Checkpoint Charlie

Berlin, Germany

Checkpoint Charlie (or 'Checkpoint C') was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.

GDR leader Walter Ulbricht agitated and maneuvered to get the Soviet Union's permission for the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 to stop Eastern Bloc emigration westward through the Soviet border system, preventing escape across the city sector border from East Berlin to West Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of East and West. Soviet and American tanks briefly faced each other at the location during the Berlin Crisis of 1961.

After the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc and the reunification of Germany, the building at Checkpoint Charlie became a tourist attraction. It is now located in the Allied Museum in the Dahlem neighborhood of Berlin.

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Details

Founded: 1961
Category:
Historical period: Cold War and Separation (Germany)

Rating

3.9/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Lucian Bagia (3 months ago)
One of the famous landmark in Berlin. Nice set up with all actors there who are playing as patrol guard. A place that doesn't let us to forget all the atrocities of the cold war era. It's a must to visit the bear by Museum of the Wall...
Zack Teo (3 months ago)
Great historical site that gives a good write up about the experience of trying to escape from the Soviet Union into the hearts of the allies. Some of the cited examples illustrated foiled and successful escape attempts. You can take photos with the guards and wear the caps of the Soviet Union or the allied guards. Highly recommended. There are gift shops where you can find souvenirs and other items such as pieces of the wall.
Luke Meads (3 months ago)
I enjoy History and a trip to Berlin for work lent an excellent opportunity for quick sightseeing. I've seen checkpoints in books and pictures but it was great to be able to go see a former Cold War checkpoint. It's great that this part of history is well preserved. I was there on a fleeting visit so only a chance to absorb a small amount of the history but would like to return and explore more of the history.
Scott N (4 months ago)
Nice attraction in a busy part of town. The men at the gate charge €3 for a photo with them, which is pretty silly considering you can just take a photo in their presence. There is an additional 'black box' area detailing the history of the checkpoint in relation to the wall.
Srijan R Shetty (4 months ago)
A thing to note about Checkpoint Charlie is that it isn't the original checkpoint, it's a replica with theatre artists at sentry duty. It's a fun little bit, but you won't end up spending more than a few minutes here unless you indulge in street shopping. The place is great if you want to buy souvenirs for friends and family.
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The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.