Today’s Daily Post topic: What is the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you on a bus?
The strangest thing that ever happened to me on a bus was when I was 15 years old and on a tour of Germany. I went on the trip with my mom and my high school german class for a one week tour over our Easter/Spring Break. At the time, Germany was divided into two countries. You had West Germany, which was a democratic society and East Germany, which was a communist country. It was 1985 and still four years before the fall of the Berlin wall. Cold war tensions were still elevated and it’s hard to share with younger people that exact feeling.
Part of our trip was to visit the city of West Berlin, which for want of a better description was like an island in the middle of East Germany. It sat completely contained within the boundaries of East Germany, a minimum of three hours by car from all of Western Germany. The city itself had a wall that kept it separated from East Germany. We drove approximately three hours from the western border of East Germany until we got to Berlin. East Germany was a closed society that wasn’t open to the west. The citizens of East Germany were kept away from all contact with western society, and our bus was no exception.
On the ride to Berlin, we were allowed to stop at one rest stop which was segregated from the general community. It was like entering a prison when we pulled in, with the rest stop fenced in and only open to Western visitors. There were armed guards all over the facility and it had a very intimidating atmosphere. The weird part came when we went to leave the rest stop to continue our journey east to Berlin.
As we got back on the bus, we were instructed to sit in alphabetical order and our passports were given to the East German guards, who were armed. They marched up and down the bus making sure that each passport matched up with each rider on the bus. They also pulled all of our luggage out of the bottom of the bus and checked to make sure we weren’t smuggling any East German citizens weren’t being smuggled out.
For a 15 year old kid from lilly white Pennsylvania, this whole experience was both intimidating and and eye-opener. It was my first real exposure to the cold war and the struggles between Eastern and Western Europe. It was something you always read about, but until I experienced it I really couldn’t imagine what it felt like. It was really intimidating to watch those fully armed East German guards walking up and down the aisles of our bus with bad intentions. It’s not a feeling I wish to repeat again.