In 1971, my parents and I visited East Berlin shortly after my 13th birthday. The adventure was on a whim, but the experience was a “life changer.” If my memories of the city were not so vivid, I would attribute the faded, grey scenes to the camera and film I used at the time. Even the weather seemed sunny on the west — mere feet from the wall that separated the sectors. Shortly after the first picture was taken, we entered Checkpoint Charlie where my Archie comic books were confiscated by an East German guard. My father was more concerned when they took our passports — which were returned. I hoped Betty, Veronica, Archie and Jughead made it to some East German pre-teen’s secret stash of contraband from the West.
UPDATE: I have added a photo from our visit to the Hotel Berolina at the bottom of this post. Excerpt from fascinating article about why we were encouraged to visit (link below).
“At first glance, Interhotel was a chain, comparable to Hilton or Radisson. But since the GDR was a socialist state, this chain was property of the government. The remarkable thing about them was that the beloved workers and farmers of the GDR weren’t supposed to stay in the hotels; they were mostly designated for the upper-class of the country and guests from non-socialist states. It was an easy way for the government to earn the foreign currencies it so desperately coveted, since the D-Mark was not accepted in the Interhotels. At the same time, the Ministerium of Staatssicherheit, better known by their secret intelligence service Stasi, made sure everything that happened in these hotels was monitored. There are even confirmed stories of Stasi members who pretended to be prostitutes in order to place western guests into compromising situations.”
Photographed with a Kodak Instamatic camera and Ektachrome slide film.