Saturday, November 21, 2009

20 years after the fall


Berlin has changed greatly since the wall separating the city into west and east was broken down in 1989. There's hardly any trace of the cultural and economic differences between the two sectors. Economic prosperity is equally distributed whereas prior to the historic fall, residents from the east had to beg for food across the fence from the people on the west.
Imagine the pain of not being able to hug your relatives who just live a wall away. At one time, a death zone called no-man's land was created to prevent those from the east to escape to the west side. Anyone found hanging on that section is automatically rifled to death or electrecuted.
At Checkpoint Charlie, where the East Germany-made car trabi made a dramatic entry into the west signalling the reunification of the two states, tourists mill about, scooping into their hands whatever memorabilia they can find of the memorable event.
If you're looking for souvenirs, you will almost certainly find as did the other tourists before you rough pieces or slabs of rocks that storeowners would say were chipped from the historic wall.
Be warned: there had been hundreds of those pieces sold before and yet they don't seem to run out of supply. Berliners can be as enterprising as the streethawkers in Quiapo.
It was a happy event that Berliners this year marked the 20th year of the fall as happy as it was when it was tore down in the autumn of 1989. When the wall came down, communism died with it and freedom and democracy was restored in that part of the world and elsewhere.
That's Berlin's legacy that is worth remembering about, even if when you find yourself walking on the streets of Berlin, a pall of gloom - perhaps a leftover of the carnage in the tumultuous years under the Nazi regime - seems to hang over you.

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