Post 494: Germany 1971

I found a couple more photos taken in 1971, one of the clock tower in Kleber Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, and the other at Checkpoint Charlie in West Berlin.

kleber clock tower redo

I lived in the building where the tower is. There was a passageway at street level, under the tower. The unmarried NCOs lived in singles rooms in the section north of the passageway. South of the passageway, the rest of us lived in rooms with up to three other people. We had a separate entrance to our part of the building at the south end.

The building was comfortable if a bit derelict. The West German government paid for remodelling and repainting the place while I lived there, and it started to look fairly decent. The thing I remember most was the endless hot water for showers! I doubt most Europeans would approve of the wanton use of water and energy to heat our shower water, but no one ever commented on our excess.

I feel ashamed now to think of how many long, steamy showers I took before I lived at the apartment on Beethovenstrasse and hearned a bit about the economics of bath taking in Germany. You may recall, we had to plug ten pfennig coins into a gas meter to heat a small amount of water for bathing.

I started out using 50 pfennigs worth (more or less 80 US cents at the time), but learned how I could have a good bath for 10 pfennigs worth if I wetted myself down, soaped myself up, then used the hand shower to finish the bath. When I returned to the barracks at Kleber Kaserne, I did take shorter showers, using the “wet down-soap up-shower down” method. Somebody was paying for all that wasted water and energy used to heat the water…!

checkpoint charlie

There was a museum next to Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall. I must have taken this photo from there. That’s the guardhouse at Checkpoint Charlie on the left. In the background, in front of the wall, there’s a gallows-looking viewing perch so visitors to this famous crossing into East Berlin could look over the wall into the mess that was the DDR, East Germany.

I noticed one of the illustrations in the article in the Berlin Wall link showed a copy of the orders US troops used when crossing from West Germany into West Berlin. I had an old one but couldn’t find it. The thing oddest about travelling to West Berlin was we travelled by night in train cars marked with on the sides with “US Army Transportation Corps”, pulled by East German locomotives. The switch happened at the border when the West German locomotive was replaced with the East German locomotive.

There were US and Soviet officers on the train to verify the travel orders were correct and matched up with the people on board. We were instructed not to get off the train until we got to West Berlin or to take any photos from the train. When the train stopped for any reason, there was a security fence on both sides of the train, and armed East German guards with dogs patrolled the area till the train left.

I remember looking inside windows when the train passed close to apartments, thinking how dull and colorless everything looked.

Berlin and the eastern part of Germany have changed immensely since I was over there. Their current Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is a former citizen of East Germany! Berlin’s been revitalized. The Wall mostly is gone except for remnants, souvenirs I suppose of a nasty time in history. The Reichstag, a burnt-out shell in a weedy field when I saw it, is the seat of government of the new unified Germany, remodelled, revitalized, with a lovely glass dome.