Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 9 - and 20 years ago

I usually remember memorable meals, or I remember what I ate at memorable events. 20 years ago I was in Berlin at what qualifies as top-10 memorable moments of anyone's life. I was living in Brussels then, and after a flight from Brussels to Frankfurt with Lufthansa and then a connecting flight to Berlin on American Airlines - it was still East Germany so getting IN to Berlin still involved some acrobatics - I was there.

I think I crossed Checkpoint Charlie on one of the last days it was still operational as a real checkpoint. Within hours of our crossing into the East, chunks of the wall were being sawed off. I don't remember how I found a hotel room, I don't remember where it was, but I do remember walking towards the Siegesäule by the wall with an increasing number of people.

The hum of all those people walking towards a wall that had defined the city for almost 30 years, everyone from punk rockers in leather to nice middle class ladies taking a hammer or axe to the wall, my friends reaching up to hand a pack of Marlboros to the East German soldier standing on the wall. That soldier would never had been able to stand on that wall before the week in November. I don't think I realized, as they stood stoically on that wall, looking down at us, occasionally accepting cigarettes or flowers, that for many of them, that this was the first time they had stood so close to the other side, that it was the first time they could look into the city and the people they had been separate from for decades. They looked liked they weren't quite sure what they should do, so they stood sentry on the wall - but what I wouldn't give to hear the internal dialogue going on in their heads as they saw the no-man's-land strip between the wall and the watchtowers on the Eastern side, and the throng of people, television crews, cars and ice cream trucks on the other side. I wonder where those guys are now.

I spent 3 or 4 days in Berlin that time, and I have absolutely no memory of what I ate. I walked every where, I don't think I slept much, and I must have had at least a couple of Bockwürstchen in the street, the kind of sausage only Germans know how to make, with mustard that again only Germans serve. And I can't imagine I would have spent half an hour in Germany before buying a poppy seed pastry. Maybe I did, but I don't remember anything about it at all.

The good thing is, I don't have to try remember or forget this.

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