Our flat in Berlin is in Pankow, the former East. What’s amazing is that we are a stone’s throw from one of the S-Bahn stations. I can read the names on the shopping bags of the people standing on the platform. I mean it’s RIGHT THERE. But between us and the tracks is a little marker that reads “Berliner Mauer 1961-1989”.
For nearly thirty years, whoever lived here would have looked out of the front window and seen West German commuters. I’m trying to imagine how strange that period must have been if that was us. We would have received their television and radio of course, but from here we would have seen the buildings, the people…we could have shouted to them and them back to us. We could have flown kites from our street and sent bottles of East German Schultheiss Berliner Weisse to the other side. They would have flown kites and sent us fancy cheeses or something. Ok, the guards wouldn’t have allowed any of that. But we’re people that do our best not to have borders and constraints. I’m trying to imagine looking at your window everyday at a place you could never go. Looking at a giant wall with guards and machine guns, telling you that you could no longer patronize your favorite bakery or tavern, even though you can smell the bread or hear the din from the biergarten.
We’re old enough to remember when they tore that thing down, and what a big deal that was for the city and for the world. But there’s still nothing quite like envisioning that for yourself.