Hooniverse Drives to Berlin – via Checkpoints A–B–C–D

I spent my 30th birthday in Germany. A little bit more than a month later, I was back in Germany, for a New Year’s Eve in The Netherlands. Huh? Well, in Central Europe it doesn’t take long to drive from a country to another, so naturally it would make sense to fly to Düsseldorf, drive to the Limburg region beyond the Dutch border, and then to do a day trip to Berlin after New Year’s. It’s all logical, until you take into account you have to sit in a Peugeot wagon for hours on end…
But there was a Suzuki engine in Berlin, and there was room in the Peugeot. So I woke myself up with a cup of coffee and hopped in. There would be sights along the way.

Pretty much the first thing we saw on the Dutch highway was a rear-engined, interestingly painted Skoda.
There’s not much in the way of border manoeuvres over there: just drive from country to country, and when the German Autobahn starts, you can pretty much floor it. There are, of course, 120 km/h sections and speed cameras, but every now and then you can travel at the far end of the speedometer spectrum.
But speaking of borders, some still remain within Germany, even if they’re memorials for a bygone time by now. Our first stop for diesel was at Helmstedt-Marienborn, which used to function as Checkpoint Alpha, the most important border crossing between West Germany and East Germany. When the Eastern part was fused back into Regular Germany, the border station here was kept as is, just fenced away from the rest of the world.
You can stop there and have a look at it, and it feels like it’s the last remaining complete plot of land still in East Germany. Next to it is an Esso service station and truck stop, where you can buy trinkets and haxe.
There was still a distinct feel of the past being present, if only as relics.
We then continued on, reaching Berlin from the southwestern direction. First there would be Checkpoint Bravo, the second border crossing; originally, it would have taken us into West Berlin.
But there’s not much to stop for at Checkpoint Bravo: it’s less of a memorial than the previous one. You can stop at Grenzübergangsstelle Drewitz-Dreilinden, but there’s not much else to do than stand around.
But it’s driving to Berlin on the A115 road that’s somewhat special by itself: the nearly arrow-straight piece of motorway used to form the racing circuit AVUS, or Automobil-Verkehrs- und Übungsstraße. It’s the oldest controlled-access highway in Europe, built way back in 1921. The stretch housed speed events for decades, and there was a loop in both ends to complete the circuit.
On the northern end, the grandstands are still there. Graffiti-covered, but still protected.
As is the old race control tower, that is nowadays a motel.
We parked the Peugeot close to the banking, as close as we could get, and had a look around in the breeze.
The old banking was demolished in 1967, so you won’t get the exact feel of how it was in the olden days. Then again, the trucks in place aren’t racing car haulers, either.
A little way further, there was concrete evidence of Yank tanks getting their share of admiration there.
But the Mercedes three-pointed star is everywhere to be seen in Berlin.
The occasional Rolls-Royce would appear, too.
We continued further, snapping photos of the sights for which you go to Berlin. The Friday afternoon traffic was bearable as well, since it seemed a lot of people had been able to take the day off.
The Brandenburg Gate looks a little different from this angle.
On Unter den Linden, the traffic froze up due to street works, so our drive towards the next checkpoint slowed down.
But here it was: Checkpoint Charlie, the most famous border checkpoint of them all. Of course, the hut here is a fake, resembling an earlier one than the building that was demolished in 1990, when the wall came down.
Next to it is a museum, a McDonalds, a MINI dealership, and everything you could ask for except strict originality.
But after all this, our next stop was the most important one – especially a day spent in a car with precious few stopovers for food: Checkpoint D or Döner Kebab. A Durum roll like this is three fifty at a very nice Turkish corner joint, and for me it was heaven-sent.
[Images: Hooniverse 2014/Antti Kautonen]

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  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    Very cool, Antti. What's in the kebab? It reminds me of a gyro.

    1. wunno sev Avatar
      wunno sev

      same idea – but don't say that to anyone greek or turkish unless you're ready to be vigorously corrected

      1. AlexiusG55 Avatar

        The words döner and gyro come from the words for "to turn" in Greek and Turkish respectively…

  2. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Thanks for that tour of the borderlands. I was thrilled to find that the Autobahn to Potsdam incorporates part of the Avus track. Amazing really. Checkpoint Charlie is pretty silly these days, but there are traces of the recent past almost everywhere you go.

  3. Vairship Avatar

    You passed through Born, but didn't stop at Nedcar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VDL_Nedcar http://www.vdlnedcar.nl/?language=3 ?
    (Alright, hardly anyone outside the Netherlands knows about them, but you might have been able to talk your way into an exclusive Hooniverse-only tour… or not).