and Stasi students were in the same whonblock. Köpenick is outside the Berlin we were allowed to visit over Checkpoint Charlie. Köpenick: home of The Captain of Köpenick and the scene of scuffles between Communists and Fascists. My next trip was to Rupolding in Bayern with the Marianfelde group. Apart from a few visits to Alexanderplatz, and slowing down at decommissioned U-bahn stations under East Berlin, like Stadion der Weltjugend, the only other impressions of East Germany were by car or trains to West Germany. (Hamburg, Amsterdam and Calais). Border crossing Spandau by night in winter via snowdrifts from Hamburg for example.
On my second visit to Berlin c1990 the Berlin Wall was no more. I delighted to walk obscure zigzag sections where the Berlin Wall had stood. Early on cross border gaps in the train network had not been re-instated. From Zehlendorf to Rangsdorf and Zossen were now possible from Yorkstrasse. One was now able from Wansee to travel the waterways of Spree-Havel via Kaputh, residence of Albert Einstein. Through Allees by car and by train I visited Brandenburg, and Mecklenberg Vorpommern, and the Baltic coast. Via Prenzlau to Stralsund, Zossen, Hiddensea and Ruegen. And Prague by Autobahn and Eisenbahn. I also visited Stetin and Warsaw.