14 Jun 2012

Checkpoint Charlie - where east meets west

"Remember 007, you're on your own..."
In Octopussy 1983, Bond is meeting with M in West Berlin to get a new ID and travel documents in order to travel to East Germany in pursuit of Octopussy's circus. Bond is driven across the border at 'Checkpoint Charlie', the famous crossing between East and West Berlin. This was one of only a few crossings into East Germany that was open to non-German citizens and members of the allied forces and embassies. During the Cold War the checkpoint was a symbol, representing the separation of east and west.

Checkpoint Charlie was located on the border between the American and Soviet sectors of Berlin at Friedrichstraße 43-45. (The other two allied sectors being the French northern and the British center sector.)

Bond's Mercedes is coming in from Rudi-Dutschke Straße and turns right on Friedrichstraße where the allied guard house is located. They are driving past the well-known sign, stating that 'you are leaving the American sector' and in to East Berlin. The film crew could not actually film inside East Germany, so the Mercedes was only driven into No-man's land and just before the East German border, back into West Berlin after the take had been ordered 'cut' by director Glen.

"Here's the ID you'll need: Charles Morton, manufacturer representatives from Leeds, visiting furniture factories in East Germany. Carl will take you in..."
               -M to Bond-

Since the fall of the eastern bloc and the reunification of Germany, Checkpoint Charlie has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Berlin, complete with a replica of the allied guard house and the american flag. The only thing missing is the watchtower and and some East German guards at the other side of the border. The famous sign, even though it is a replica, can still be found on location, not to mention on postcards all over the city.

For obvious reasons the location has changed a lot since the Cold War and the differences between east and west is not apparent anymore. The buildings on the former east side are renovated or new and there is little to distinguish this street from any other in Berlin. Sadly the iconic watch tower on the east side, seen in the top picture, was demolished in 2000 to make way for new offices and more shops but the poor financial status of Berlin has not yet resulted in any new buildings at the site. There is also a museum just opposite the checkpoint guardhouse (on the former west side) and a smaller 'open air exhibition' with pictures and a piece of the wall to the right (on the east side).

The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 due to the fact that almost 20 % of the population in East Germany (DDR) had fled to the West. Many attempts to escape and several incidents did occur during the 28 years of separation. Throughout Berlin you can find various memorial sites over people who were killed trying to escape as well as a line through the entire city, marking the original route of the wall.

The only tribute paid to the fact that Bond was here on location in 1982 can be found in the lunch restaurant 'back-factory' on Friedrichstraße where an entire wall has been dedicated to Octopussy and Sir Roger, with a big screen TV showing the film and a model of Acrostar hanging from the ceiling. Here you can have a quick lunch with a nice view over the place that once was the center and very symbol of the Cold War.

Ian Fleming is also writing about this area in The Living Daylights. In his novel, similar to the film, Bond is watching over a defection from the east. Unlike the film all the action takes place in Berlin. Bond is hiding in a building located where Kochstrasse meets Wilhelmstrasse and the man who is defecting is coming supposedly from the eastern side of Wilhelmstrasse. Of course all the rubble and old buildings that Fleming described in the novel are gone...

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