A Road Trip with a German passport in the 1970s
Unlike the citizens of East Germany living behind the Iron Curtain, West Germans traveled extensively throughout the Cold War. By 1970, West Germany’s Hallstein Doctrine had ended, meaning West Germans were free to interact liberally with nations that had recognized the DDR.
The early 1970s also saw the rise of Détente and West Germany’s ‘Ostpolitik,’ which also relaxed tensions between the East and the West. This era of Détente was formalized in 1975 by the Conference on Security and Cooperation (CSCE), which led to the signing of the Helsinki Accords. Interestingly, President Ford of the USA was seated next to the DDR’s leader, Erich Honecker.
During this time, this 24-year-old West German student made the most of this travel freedom, embarking on numerous road trips throughout Europe and even North Africa. As can be seen from the multiple border stamps he amassed en route, we know, for example, that this young man drove from West Germany to Calais (France) in 1978, embarking on a ferry to Dover (UK). He also moved extensively throughout Eastern Europe, going to the DDR, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. He obtained a visa from the Czechoslovak commercial representation in Frankfurt (West Germany) to enter Czechoslovakia. He later got a Polish visa from Poland’s embassy in Bonn.
He drove through Podkoren (Austro-Slovenia border) on his way down to the beaches of Yugoslavia. Lastly, and most interesting, he went to Spain in 1974 and took a ferry to the Spanish territory of Ceuta (North Africa) before entering Morocco at the Bab-Sebta checkpoint.
Though Détente had considerably relaxed the Cold War tensions of the 1950s and 1960s, such exotic journeys were still considered impossible luxuries to the men and women living and working behind the Iron Curtain. They would have to wait until 1989 to travel and discover the world. road trip German passport