Cold War Nostalgia: Fast Food, Souvenirs, and Soviet Kitsch

I am becoming particularly fascinated by the material heritage of the Cold War:  missile silos, fallout shelters, space toys, and suburbia.  But look what’s happening to the epicenter and heritage icon of the post-World War II world in divided Berlin.   

American student visitors with Cold War era re-enactor at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin


From the AFP 14 March:   

You are now entering Checkpoint ‘McCharlie’

By Simon Sturdee   

BERLIN — Checkpoint Charlie, a world-famous symbol of the Cold War that until 1989 was the front line between two nuclear-armed superpowers, is getting its own McDonalds. For many, this is the final straw.   

Where once US and Soviet tanks faced off as the whole world held its breath, there are now actors posing as soldiers in American or Soviet uniforms stamping tourists’ passports or posing in photos — for a fee.   

And next to the replica “You are now entering the American sector” sign, souvenir shops and stalls sell chunks of the Berlin Wall and pieces of Cold War kitsch like toy “Trabi” cars and Soviet military hats.   

Other hot items include T-shirts showing Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s famous kiss with East German strongman Eric Honecker, a common sign of socialist solidarity that triggered ridicule in the West — and was later satirized in a mural on the Berlin Wall after it was breached in November 1989.   

Vernon Pike, a former US army colonel who used to command Checkpoint Charlie, was so incensed that he fired off an angry letter to the Berlin authorities in 2008, calling the transformation “an unacceptable spectacle”.   

This January an immense billboard advert by a clothes company went up featuring a young woman wearing the maker’s jeans — and flashing her top half to a security camera.   

There is already a Starbucks, and the “Golden Arches” logo will later this year adorn a building currently occupied by eateries including a sushi outlet, a kebab shop and a pizzeria, irreverently known as “Snackpoint Charlie”.   

“This is really a very strange place,” Simone Bernaert, 62, a retired and unimpressed university lecturer from Paris visiting Berlin, told AFP…   

For full article, click here.

3 thoughts on “Cold War Nostalgia: Fast Food, Souvenirs, and Soviet Kitsch

  1. Hi Neil–

    Good article on the Cold War. It’s more and more in the news — even Cold War travel itineraries. Don’t like to promote my own site in comments, but think you might like the photo on my new blog. It’s still under development, but the photo is great. Go to and take a look. Hope to see you in DC.

  2. Pingback: Wi-Fi, Latte, and Amnesia at the Grassy Knoll Cafe « Searching for Authenticity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s