25 years of the fall of the wall.
I set off for Berlin on Friday afternoon. Made my way on the autobahn, rather quickly compared to the bus. Great travel partners in the car, as usual. Same old same old.
Once arrived in the city, the trains were not all running; a strike I was told. Classic Berlin S-Bahn
I had to meet up with my hosts for the weekend. Made my way by juggling different u-bahn lines, the s-bahn network being paralyzed. It was complicated but doable. Berlin has a very large public transport network, and can be quite confusing at times.
I arrived to an area I never took the time to visit much. Used to the stadtmitte, the more touristy areas and Rosenhalterplatz. I quickly found the address I was given on couch surfers.
A few flights of stairs and I am meeting up with Jennifer, a short but energetic Ph. D student, rushing to finish her dissertation. Taking a break from the U.S and typing it in Germany, living under her friend’s roof, Holger. Both very welcoming, a beautiful apartment and great conversations.
The travel got to me and Jennifer had to keep working on her paper, so I went to bed early. Sometimes you just need sleep
The next morning was all about exploring the city, by myself, on my own terms. It was great. I walked. And walked. For almost 8 hours. Did I mention I walked ?
I never actually took the time to walk aimlessly in Berlin that way. It was liberating. The air was sharp, cold. More than Bavaria. A tad warm by my standards. Water puddles wouldn’t even freeze it was so warm, pft
Eventually I hit a small folk fair, in the middle of the city, just like that. Walking around kids dressed as Harry Potter characters, some adults wearing armors or fantastic creature masks. Public entertainers playing music or making giant soap bubbles at the youngest’s amazement.
Quickly the day passed by like a ghost. I was left with a few hours of wandering before meeting up with my hosts. We were to walk the wall.
At the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the wall coming down, the city and the state elaborated to have balloons on poles light up where the wall once was, as a token of remembrance, and where the wall still stood, the lights would light it up, for all to see.
I resisted the temptation to visit by myself, really wanting to see it with other people. I set off to Ostkreuz, and walked around it while dusk made the city progressively darker. I halted to rest my painful feet and eat a bit. Then headed to the meeting point. It became quickly evident that this weekend, the streets would be full. And they were.
After meeting with Jennifer and Holger, we were to wait for another surfer for the weekend. His name was Diego. He arrived, we introduced each other, had a few giggles and then were told a fourth was to join us eventually. Jennifer was American, Holger German, I am Canadian, and Diego came from Peru but was living in Belgium. Our fourth was from Switzerland. A friend of Jennifer’s, Roger, who wanted Dim Sum so bad he flew to Berlin to enjoy it (and our company, and the historical remembrance…).
We walked the path of the wall for some time, took some pictures and eventually met up with Roger freshly out of the plane.
We had the obligatory Currywurst / Döner Kebab stop and kept on. Eventually we would even go tube sliding, in the middle of Berlin. They installed a large slide with snow canons and you could tube for only 1€. People would go by two or three, we inquired about going all of us at the same time and had our 6 seconds of screaming. The look on Jennifer’s face was priceless after going down.
Later on we had some more pictures, drank Glüwein spiced up with Gin (A sort of warm spiced wine typical of holiday season in Germany) and the evening went on that way. Stopped at a bar, then a Speti (Type of corner store typical to Berlin)…
Went home, passed out into a coma and slept way too long. Sunday we started moving around 1 or 2 pm and set off for Roger’s long awaited Dim-Sum. It was pretty good and affordable. After we caught up with another friend of Jennifer and the rest of the day was composed of walking more of the wall and trying to find a great spot to see the lights lifting up to the skies, messages of hope attached to the strings.
We set off to Mauerpark, fighting our way through waves of people. To be rewarded with nice light painting opportunities. . .
We met up with my friend Mary. As the streets emptied we walked around a bit, hunting for more Glüwein to no avail, checking out how the light installation worked and then I said my goodbyes to my new friends of a weekend and headed to sleep.
The next morning I got up early, packed up and headed back “home“.
The construction of the wall began in August of 1961. It’s purpose was to separate the Soviet zone of Berlin from the French, British and American ones. Effectively separating the East from the West.
It is confirmed that over 130 people died trying to cross from East Berlin to West.
The official date of the fall of the wall is November 9th 1989, however, it’s actual removal / demolition was only started in the summer of 1990. Germany was recognized as one country early October 1990.