This picture is from an event commemorating 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. A moving reminder of the momentus change that happened that November evening. Yet a sobering reminder as well that though the wall may be long gone, the effects of 40 years of separation take a lot longer to overcome.
The iconic Berliner Fernsehturm. It connects the city in so many ways. You can see it from lots of different places all across the city. Great for knowing which direction to head in!
One of my most poignant memories is going up to the viewing platform in in the summer of 1989. Just a few short months before the Wall came down but of course we didn’t know that at the time. I was looking out across the city when it struck me: this is one city! I could barely see the Wall at all and it was obvious how wrong the situation was. East and West were connected, were one.
One of the interesting dynamics of living in a major city is that I often don’t know how things connect above ground. I mostly travel on the U-Bahn (underground) and therefore am familiar with different neighbourhoods but have no idea what connects them.
Getting up high somewhere (the pictures below were taken from Panoramapunkt, rather than Fernsehturm) is always a revelation. Suddenly I understand what connects the city. Yes, it is a collection of different parts but it’s also a whole, it’s connected.
As a nation, we are more known for pointing out what is wrong than for expressing gratitude. Famous quote at the end of an international conference:”You put us Germans in a very uncomfortable position – there was nothing to complain about!” 🙂
So to see the whole country stop just to say thank you and to celebrate is quite something! Yet it is what happened earlier this month when Germany was marking 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. There was gratitude, there was joy, there was celebration.
As I was reflecting on the event, it struck me just how important it is even in the midst of challenges to stop and to remember all those reasons we have to be grateful. There were and there still are a lot of challenges that came out of the events of 9 November 1989, and they do need to be talked about. But this was not the time for that. This was the time to remember the miracle and to be thankful.
The question is: will I remember this lesson in everyday life or will the challenges again crowd out the gratitude?
In Berlin, it is often worth looking down for interesting signs.
You find Stolpersteine all across the city, remembering people who had lived in those buildings and who died in concentration camps.
Around Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, you find plaques reminding us of people who managed to escape from East to West Berlin in that particular place:
Now you see it, now you don’t. Just a random bit of wall and yet so instantly recognisable. And then it’s gone. An image that tells so many stories. A city once divided, now united. Where once there were soldiers, now there is a cyclist (admittedly, in Berlin they can be rather dangerous as well).
An image that tells a story of courage, of hope, of suffering. Of joy and then disillusionment. The story of a miracle.
An image that for some in this city is just history. For many, the story of something that shaped their lives. For others (like myself) something remembered but only experienced from a distance. Yet still it chokes me up a bit.
The power of an image.
Flowing water at its best – beautiful waterfall!
And at its worst: River Elbe having broken its banks during recent flooding.
Beautiful. Just beautiful.
The flow of people when the Berlin Wall finally fell.
1 May in Berlin. If you know anything about this city, you will immediately think of riots. And sadly there is quite a bit of that going on as I’m writing this in the evening.
This morning it was very different, though. Myfest is a great event that has been running for a few years, in order to reclaim the streets from those wanting to cause trouble. I wish you could smell all the yummy food being prepared everywhere, a lot of it by local people! Falafel, döner, köfte, etc etc. Amazing! And then the sounds! A Turkish singer songwriter on stage. A bit further along, Kurdish music and people dancing to it. Away from the main square, there are more bands playing on different stages. Most of them waaaay too loud for my liking!
Before all of this gets properly under way, “Together for Berlin” hold an open air service, to pray for the city and particularly for a peaceful day. Very special!
This is the backdrop to my latest “Great Little Berlin Moment”. After the service, a few of us decided to explore the area a bit. In the church right on Mariannenplatz, they have some incredible pictures up, showing how the Berlin Wall went right through the neighbourhood, literally running maybe 20 metres behind the church. We also read about a Turkish immigrant guy who spotted a piece of wasteland near his home, and decided to grow some vegetables there. Turns out that piece of land officially belonged to East Berlin, but had ended up on the western side of the Wall. Something to do with building the Wall in a straight line and not wasting ressources by building around that little plot. Anyway, the East German border guards weren’t too pleased with Mr Kalin (that was his name) digging up their land but eventually, after a lot of toing and froing they let him get on with it, as he was a poor immigrant suffering under the Capitalist system and having to grow his own food. Great story!
On leaving the church, we took a look at where the wall used to be, now turned into a very pleasant park. Then we spotted a slightly strange looking building just across the street. Lo and behold if that is not the same plot of land we had just been reading about! And even more amazingly, Mr Kalin was there, sitting in his garden. He is now very elderly and hard of hearing but we got chatting to his son who showed us around the little tree house/hut thing that his father built bit by bit, as and when he found some more wood. Unbelievable! A totally random hodge-podge of different materials. I have no idea how it holds up but it does!
So that was my Great Little Berlin Moment of today! Here are some pictures for you to enjoy and German speakers can read more here