Monday, November 09, 2009

More than the sum of its parts

 
Twenty years ago today the East German police stepped down from their guard towers, put the safety locks on their guns and allowed West Berliners and East Berliners to walk (not run) across the sandy no-mans-land and climb the wall into each other's territory.

Caroline's teacher told her class about the wall today, and asked each student to find out what their parents remembered of the day.

What I remember: a long walk across campus after a late rehearsal, news called between students on the sidewalk, a dash up the stairs to my dorm to turn on the radio and hear for myself. The radio announcers were uncommonly excited; in between feeds from Berlin of the celebrations, they explained what was going on and what it could mean. I kept the radio on well past midnight, listening in the dark to the remarkable news that the Cold War could be over, and the Berlin Wall just a wall, soon down.

{1} Rondo-cubism meets new Prague architecture {2} mushroom hunters in the forest {3} seed pods by a stream {4} the ruins of Okor {5} James, looking very fall like {6} cubist wallpaper and reflections of the 19th century {center} graffiti, as usual.

9 comments:

Barrett Bonden said...

Yes it seemed the Cold War was over, but then our respective governments found other targets for the products of our arms manufacturers. OK I'm bitter but I wasn't bitter then. It was a magic moment. Perhaps the most telling detail were the faces of the GDR border guards, standing around (suddenly much younger) doing nothing, seeing their ordered world literally falling apart. Unable by profession and upbringing to join in the gaiety; waiting for orders that would never come; having to get used to Befehl ist nicht Befehl. I almost felt sorry for them but then reminded myself that only three weeks previously they'd shot some young lad keen to leave their authoritarian nirvana.

Julia said...

Living here, it's hard for me to be bitter about the changes that swept across the region. In the US there is a lot of talk about how things really didn't change much, but all you have to do is to come to Prague and stand at the top of Vaclavske namesti, where the crowds gathered 8 days after the Berlin Wall fell, and look. It is a fundamentally different place. Happily, polls suggest that most Czechs feel they are better off now, which is a pretty decent accord considering the human tendency to nostalgia.

poppy fields said...

We watched the dominos come down last night and tried to explain to the girls about what that represented.

Mary said...

It was fascinating whilst I was away to talk to a 48 year old German woman who had such clear memories of this exceptional event..

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

How incredible. I've been listening to people's accounts and it's so fascinating.

Kelly said...

I can't get over what a big boy James is! I love how his hair has come in...he looks like a tiny little man :) What a great expression on his face, too.

prashant said...

It is a fundamentally different place. Happily, polls suggest that most Czechs feel they are better off now, which is a pretty decent accord considering the human tendency to nostalgia.
Work from home India

Barrett Bonden said...

Julia: I didn't make myself clear, I'm afraid. I'm delighted by the way the ex-Iron Curtain countries benefited, especially where the transition was painless. CZ was the home of the Velvet Revolution, after all. And had a poet, for goodness sake, as president. Jane Fonda said Vaclav was the only smoker she was prepared to share a room with.

What was depressing was that the end of the Cold War didn't bring about less bellicose attitudes in the USA or GB. We had arms manufacturers to keep in business and so we looked around and, gosh, thank goodness for the muslims.

Lucy said...

I'd been in Germany some years before, and the family took me to Lubeck mostly to see the border (OK, to eat marzipan too...), and impress on me their feelings aobut it. Whatever it meant overall in the Cold War it was certainly important for Germany, and I think in general both sides there set about re-making things with a will and good grace.

Autumn leaf James is adorable as ever.