Deserted motorway to Checkpoint Charlie

West Germany in blue, East Germany in red and West Berlin in yellow.

West Germany, blue, East Germany, red, and West Berlin, yellow.

One of the interesting things about West Berlin was that it didn’t sit at the border of West and East Germany, as you might expect, rather it was entirely separated from West Germany and deep in the heart of East Germany.

I first discovered this through my father, Gin and Tonic in hand, retelling how he’d visit West Berlin while he was stationed in West Germany by driving over the border between the two countries and then taking the lone autobahn–motorway–that was open and used to connect West Germany with its distant satellite.

It could be a rather spooky experience, according to my father, as he’d often find himself the only car on the road while traveling through what was in effect enemy territory, with lookout towers manned by soldiers at machine guns dotting the route.

Once in West Berlin he could relax, away from the gaze of the lookout towers and back among the Western powers. That was until he’d go to Checkpoint Charlie, where the Russian soldiers would check his documents, give him a surly salute and let him pass through into East Berlin and that bit of the map which was thoroughly red in color and temperament–for the time being.