Entering Berlin on the autobahn.
A few days ago it was the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Like millions of people around the world back then, we were glued to the tv watching something we never thought would happen in our lifetime and then it seemed, in an eyeblink, it was gone, along with the Soviet Union.
I’ll always be kind of sorry that we didn’t whip out the credit card and hop a plane to go and be part of it. But in December of 1990, two months after Unification, we did travel to Germany for a business trip my husband had in Wiesbaden. Afterwards we got a rental car and headed east. That part of the trip is a story for another post, but we simply crossed the old border via a country road into the now-defunct East Germany and drove to Berlin. What follows is an album of photos I took on the day we explored the area around where the Wall had been. I thought it would be good not to just let these photos of an historic time sit in a photo album, but get them out there as one eyewitness record of a moment in time. They were taken with a Nikon N2000 film camera and the 4×6″ prints scanned on an Epson scanner into Photoshop. I only did a minimum of adjustments, preferring to leave them as I took them as much as possible.
Our first stop was the Brandenburg Gate, which was undergoing repairs and restoration and was blocked off.
Nearby was a piece of the Wall and a burned-out Trabant car. There were many of these scattered around the city and alongside the roads, mostly orange or lime green. A popular joke about this much-hated vehicle was “How do you double the value of a Trabbi? Fill it with gas.”
One of the first things we noticed were the vendors set up all around the Gate. They were selling well, just about everything moveable that had been connected to East Germany….uniforms, currency, official documents, ID papers, medals. And also pieces of the Wall, some big chunks just piled on the ground and some mounted in little plastic souvenir boxes.
The scene around the Brandenburg Gate.
One of the vendors. They all seemed to be from Eastern Europe, speaking languages like Bulgarian, not German.
Pieces of the Wall in the little plastic display boxes. We have a couple, but they’re packed away somewhere at the moment.
A section of the Wall with one of the holes people punched in it with whatever they could find.
The site of Gestapo headquarters.
Another view of the site of Gestapo headquarters, which had been leveled.
A sign at the site showing the building that had been there. So much evil, pain and terror occurred in that place, but it’s gone forever now.
Colorful Wall section.
A long stretch of the Wall. Walking along it was a somewhat surreal experience.
We sure weren’t the first Americans there, not by a long shot.
Since it was December, someone left a holiday message.
We talked it over and decided, what the heck,, we’d add our names. All we had was a pen, but we managed.
Me writing on the Wall.
My husband, David, writing on the Wall.
Checkpoint Charlie had been turned into a temporary souvenir shop.
Street scene with the Reichstag in the background.
Impromptu street cafe with the Brandenburg Gate in the background.
The Reichstag (German parliament building)
Corner of the Reichstag showing patched bullet and artillary shell holes from WWII.
Memorial between the Reichstag and the river for those who died trying to get to freedom over the Wall there.
The Reichstag after the end of the War.
The Reichstag during a return trip to Berlin in October, 2004.
I couldn’t resist grabbing a quick shot of this beautiful woman in her fur coat and hat. I got a stream of quite angry Russian in return, along the lines of “It’s really rude to take photos of people!” (my husband knew enough Russian to translate). Of course in the old Soviet bloc no one was used having their picture taken casually in a public place, so I couldn’t blame her for being upset. I apologized and we went on our way. Quickly. But I’m really glad I got the shot. I hope she has lived a good and happy life.
More street vendors.
Street vendor with the Brandenburg Gate in the background.
Brandenburg Gate, December 1990 with vendors selling East German military uniforms.
The Brandenburg Gate on our return trip to Berlin in October 2004.
Our piece of the Berlin Wall. It’s about 10″ wide. I had to dig through a few piles to find this colorful piece.