25 October 2012

Tourists in Checkpoint Charlie

Every time I go to work, I pass by Checkpoint Charlie. This is the (in)famous checkpoint that once was the forefront of the Cold War. The north-south oriented checkpoint was a border between East and West Berlin, and the Berlin Wall used to run through this part of town. The building where I work happens to be located in a block that was adjacent to the wall, in the former East Berlin. So the closest underground station is Kochstrasse/Checkpoint Charlie, right next to the infamous intersection.

When I am early, I don't see them, but when I am not, oh my, this place is surrounded by tourists. They come in buses, in droves, and they're well equipped with large cameras. The actors that are dressed in old-time uniforms are making money out of these tourists, as you have to pay if you want a picture of them. Overall, I just don't understand why a simple wooden shed in the middle of the street, surrounded by kitsch and souvenir shops attract such a massive amount of people. I don't get it.

Perhaps what I don't get is the artificialness of the whole thing. Left and right, there are shops that sell bags where the famous "You are leaving the American sector" message are printed. There are postcards where a piece of "the wall" are attached, but who knows whether those are real or not. There is this very small section of the Berlin wall, which is now full of grafitti, but tourists still queue and take a picture of it. I almost wanted to tell them to go to the East Side Gallery near Warschauer Strasse instead, and that's a bigger and more preserved and prettier sample of the Berlin Wall.

I don't know. I do realize that Checkpoint Charlie is historic, and that it was once an important part of the history of the city. But I have this idea that the way people are treating it right now makes it look like the past has been trivialized, in one way or another.

(The Greenery, from my Central Park Series)


  1. I think I would like to visit it though, as weird and artificial as it seems (okay, I wouldn't buy the souvenir!). My generation (well, ours!) still remember when the wall fell... seems like not long ago, in European history.

    1. Zhu,

      Oddly enough, this was the first piece of news that I could clearly remember. I remember reading the newspaper back in 1989 (I was 7) by laying it on the floor spreading it out (I felt that the newspaper was so big I had to do that to read it), and saw pictures of people standing above the wall as they were celebrating.

  2. Where there are tourists, there will always be a way to earn money from them. There will always be souvenir shops nearby. Sadly that's how the state of "points of interest" has become.

    1. TNP,

      I know, but it doesn't have to be. It reminds me of how Niagara Falls is currently being treated too. Some points of interest just become so trivialized that it becomes a tourist trap.