Postcard from... Berlin


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The Independent Online

“Soldiers” clad in British, US and French army uniforms still stand guard in front of what’s left of Checkpoint Charlie – the once famous Allied Cold War crossing point through the former Berlin Wall.

They belong to a theatrical troupe called Dance Factory Berlin, and for more than 10 years they have been earning easy money by posing for photographs with tourists in front of a mock up army control point bearing the sign “Allied Checkpoint”. Now, almost 25 years after the fall of the Wall, the fake soldiers’ days may be numbered. At Berlin’s nearby and equally renowned Brandenburg Gate, the authorities only recently banned fake soldiers, and others posing as Mickey Mouse, Darth Varder and Luke Skywalker, from touting.

The official reason was that their activities were not in keeping with the historical importance of a key landmark through which Napoleon, the Nazis and the Red Army once marched. If caught, the tourist touts face hefty fines.

While the actors remain at Checkpoint Charlie, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats are not amused. Kai Wegner, the head of the conservatives in Berlin, complains:  “This sort of rubbish insults the dignity of this historic place.”