Divided Germany
Germany before re-unification
GNU Free Documentation LicenseGermany before re-unification
Credit: Wiki-vr

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold opens and closes at the Berlin Wall in the early 1960s, when Berlin was a divided city and Germany a divided country.  The partition of defeated Germany after World War II left Berlin in, and completely surrounded by, the Soviet sector. The western part of the city was controlled by the USA, the UK and France, as was the western part of Germany itself.

Berlin Wall with barbed wire
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBerlin Wall with barbed wire - Credit: Ludwig Wegmann


In the early 1960s, Berlin still bore the scars of war damage. After the building of the Berlin Wall by the GDR in 1961, crossing from East to West was strictly controlled and potentially lethal to those without the correct papers. Upon leaving the eastern sector, travellers would read the message: Let us work together for peace and understanding!  The German Peace Treaty restrains the West German warmongering.

The first chapter is set in the western sector, at a checkpoint crossing into the eastern side of the city.  This is probably Checkpoint Charlie, as this was the only crossing point open both ways to civilians with the correct papers. 


Checkpoint Charlie
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCheckpoint Charlie - Credit: Deutsches Bundesarchiv


The strip of land running alongside the Wall later became known as the 'death strip' as it was patrolled by East German border guards with orders to shoot to kill.  Even after the wall had come down, evidence of the death strip remained.


East Berlin showing remains of former Death Strip
Public DomainEast Berlin showing remains of former Death Strip
Credit: Beek100


For a factual account of East Berlin under communist rule, read Stasiland by Anna Funder.

Stasiland on Book Drum

Bayswater Station
Public DomainBayswater Station

Alec Leamas is recalled to London after his last remaining agent is shot while crossing the border.  Living a cover story, Leamas eventually finds work at a library in Bayswater, where Liz Gold also lives.

Marble Arch
Creative Commons AttributionMarble Arch

Upon his release from a three month prison sentence, Leamas takes a little time to enjoy London in the spring, beginning at Marble Arch.  This is where his first encounter with the East German intelligence network takes place, after which he makes his circuitous way across London, to Chelsea and the home of George Smiley.

With his East German contacts, Leamas visits a Chinese restaurant, followed by a strip club in Wardour Street, an area famous in the 1960s for its plethora of seedy nightclubs, strip clubs and bars, as well as being a centre for the British film and music industry.  Its reputation is more salubrious nowadays, but it is still packed with restaurants and bars.


Wardour Street
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeWardour Street
Beach in Holland
Public DomainBeach in Holland

After flying to The Hague, Leamas is taken to a villa on the Dutch coast, north-west of the city.


Google Map
German Democratic Republic
A German Farmhouse
GNU Free Documentation LicenseA German Farmhouse

Leamas is taken to a farmhouse deep within East Germany, officially known as the German Democratic Republic. The building is described as a farmhouse made up to look like a hunting lodge, but it is in a state of disuse. Half-timbered with whitewashed bricks and set in an isolated position in a forest, perhaps it looked a little like this German farmhouse before a major renovation.

The drama then shifts to Görlitz in the far east of Germany, near the Polish border.


Google Map


Meanwhile Liz Gold has been invited to a conference, as Secretary of the Bayswater Branch of the British Communist Party, in Leipzig.