|Allied Checkpoint Charlie, 1988|
In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, bringing much with it. Certainly not the most important, but still significant to readers was the virtual loss of Cold War spy thrillers, my favorite genre at the time. I was fortunate enough to travel to
Germany the year before and spend a short time
in East Berlin. We cried at the wall, marked in places by plain white crosses representing people killed trying to cross.
I went through Allied Checkpoint Charlie, which was a thrill for me, having read about it in so many books. The briefing and debriefing we went through there made it all the more interesting. No matter what happened, we were never to talk to or go anywhere with a German officer or policeman. We were told to say "I want to see a Russian officer," even if we were lying in the street with a broken leg. "Grit your teeth and wait for the Russians." This was something to do with the agreements between the four political powers that controlled
Berlin--Russia, the United States, Britain, and France.
Ri Lamb, our lovely and patient hostess, also showed us the Glienicke Bridge, popularly known as the
because of the
prisoner exchanges that took place there. I read about it through John Le Carré
(in Smiley's People) and Len Deighton
(Funeral in Berlin). Funeral in Berlin was made into a movie with Michael Caine. It's a classic. About 2 minutes in, there's a shot of the bridge. Bridge
|Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church|
We were not allowed to take pictures of any government structures in
Berlin—not that I knew which ones they were—but I can't find a
photo of the bridge among my own, so I included a link to a photo taken at the
Much of the damage from WWII was still visible. The Kaiser Wilhelm Church with its bomb-damaged spire was left standing and became a memorial. We saw the Kempinski Hotel, another place supposedly used by spies. Helen MacInnes, another great writer and favorite, wrote The Salzburg Connection, also made into a movie. My imagination was in overdrive the entire trip. I always wanted to write a spy thriller, but I didn’t (and still don't) know enough to pull it off.
Sniper fire was still evident. The picture of the apartment shows sniper damage around the window. Seeing the results everywhere, from cars with plywood fenders wired to the frame, armed soldiers everywhere (also verboten in photos), and beautiful buildings with missing walls and roofs, brought home the lessons of war and political distrust.
|Apartment, sniper fire|
quite different, peaceful and charming with no reminders of war, but that's another story. I have boxes
of photos and a headful of memories from that trip. I still dream of it and
revisit in old books. I even started a novel set there.
Do you have special places that fire your imagination and make you dream? Do you enjoy reading about them? Writing about them? What were some of your favorite places? Tell us about them and the books you've read or written.