Kein Witz - the border crossing point at Drewitz

With temperatures soaring to 30°C, another walk in the woods seemed like the right thing to do...and I knew just the place.

Regular followers will recognise this place from December:

A panoramic picture of Checkpoint Bravo

It's our old friend Checkpoint Bravo, this time, seen from the bridge that carries the old Königsweg (King's Way) across the Autobahn. To the north of here is Berlin; to the south, Brandenburg, which was once East German territory.

Staying on the western side (that is, compass west, not political west!) and wandering down towards the south, the path crosses a wide path, with traces of tarmac.

The old Autobahn leading through the woods

This is the other end of the disused section of Autobahn which leads to the old Checkpoint Bravo. It's possible to walk all the way along it, but that'll have to wait for a less oven-like day.

A bit further down, on the edges of a business park, is a rather lonely-looking watchtower.

The Drewitz watchtower

This is all that remains of the Drewitz border crossing point - Checkpoint Bravo's East German counterpart. The border crossing point once covered the area between the tower and the current business park (and a little bit more), with large, open processing sheds for checking the contents of vehicles passing through.

The low height of this command tower allowed the guards to see into the sheds to check for signs of escape attempts. At the first sign of trouble, the guards in the tower could engage electro-mechanical barriers at the push of a button, to make sure the offending vehicle got no further.

The tower is run by Checkpoint Bravo e.V. (e.V. standing for eingetragener Verein, meaning a registered voluntary association). Three men sit outsite, baking in the sun. They seem pleased to see me - I get the sense that they probably haven't had many visitors today.

One of them gets up and shows me round the tower, pointing out its various features and telling stories of the times when the crossing point was in operation. The motorway outside, he points out, was only for military convoys, who were exempt from passing through the control point. He tells me of one man who got stuck in the middle of a convoy and ended up in West Berlin. He turned back the other way, but was given two and a half years in prison for his mistake.

He also tells of the small underhand beckoning gesture the guards in the processing sheds used to use to signal to drivers to come forwards. This worked fine until they changed the layout so that drivers could no longer see the gesture, leading to much frustration on the guards' part.

The man points out the original glass in the windows, with the typical GDR bronze-tinted reflective coating. Most things that were of any use to anyone were removed from the tower after it was taken out of service, but the glass was one thing that was saved.

The view out of the window

Also original are the bullet-proof steel plates towards the bottom of the windows, mainly to protect from friendly fire.

The man goes downstairs and, shortly afterwards, another comes up. He tells a story of how he nearly forgot to turn into the crossing point. He says the trouble was that, recognising that he was in a dangerous situation, the instinct was to accelerate rather than brake. Him accelerating would have been enough grounds for the guards to shoot.

After a good 40 minutes, I bid the men farewell and get off on my way again (though not before they've shown me their section of border defences, made up of all original parts). Entry to the tower is entirely free, but I drop a good handful of coins into their donations box on the way out. The third man suggests I go and take a look at the remains of the Soviet tank monument on the other side of the Autobahn. Sounds like a plan...

Wannsee (S1, S7)
The Drewitz watchtower (Checkpoint Bravo e.V)
Stahnsdorfer Damm
14532 Kleinmachnow , BB

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