National Geographic : 1970 Jan
who had been assigned by the Reisebiiro to guide me about. They helped me clear cus toms and, chatting about their life and times, cleared away some of the gloom I felt. "I am a medical student at Humboldt Uni versity," Jiirgen told me. "I'm helping to pay my way by interpreting. Traudi is a student at Humboldt, too-languages. She is fluent in both English and Russian." Our car, an ancient Czech Tatra provided High style spices life for East Berliner Rita Pohl, a 21-year-old model at the State Fashion Institute. East Germany leads in producing quality clothes for export to East ern Europe. But fashions made and sold locally cost more than those in the West. Privately owned garment factories count among the fraction-a mere 6 percent-of East Germany's enterprises still outside state ownership. by the Reisebiro, coughed its way onto a new four-lane highway. As we neared Alexander platz (pages 8-9), the traditional center of old Berlin, I thought briefly I had failed to cross the border and was still somehow in the West. New buildings were going up on both sides of the road, among them a new hotel, the Stadt Berlin, due for completion in early 1970. Next to it, a 1,185-foot television tower supported a revolving restaurant offering views of both East and West Berlin (pages 6 and 14). Students Paid by the State The Berolina hotel, where I stayed, is al most new. My room was small but clean and well furnished in Danish modern. Over the built-in table radio came the familiar voice of the Armed Forces Network, broadcasting in English from West Berlin. "That's how we practice our English," Traudi told me that evening at dinner. "We al so receive three TV channels from the West." Jiirgen, born in 1943, the son of a Berlin tailor, recalls nothing of the great war. After a compulsory army tour of three years, he entered medical school. He will not graduate until he is 28, and then faces five years of specialized training before he enters practice. Meanwhile, he and Traudi, like all other stu dents in East Germany, are being paid by the state while they attend school. "My allowance is 325 marks a month, and Traudi's is 245. That gives us a family income of $142.50.* But our two-room apartment costs only $5.50 a month. We are saving for a used Volkswagen, which will cost between 4,000 and 5,000 marks. The waiting time for it is two years." Jiirgen and Traudi represent a new genera tion in East Germany; they have come to maturity since the erection of the Wall and since Walter Ulbricht, the 76-year-old leader of the socialist state, introduced economic *All U. S. currency equivalents in this article are based on the official exchange rate that prevailed at the time of the author's visit-four marks to the dollar.