Cold War Memories: A Heidelberg Jaunt

In the spring of 1986, shortly before I was honorably discharged from the Army, my wife and I spent a long weekend in Heidelberg, Germany. The city lies in a steep valley along the Neckar River and is most famous for its castle, the Schloss Heidelberg. A rowing regatta was being held the weekend we were in town so the place was crowded, festive, and fun. We took the train from Frankfurt, checked into our modest pension, and enjoyed a couple of days of being full-fledged tourists. We spent the better part of one day at the Schloss. I still have the two tickets we purchased to get into the place. The cost of admission was 1 DM each. The Deutsche Mark is another relic of the past having been replaced some time ago by the Euro. We took a cruise on the river, watched the regatta for an afternoon, walked all around the old part of the city, and generally ate too much. A pretty typical trip. I got a nice picture of the castle which appears below this entry. After three days, it was time to head back to Berlin. Although I didn't realize it at the time, the trip back was a snapshot of a transition taking place in the nature of the world's threats. Security at the train station in Frankfurt was particularly tight due to the terrorist bombing of a disco in Berlin a couple of months earlier. What seemed like a temporary response to an isolated event was the harbinger of a new paradigm. The old divisions of the Cold War were beginning to fade. A reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev had been General Secretary for more than a year and was already having an impact in the Soviet Union. The fact is that by the early summer of 1986 the groundwork had been laid for an extraordinary transition away from the East/West divide that had characterized the highest level of geopolitics since the end of World War II. And waiting in the wings was this somewhat emerging threat of terrorism that was already having an impact on the way the United States was conducting itself abroad. The Heidelberg trip represents a wonderful moment in the life my wife and I have built together. In retrospect, it also represents a moment in time when an old and familiar form of international politics was giving way to a new, unsettling era that now defines much of what we do and who we are. 

Schloss Heidelberg - June 1986

Schloss Heidelberg - June 1986