November 11, 2007

18th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

I decided a while ago to revive this blog and to post now-and-again on experiences/thoughts I’ve had since coming to Berlin. The rather amusing photo below seemed like a pretty apt starting point.

Jaunty Ossis

The photo was taken on the 9th November (exactly 18 years since the ‘Mauerfall’ – fall of the Berlin wall) on the Bornholmer Allee bridge between Wedding and Pankow (a key crossing point during the Mauerzeit). A sizeable group of us had gathered there to see a new memorial stone being unveiled. The jaunty old men in the picture each had a story to tell about their experiences in the old east and, indeed, had a lot to say about various current affairs – as old people like to when they get the slightest hint of an audience. And this was probably the one day of the year when they had a legitimate platform.

Anyone who has read Annie Funder’s book Stasiland will remember the story of the lady who attempted to cross the wall at this point – only to come a cropper after falling over a trip wire just inches away from freedom. It’s quite difficult to imagine that the spot where we were having a beer and chatting languidly was the spot where previously people had risked their lives for freedom.

The guy wearing the silver mac (a textbook armchair-general), preferred to rant both-barrells about American materialism and such to Tim. It wasn’t so much an argument as a lecture. The guy lurking in the background shared the same opinions and used that as a justification not to be pictured with us, asserting that, ‘Die Amerikaner glauben, dass sie die ganze Welt herrschen,’ (Americans believe that they rule the world.)

The chap with the stick was probably the hardest to size up. He made a rapid-fire series of unfunny-jokes and then asked/demanded to pray with us. They all showed signs of ‘Ostlagie’ for the sort of social security and cohesion which the D.D.R but agreed, indisputably, that the Mauerfall was a good thing.

On the same evening we also made a brief tv appearance on R.B.B., the local television station for Berlin and Brandenburg. After swallowing our line about being journalists, the reporter (a class a blagger) chatted to us and decided to include us in his report as people who wanted to know more about the wall. We’d all frantically prepared mini-speeches, but thankfully weren’t called upon to comment.

The wall concept remains something which I have trouble getting my head around; a constant source of interest and intrigue. The one remaining stretch is close to my apartment, but the colourful images now displayed there somehow fail to convey the true reality of its former influence.


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