From Field Station Berlin to the Cold War Zone

Back during the Cold War those of us stationed in Berlin referred to West Germany simply as "the Zone." Berlin's relative isolation due to the Wall could result in a feeling similar to island fever; getting out of Berlin and into the Zone from time to time was a mild psychological necessity. One of my favorite destinations for a break from my contribution to keeping tabs on the Soviets was the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, sight of the 1936 Winter Olympics. Kerry was stationed at the U.S. Army Russian Institute in Garmisch for the second half of 1984, and that was more than enough reason for frequent trips from Berlin to the Bavarian Alps. To get to Garmisch as quickly as possible from Berlin I'd fly from Flughafen Tegel to Munich first thing in the morning, take a bus from the airport to Munich's Hauptbahnhof, and from there catch the 8:30 a.m. train for Garmisch. The timing was always pretty tight - the Germans are punctual to a fault when it comes to train departures - made more so by my stopping to buy a warm chocolate croissant from a stand near the train station entrance. I'd arrive in Garmisch before lunch, and since Kerry was usually working until about three, my habit was to spend a couple of hours wandering through town before heading out to the Institute. I remember in particular idling away a fine autumn afternoon perusing the International Herald Tribune during a late lunch washed down with a local pilsner at an outdoor cafe with a stunning view of the Alps. I'll never forget the feel of that afternoon: the view of the mountains, the taste of the beer, and the fresh alpine air combined for an hour or so in a way that was simply transcendent. The town of Garmisch is beyond charming, the surroundings are spectacular, and the time I spent there is filled with nothing but fond memories. I was 27 at the time which meant I was old enough to appreciate my good fortune and young enough to enjoy it. And although the Cold War was very much alive in 1984 in Berlin, going to the Zone for a few days, and especially spending a few days in Garmisch with the woman I was about to marry, made the Zone seem like a fantasy refuge from the potentially dangerous routine of duty at Field Station Berlin. 

On the streets of Garmisch-Partenkirchen with Kerry Dyer in 1984

On the streets of Garmisch-Partenkirchen with Kerry Dyer in 1984