19 October 2014

25 Years

The year: 1989
The month: November
The day: 9th
The place: East Berlin, Berlin Wall
The time: late evening

It's hard to believe that nearly 25 years have passed since the collapse of the iron curtain, the end of the communist block and the peaceful collapse of the Berlin Wall and with it, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (known to English speakers as East Germany). 

I specifically visited Berlin on this trip because I wanted to get a feel for the general atmosphere 25 years later, and I was sure there would be special exhibits or memorials marking this anniversary. I was entirely wrong. 

Through Couchsurfing, I had contact with some locals. When I asked them about it, most answered that they had no idea, or had not thought about it much at all. 
I then went to the tourist info in Berlin. The lady I spoke with there reacted as if I was the first person to ask her that question. She googled it, and then told me that it was surprising that she hadn't found anything. She thought maybe something will take place on the 9th, but otherwise it seems that nothing significant is being done to mark this occasion.

In Berlin, one can quite easily learn more about the wall. If you fight your way through the throngs of tourists, you can go to the East Side Gallery, Checkpoint Charlie or visit actual remaining pieces. I've done those things before, multiple times and didn't feel that I would learn / gain anything specifically new from it. But then I picked up a flyer about an exhibit near Checkpoint Charlie, a wall panorama, designed to take you back in time to an average day before the wall collapsed. I decided to check this out.

Exiting the subway station at Kochstraße, I made my way past the vendors trying to sell me Communist-era relics, and towards this exhibit. But then something else caught my eyes - a special exhibit about the Berlin Wall and communism. This "Black Box" exhibit began in a courtyard, where one can read about the history, see a memorial to those who died trying to escape the wall and read reproductions of newspaper articles from those who successfully escaped. The courtyard also contained a piece of the wall and was in and of itself quite interesting to visit.

I then proceeded to the interior exhibit. One has to pay a few Euros to get in, though they allowed me free entry because I am a teacher. This was truly one of my best museum experiences ever. It's a small space, packed with information, but not overwhelmingly so. The exhibit contained sound clips, propaganda posters, magazine cover reproductions, videos, realia and so much more. 
At one point I stood staring at a video that showed the evolution of the building of the wall, people escaping on the spot - even jumping out of windows to crowds below and later these windows being bricked up. This was such a moving video, I admit it, I choked up. 
After spending nearly an hour in this small museum, I headed to the panorama where I had initially been headed. The entry was 10€ and from the brochure, it looked like it would be well worth my time and money. I was sorely disappointed.  As one walks inside, one begins in a graffiti room. The question asked is "Was bedeutet Freiheit für Sie." What does freedom mean to you? There are markers provided to allow visitors to write their own answer. Many did, others just added their name or homeland to the chaos on the walls/floor.   

Then I headed into the panorama. This large room was circular and showed the image of a neighborhood in West Berlin bordering the wall. It was interesting to look at and consider what life might have been like in this instance. The perspective also allowed one to see and contrast to the life in the East beyond the wall. In the background, famous quotes were being said, such as that of President Kennedy saying "ich bin ein Berliner". But that was it, nothing interactive as I expected. Nice, but not worth 10 €.

1 comment:

  1. I thought of it too late: Close to our home there is another historic place regarding the German re-unification: http://www.profil.at/articles/1432/980/377266/paneuropaeisches-picknick-die-generalprobe-mauerfall
    We can visit that the next time you come.
    Best regards from Nairobi,