It was 1977 and I was touring the world. I left New Zealand in April. After a few weeks travelling in a number of countries I arrived in West Berlin. This was during the “Cold war”. I wanted to explore East Berlin; to me it was a must.

I entered East Berlin by walking through Check Point Charlie. The Soviet soldier on duty asked for my passport and I dutifully gave it to him. Then I stood there waiting. It seemed a long wait. He just put the passport down, it seemed not to interest him and he seemed to not care that I was waiting. Then after what seemed ages the soldier returned to me my passport. The ages were in fact only a few minutes but to me being without a passport in a place like this is no fun and in fact could be real dangerous.

I spent only a few hours in Communist East Berlin; I was to explore a city that many Westerners then did not get the chance to see. It was raw excitement as I felt I was in and part of the “Cold war”. My few hours in East Berlin consisted of a lunch at a cafe; the food was sausages that tasted like sawdust; a museum, a lift ride up a tallish tower with views looking out over to West Berlin, a small chat with a man who wanted to give me his money for Western money, a look around a market.

I did have a few insights of the people. What stood out to me was the blank look in the people’s eyes. It was like their eyes were glazed. It was like they were eyes of caged docile sheep with no sparkle to their eyes. They say your eyes are the windows of your soul; then I saw souls that were caged.

It was time to leave. My thought here was to return to West Berlin by another route. I was excited, I was awed by this city and its caged people. I headed for the city railway station, my intention was to rail out of East Berlin to West Berlin. It was a short walk to the rail station. There were two queues; one queue was very long the other queue very short. I joined the long queue not knowing any better. Graciously a person pointed me to the short queue. I was a Westerner we had privileges. Arriving at the counter I handed over my passport; I was waved to the side. I stood feeling a bit discomfort; did I do something wrong? What seemed ages a soldier came up to me and motioned for me to follow him. We walked down a longish corridor. I was not scared. I was still awed by the whole thing. I mean it’s not every day you have to follow a communist soldier in a time of the Cold War in a communist country. We came to a door. We went outside. The soldier just waved his hand and said Check Point Charlie, he left and the drama was over. I walked to Check Point Charlie and my exploring of a Cold War city was over.

On a final note I must point out that most of the buildings I saw in East Berlin looked old and shoddy. I saw many chips out of the brick work and it seemed to me that the buildings still had damage showing from the Second World War. So much for the former Soviet Union and its paradise.

The communists said “Religion is the opiate of the masses”.

I say “Communism is the opiate of the masses helped by large volumes of vodka”.

Yours Sincerely; Lester John Murray



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