History - Cold War, Berlin
The Berlin Wall is largely gone except for a few preserved sections like Mauer Park. The differences between East and West Berlin are steadily disappearing, though you can at times still feel the difference. One way to tell where the wall was is to look for sections of empty lots, empty not because no one wants to build where the wall stood, but because ownership rights are STILL tied up in German courts.
Fondest memory: One way to see where the Berlin Wall stood is to look down at your feet. Sometimes, where you see the sidewalk abruptly change from one style to another (no sure way to tell) you will find a plaque in the ground like this one. Whether or not you find this kindof history interesting, denotations like this are one way the Cold War still casts its shadow over Berlin.
Fondest memory: On Strasse des 17 Juni, facing the Branderburg Gate, is a statue of a women who appears to be calling in the direction of the gate. I'd love to know what this statue represents but I‘ve never found any explanation anywhere. Maybe during the cold war it signified the West calling to the East to try escape and come join them?
24 year-old Gunter Litfin was trying to swim across the Spree Canal when he was shot and killed by Border Guards on 24 September, 1961. He was the first "wall-jumper" to be killed by gunfire, one of about 250 Berliners who lost their lives trying to cross from East to West during the 28-year history of the wall.
The marker commemorating Litfin's death is on the western side of the Invalidenstrasse Bridge, just across from the Hamburger Bahnhof.
Definitely my spookiest memory: Sitting in the subway when Berlin was still divided into East and West. The trains were allowed to pass through the East German stations, but of course they didn't stop and the stations were closed off and dark. As soon as the wall was built nobody was allowed to get into the subway stations anymore.
It was a really strange feeling to go through them and to know that noone living in East Germany could get here. Sometimes you could see people working down there - one person was working, two were watching him to make sure he wouldn't escape. The subway stations still looked (and probably smelled) like before the division of Germany.
This memory of this still sends me shivers down my spine....
Luckily I have been in Berlin quite a few times when it was still divided into East and West. Definitely an exciting experience...with trips to the East, closed eastern subway stations the western subway went through, military police at the checkpoints, spraying at the wall, an alarm going off because of someone throwing the spraycan over the wall, etc etc etc. So many memories... even this picture makes me dizzy. I took it 18 years ago ... unbelieveable how Berlin has changed since then!
See my travelogue for more memories and pics!
Fondest memory: I was really lucky to be able to see Berlin in November 1989, just a few days after the Berlin Wall fell. I was working in Frankfurt and waited for hours at the airport for a standby plane ticket. You just couldn't buy a seat! When I arrived, I saw people streaming through the scattered gaps in the Wall, crying. It was very emotional. When I tried to walk through one of the gaps, I was stopped by the police, who said, 'Germans only.' (How did they know I wasn't German? It's a continuing mystery to me.) I had to go through Checkpoint Charlie (now removed), buy some East German currency (which I kept) and cross over that way. I had a great dinner in East Berlin, then returned to the western side. I borrowed a hammer and chisel to chip off some pieces of the Wall as souvenirs. It was tough work! Those Germans build things to last!!! That night, I returned to the airport to stand by for a flight to Frankfurt. I got out the next morning. That's a trip I'll never forget!
Favorite thing: You should see all the museums about the wall and the places that have changed so quickly after the unity. (Potsdamer Platz - see picture before 1989, Checkpoint Charlie and Brandenburger Tor)
Favorite thing: .... in contrast to today! I couldn't resist photographing the T-shirt hanging right next to the Cold War-era sign...
Favorite thing: Elite soldiers of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik are on 24 hour watch against terrorist threats from the capitalist lands