We live in a divided world. There are those that rhapsodize over peanut butter and those who prefer Marmite. COVID-19 has divided us into vaxxers and anti-vaxxers. There’s a long list of places that are, or were, divided: Upper Canada vs. Lower; North Dakota vs. South; Irish Catholics vs. the Protestants; East versus West, South against North.
In 1973 the Cold War provided me with some memorable experiences. After almost three months of bicycling, my wife and I took delivery of our brand-new VW Westfalia pop-top camper in Wiedenbruck, Germany.
Using a road map of West Germany given to us at the factory, we plotted our shortest route to Berlin. Their map showed a grey area along its eastern frontier (which we eventually discovered was the adjacent East Germany). We encountered a baffling series of U-turn roads and vacant land in our attempt to drive straight to Berlin.
Aha! We discovered we had to drive through the Berlin Corridor. The East German military at its entry point gave a thumbs down gesture at our oval German export plates, then a curt index finger slash across his throat and handed us a rectangular DDR plate. Out came my screwdriver,
At the end of The Corridor was West Berlin. There we were told to surrender the DDR plates and switch back to the ovals. Out came my screwdriver, again.
Fortunately, bicycles have no licence plates. We cycled through Checkpoint Charlie and into East Berlin for a day of sight-seeing, without the need of a screwdriver.
When our stay in Berlin was over, we once again had to drive The Corridor to return to West Germany. Once again, our oval was exchanged for a DDR rectangular. Out came my screwdriver.
Upon re-entering West Germany… (I’ll bet you’ve already guessed what I had to do there!) Oh for a power screwdriver! Eventually, a year later, my screwdriver had to be used once again: sadly, the ovals were removed and an Ontario rectangular was installed. The big trip was over.
The Wall has crumbled, Germany is no longer an East and a West, but every time I have to change a licence plate, I hear a distant and faint voice, “I’ve been screwed!”