Not a Mata Hari.

7 Mar

Speaking of Dresden…Oh, were we speaking of Dresden? Dresden is the place where I will not be traveling this summer.  However, in thinking about my days there in 1971, I wanted to finish the story of my visit.  I spent a pleasant although wary three days there in 1971.  Wary because it was at the time of the Russian occupation, and Dresden was located in East Germany, the enemy of the West.  I had the necessary documents in order to travel into the Communist ruled section of Germany, and I traveled there with a clear mind. When I left the city, I took the train that would take me back to West Germany, specifically to Rüdesheim am Rhein.  I was near the end of my six-week grand tour of the continent and was looking forward to spending my final days discovering Paris, The City of Lights.  When my train arrived at the border between East and West Germany, the train stopped so that officials could check passports.  I sat and waited while they combed through the railroad car and finally got to me.  The East German official looked at my passport and frowned.  He indicated that I would have to come with him and get off the train.  The alarm bells in my head started ringing.  They pulled me and my suitcase off the train and took me to a small station house some yards away from the railway line.  I knew so little German, almost none.  And they did not speak English.  To say that I was scared when they took my passport away would be an understatement.  I sat alone in that hut for what was close to an hour, and I knew the train would be leaving soon.  I wanted to be on it, and I thought about all the people I would never see again. Soon, the train engines roared on and I feared I was lost. However, suddenly the official appeared again with my passport, gesticulating and pointing out a certain page.  He kept repeating “Polizei!” (Police!)  As far I as could understand, he was indicating that I was supposed to have registered with the police department in Dresden, something I had failed to do.  He had called Dresden to check and make sure that I was not a dangerous spy, and when he learned that, I was cleared.  The train was ready to leave.  He ushered me quickly to the steps of the railway car and literally threw my suitcase up on the train behind me.  The handle broke off.  The final comment I heard as we pulled away was “Kein Qualität!” (No quality!) So…I made it out, and somehow I managed to get to Paris with a very heavy suitcase that was missing its handle, and this was back in the days before suitcases had wheels.  I really don’t recall how I managed that. It was with great relief that I arrived in Paris with no more mishaps. No, I am not and never have been a spy.

Addendum:  One would think with that scare that I would never go back into East Germany again, but that would be incorrect. The following summer I was back in Europe again this time in Berlin, and I crossed over by foot into the East side near the Brandenburg Gate. I sauntered down the famous Unter den Linden Avenue and viewed the archeological marvels in the museum there.  I was approached on the street by men wanting to purchase American dollars.  Other than that this trip was uneventful. I found my way through narrow streets and bombed out buildings to Checkpoint Charlie, where I was greeted by friendly American servicemen. I easily crossed back into West Berlin. Safe once more.


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