Thursday, 3 October 2013

A colourful wall that split a nation - the Berlin Wall

In some respects Germans are lucky - they've got a lot more bank holidays than us here in Britain. And surprise, surprise, today is another one. The difference for me personally however is that I can vividly remember its origin as today is the Day of German Unity.

I won't bore you with any historic details but I remember the Berlin Wall with its graffiti - only on the West Berlin side though. And last year there was this very impressive panorama by artist Yadegar Asisi which displayed the daily life on both sides of the Berlin Wall on an autumn day in 1980. It had a height of 15 metres and circumference of 60 metres and was located near Checkpoint Charlie.

Here are a couple of impressions of the Berlin Wall throughout my lifetime.
View across the Berlin Wall towards East Berlin in 1980.
I wasn't too impressed back in 1980. You can clearly see the so called "death strip" on the eastern side.
Now here's a little interesting story about that trip in 1980 (if you're not interested just scroll down for more pictures).
I was almost 5 years old when we traveled to West Berlin to visit some family friends. When entering the GDR you needed your passport and got a visa for transit containing personal data and a stamp with the date and time of entry. On leaving the GDR this document was retrieved and based on the time stamp it could be determined whether you made your way to the next checkpoint immediately or made longer stops on the way. And if you were 'late' you had some explaining to do.
So in this winter of 1980 we were driving on the transit route (you were only allowed to use certain roads) when out of nowhere a Volkspolizist (member of the national police of the GDR) came towards us from the opposite direction, racing his motorbike across the green strip separating the lanes and ordering my father to stop the car. We were then ordered to get out of the car and my father had to empty the car's boot. The VoPo then inspected our car very meticulous, even underneath, before my mother and I had to get back into the car. Just then my father was allowed to reload the car and continue our journey. Apparently it was a time when there were a lot of attempted escapes.
I remembered this story a bit differently until recently (I always thought we just had a flat tyre)...
A classmate in front of the Berlin Wall on a school trip in 1991. I always loved the graffiti on the western side.
A segment of the wall near Checkpoint Charlie in 2012.
A plaque near Checkpoint Charlie signifying where the wall stood
They missed the bit about carrying weapons in the German translation. I wonder why.
Checkpoint Charlie in 2012. It is a copy of the first guard house erected during 1961 and serves as a tourist attraction now.
Yadegar Asisi Panorama - view across the wall towards East Berlin in 1980

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