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The KGB Museum in Riga, Latvia

You could easily miss the KGB Museum in Riga if you didn’t know where to look. Commonly referred to as “the Corner House,” it looks on the outside like a quite stylish residential building. I walked right by it and had to retrace my steps a block or two away. Basically what the KGB did…

WWII and Cold War sites in Berlin

Berlin is a wonderfully diverse and dynamic city, and especially intriguing to visit as a tourist with an interest in history. In particular, Berlin is the place to go if you like learning about 20th century history, and, more specifically, World War II and the Cold War. I’ve written about a number of Berlin’s WWII…

a bookcase full of chotchkes at the Communist Consumers Museum in Timişoara, Romania

The Communist Consumers Museum

A Communist Consumers Museum? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? I mean, in the Cold War, we in the West were the consumer society. We still are. They were, well, communist. So what could a Communist Consumers Museum even show? When we passed through Timişoara, Romania, this summer, we didn’t really have any plans. Picking…

Getting a visa was no easy task unless you had official business in West Germany or elsewhere in the world.

Berlin’s Palace of Tears

Walking into the Palace of Tears is stepping back in time. The floor tiles, the wall clock, the “modern” design of the building: all hearken back to a 1960s aesthetic in interior design. Standing on East German territory since 1962, the Palace of Tears was an addition to the older Friedrichstraße train station. This station…

souvenirs available to East German tourists when they visited East Bloc countries. The sign explaining them states "Wall units displayed Russian dolls or other products from the series Knicknackery and Dust-gathery until they were finally stowed away in the cellar." DDR Museum, Berlin

A Peek into East Germany at the DDR Museum

In my last post, I wrote about the Berlin Wall as a gash across the city. What brought me to the Berlin Wall Memorial was my visit just the day before to the DDR Museum in Berlin. That museum and its hands-on portrayal of life in the former DDR (called the German Democratic Republic or GDR in…

the view of the restored piece of the Berlin Wall in the Berlin Wall Memorial

The Berlin Wall Memorial Illuminates Berlin’s Divided Past

The consequences of the division of Berlin by the Berlin Wall (1961-1989) are visible all over the city. The Wall was a wide, empty gash through the city, and that gash has, ever since the Wall “fell” in 1989, been repurposed in a variety of ways. In some places, buildings encroach on the space: Potsdamerplatz is a…