Breakfast was a limited choice of cold cuts and eggs at the castle. Sadly we were only able to spend one night here in the beautiful scenery. Point Alpha Memorial was an eyebrow raising listing on our original itinerary. I had never heard of the place, though the description mentioning the importance for the Cold War captured my attention. After a short bus ride from the hotel with our belongings stored at the hotel’s conference room, we headed to Point Alpha Memorial, located in the Fulda Gap. Compared to most of the other TOP fellows, I didn’t essentially live through the Cold War like they did, so this seemed to mean more to them, though I tried to catchup. In as remote of a location as we would be on the trip, we arrived in the middle of the German countryside, pulling up to a bright blue building with white trim, easily standing out from any traditional German building we had come across prior. The day was hot and we were finally able to wear our casual clothes. Our tour guide Sebastian was helpful in explaining the importance and significance of the Fulda Gap in relation to the Cold War. Essentially and shockingly, if WWIII was going to start, it was going to start right in this location. Battle plans were drawn up and uncovered from both sides, explaining how they would have attacked. There were also several close calls where we were mere seconds from war. Afterwards, we headed down a path which was No Man’s Land. No one from either side would pass and you could see the opposing watch towers staring at each other. On the Eastern side, there would also be small bunkers hidden along the path. The reason this area would have been the start of WWIII is because it was a gap that if either side made it’s way through, would split Germany’s resources in half. Making our way to the end of the path, we headed left up towards the American side, and up an observation tower. The view was breathtaking as you could see the serene beauty for miles. Looking down, you could see the American troop’s barracks, now converted into a museum and cafeteria. Slowly, this location has become more of a tourist attraction. We were treated with a buffet style lunch of Mediterranean olive oil pasta, what I believe to be a pork steak, and potato salad. It was hot being out in the sun, but it also felt great at the same time. I also was able to see the barracks, which bizarrely was all about America’s involvement and had copious American patriotism throughout the building. Outside were tanks, jeeps, and helicopters which were at one point stationed here. It’s amazing to think of the wasted resources from both sides of the Cold War spent guarding the borders, which could have been put to much better use. Finishing at Point Alpha, we headed back to the conference room at Fulda. There, we listened to a lady who experienced living in East Germany and explained her accounts of life in East Germany and how things have changed. One thing that did stand out was how you can get a Stasi file to see if the government spied on you before. There was a lot of paranoia going around in East Germany throughout the Cold War. After her presentation, we boarded a bus for the train station, and made our way to Weimar. This was an important location for the often mention Goethe. We were going to stay in a hotel which served as a residency for him. I offered to take a taxi with Jörge to help move everyone’s luggage. Inside the hotel, it was a typical room; two twin beds, a tv, and a comfortable atmosphere. Once again, we had only minutes to go and relax before heading back out. We followed our guides through the cobblestone streets towards the restaurant which would serve Italian cuisine. The restaurant was posh, with an outdoor setting seemingly throughout the entire area. We were served great appetizers of various meat. I had for dinner a 4 meat platter; bacon, pork, beef, and lamb. It was amazing to say the least. It continually amazed me how time would fly as these very long days seemed like they were only hours. We always did so much.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.