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Old 07-30-2013, 12:45 PM
 
567 posts, read 354,651 times
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Default Berlin and East(ern) Germany.

I glanced at a map of Germany today and it really struck me how far to the east Berlin is. It looked to be right smack in the center of what used to be the DDR. The eastern half of it belonged to the DDR and you had to take a (few hours?) highway drive through the DDR (crawling with cops desperate to inject western currency into the economy) to get to Western Berlin. Completely enveloped on all sides by the DDR. But it wasn't on the western edge of the DDR, it was right smack in the middle of it?

How does Berlin's geographic position influence eastern Germany today? The east is further behind than the rest, but Berlin is the big A-1 mother-of-them-all city in Germany (so I presume). Do 'the Ossies' benefit from having Berlin in their midst or does what happen in Berlin stay in Berlin (as far as the surrounding geography is concerned)? If it doesn't benefit them really, how does its presence effect them? London's presence within southern England certainly influences it vis a vis northern England, although southern England was fancier even in medieval times whereas I suppose it wasn't until the end of WWII that eastern Germany became what it became.
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Old 07-30-2013, 08:00 PM
 
Location: Lake Forest, CA
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I was in Berlin for 2 weeks last autumn for a visit. It's one of my favorite cities, partially for nostalgic reasons. How far to the east is Berlin? Just one hour to the Poland border, close enough for many Berliners to take shopping visits to Poland and vice versa.

I knew Berlin very well in the divided cold war era of the mid 1970s when I was with the US Army in Germany. I used to drive the 200 kilometer trip to former West Berlin from US Army Checkpoint Alpha in Helmstead to US Army Checkpoint Bravo at the southwest corner of Berlin (Dreilinden Interchange near Wannsee and Potsdam) along the autobahn through the former East Germany. I had US Forces issued license plates on my personal VW in that era, and was never pulled over or bothered by Vopo (DDR Volkspolizei) or Soviet Army Military Police while I was driving through East Germany. There were occasionally Vopo or Soviet MP checkpoints along the autobahn, but when they saw my US Forces issued plates I was typically waved through. I had the necessary US Army travel papers and had to stop at the Soviet Army checkpoints upon entering East Germany from Helmstead and just prior to entering West Berlin. The 200 kilometer trip through East Germany took just over 2 hours, and in normal weather conditions we were alloted 3 hours maximum for the trip from Helmstead to Berlin, and after that someone might come looking for you. I never noticed that the autobahn through East Germany was crawling with Vopo, in fact they seemed rare or maybe they were just stealth.

Most of the present day eastern states in Germany outside of the big cities of Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden are relatively low-key with respect to economic development. Last year I visited the town where my great grandparents were from in Mecklenburg state (Grabow) and it looks like you stepped back in time to the late 1800s. Berlin is the great center of the political, social and economic world in the eastern part of Germany, and for good reason. Lots of jobs, all roads and trains lead there and lots of excitement and entertainment.

Even though Berlin is the political capital city of Germany, I never got the impression that Berlin it is considered as the apex of present day Germany like London is to England or Paris is to France. Berlin has too much competition from Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stuttgart and the Rhine-Rhur megalopolis for economic and social influence in Germany.
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Old 07-31-2013, 05:43 AM
 
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Berlin was once the ultimate centre of Germany just like London is for the UK. However, the total destruction during WWII and the division of the city weakened that position significantly. West-Berlin became part of the Allies sector just like Western Germany, whereas the surroundings and the Eastern part of the city were controlled and heavily influenced by the Soviet occupation. Hence, West-Berlin was some kind of a "Western European" island in the middle of the "Iron Curtain". As recycled already mentioned above, there were plenty of checkpoints at the "German-German" border all over the city; citizens of the Western part were allowed to travel to anywhere they wanted, whereas their counterparts in the Eastern part were only able to travel to destinations within the Eastern/Socialist bloc.

Although, the city is now reunited since the 1990's, the one can still see the differences in each part of town. Former West-Berlin looks like any other West-German or Western European city regarding the architecture and infrastructure, a few outer suburbs still have an American vibe to them due to the U.S. occupation. In contrast to that, many Eastern areas are still characterized by Commieblocks and wide, daunting avenues and squares.

Due to the historical development, the two parts also have a different social structure: the Western part received a lot of immigration, such as from Turkey, Arab countries etc., the Eastern part not. In addition, the latter until now also has a much higher unemployment, deprivation and poverty rate which are all consequences of the isolation and weak standard in the DDR.


All in all, it can be said that there obviously is a significant interaction with the surroundings and Berlin itself, however, it continues to have a certain "unique" and "island" feeling to it. For instance, if you are a tourist staying in vibrant Central Berlin, you could hardly imagine that there is "No Man's land" some 30 miles outside.
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Old 07-31-2013, 05:46 AM
 
Location: San Antonio
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We have more of a North/South divide, than East/West. There are some areas like Dresden and Leipzig which are very well of. And if you compare poorer areas in the North like in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig Holstein, you may find not so many differences.

Berlin is Berlin. The most German States are doing their own thing...
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Old 07-31-2013, 05:53 AM
 
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Coming from Paris late fall 1976 for my military duties in West Berlin I was appalled at the sadness of the city and the terrible reality of the Wall. I visited Berlin again,as a tourist this time, after the fall of the Wall, in summer 1994, and in sunny weather and without these sinister troops all around the experience was very pleasant.
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