Saturday, July 10, 2010

Berlin: Checkpoint Charlie

Another attraction I wanted to see in Berlin was Checkpoint Charlie, the place during the cold war where one could pass between East Berlin and West Berlin. I started by getting off the metro at the Kochstraße station and headed from the west side to the east side. There is a museum and numerous gift shops. There is also a portion of the Berlin wall to view.

Approaching the east side, one sees a portrait of a Russian soldier and a sign reminding that you are leaving the American sector.

From the opposite side one sees a portrait of an American soldier. Also on the west side is a McDonald's and Starbucks...

At the checkpoint there was an "American soldier" (which I assume was an actor) that was there to pose for and with tourists. Since he thought the tourist he was posing with was from India, he was playfully chanting "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna..." The tourists seemed to grin and bare it...

The east side, as the side reminds us, is supposed to be a profit-free sector. This is not the case anymore, as I soon discovered...

There were a few street vendors (in addition to the many gift shops) selling "communist era" souvenirs. I saw and wanted a small soviet star pin with a hammer and sickle. I asked how much. "Five euro," was the reply.

"Wow, that's more expensive than I thought," I replied.

"OK. Four euro."

Laughing, "No. No thanks..."

"OK. For you, three euro."

"I will think about it..." I left and took some more photos of buildings. The architecture between east and west is very different. After a while I returned to the vendor thinking I would offer two euro for the pin.

He saw me, picked up hat with many soviet style pins and said to me, "Forty euro!"

"I don't want the hat..."

"OK. Thirty-five..."

"But I really don't want the hat..."

After a short pause and a sigh, "For you, only thirty euro."

"But I really only want the small pin..."

"Look at all the pins on the hat," he said and then counted them. "Twelve pins. It is a great deal."

"Is the hat authentic?"

"Yes, of course," he said, showing me a date stamp inside (1984).

"But the hat is too small for me..."

"No, it fits perfectly," he said, placing the obviously too small hat on my head. The hat fell off and he said, "OK. For you, only twenty five. Only twenty five euro..." He saw the hesitant expression on my face and sighed again. "Twenty euro."

"Will you throw the pin in as well...?"

He shoved the hat in the bag, made a big production of removing the pin from its display, threw it into the bag and shoved the bag into my hands.

"You are a good salesman," I said.

"You are a good customer. You will bring me luck. You are my first customer of the day."

It was past three in the afternoon. And now I had a hat that I really didn't want... So much for the profit free zone. But he did allow me to take his picture.

If you see this man, please give him my best regards.

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