I’ve not paid much attention to newsworthy events from thirty years ago in my Destination 89 series; today I’m atoning. The fall of the Berlin Wall, on 11/9/89, was among the most memorable geopolitical events of my grad school years (others included the rise and crushing of dissent in Tiananmen Square, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Gulf War, and the end of the Soviet Union/Cold War). The Wall existed in some form or fashion for a little over 28 years; it was early February of 2018 when the moment passed that it’d been down for as long as it had stood. I’m not nearly enough of a student of history to discuss the proximate or long-term reasons for why it happened at that particular moment in time. But what strikes me now is how suddenly it seemed to occur (though I recognize my distance insulated me from having to be aware of developments) and how a world with two Germanys, the only one I’d known, disappeared in an instant. Meaningful change is by no means always gradual.
Martha has been to Berlin four times, twice before 89 and twice after. Here are some pix.
The Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin’s most iconic sites, sitting adjacent to the Reichstag. Here are two views when Martha was there in 1983 with a few college classmates on a class trip at the end of her junior year.
They were able to take the subway over to the East side. Here, she’s standing at some sort of barrier, as close as she was able to go. You can see the Wall on the other side of the gate.
The view from the West–there’s a short fence in front of the graffiti-riddled Wall.
And here are analogous photos I took in late June of 17:
You can see bricks in the road marking where the Wall once stood in this one. It’s remarkable to me to think how effortless it was to pass through the Gate and to visit the Reichstag, given how it was in the mid 80s.
Martha was back in Berlin in 85, during her yearlong stay in Hamburg after finishing college. This photo was taken in March on the West side (note the sign warning not to advance into the “no-man’s land”); she was en route to the airport in East Berlin, where she would take off to Moscow (a story for another day).
Not much of the Wall remains. One of the places we visited was the East Side Gallery, where they’ve turned still-standing segments into murals.
Rather than try to make some grand statement about the ultimate futility of walls myself, I’ll let a couple of songs do the talking, even if they’re not from the latter part of 89.