Many of my long-term and closest friends are fellow USAF veterans who were stationed with me in West Berlin. I can neither confirm nor deny what we did for a living while there, but we had to sign paperwork saying that we would not reveal the substance of what we did. The contract had a specified time period: ten years.
Well, the end of that ten years can’t even be seen in my rear-view mirror, but I wouldn’t dream of boring you to death with the particulars of my old life; other topics, yes—as you have already discovered—but not that one. I’d be boring myself.
At any rate, before the 1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall, no US military personnel could visit the USSR or any Warsaw Pact nation without permission. So we were always so curious about the countries. We knew that most of it was a feces-hole, but we only got glimpses of just how bad it was when we’d go on East Berlin shopping trips. Conditions for that: everyone’s name on a list to be provided to the East German Authorities days before the trip; everyone had to be in class B uniform, no less than 20 on a given trip. I still have a few of the trinkets I bought and even an Eastmark or two lying around. This describes things accurately.
The contrast to the West was striking. There were hardly any people walking around. Almost no cars on the streets, certainly none like our VW cabriolet. We drove around, stopping to look at various sites. You dad was convinced we were followed everywhere. We were only allowed into certain shops, and not many at that. The shops mainly sold gifts; chessboards with hand carved pieces, Russian dolls, that sort of thing. People weren’t generally talkative, but someone said that most of the ‘gifts’ were made by Russian prisoners in the gulags.”
The point is that there is a huge slab of Europe that, because of the Cold War, several generations of GIs never got to see.
So, today, some of my friends and I were talking about going back to Berlin for visit and going to visit all those countries which in our youth, were forbidden territory; many of our other friends have done this already.
My contribution to the conversation was that we need to get it done before the Germans adopt Sharia.
Would that be something? The EU breaks up; the western part becomes a Sharia super-state; Russia and the majority of the former Warsaw Pact nations become the new Allies, beacons of freedom and capitalism…
Stranger things have happened and are probably occurring at this moment.
UPDATE: Thanks, Sarah. Great minds.
Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel, tentatively titled, Arlen’s Harem, will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.
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