Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Cobblestone-Snake

I often ride my bike across Berlin for hours just to get used to my new home and to enjoy the sometimes hidden beauty of this huge city. A couple of weeks ago I watched TV after one of these bike rides and learned that the following day marked a historical date that didn’t only have a huge impact on my life but on the lifes of millions of other people.

Exactly 45 years ago in the night from August 12 to August 13, 1961 thousands of soldiers and policeman had blocked off the Soviet sector from the rest of Berlin. The East German leaders had set the foundation to what is now known to people from all over the world as the “Berlin Wall.” Walter Ulbricht, then the political leader of East Germany, was cited in June 1961 with the words: “No-one has any intentions to build a wall” after being asked by a West German Journalist. Two months later he gave the order to build a monster that separated millions from each other, killed hundreds, and led to the Cold War.

Today this war is history. On my bike rides I cross the border between former East and West Berlin several times every day often without noticing it. The only visible sign of the wall is a line of cobblestones that seems to crawl through the streets of Berlin like a giant snake. This line marks the position of the former wall. The cobblestone-line cuts through streets, runs along sidewalks, separates big squares, stops at one end of a brand new building just to start again on the other side of it. It runs over bridges, along rivers, and across open fields and parks.

Today my roommate and I followed the line across the city with our bikes. We passed a lot of pieces of the original wall that are scattered across town. Most of them are part of memorials or are protected as pieces of art. The memorials are impressive and silent witnesses of a past period. We passed museums that address different issues related to the separated Germany. We passed world famous sights like the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate where tourists take their pictures and where only a few remember how different these places used to look like only a little more than a decade ago. Most amazing for me was to see how totally different architectural stiles developed on both sides of some roads. Without knowing what the cobblestone-line in the middle of those roads stands for, one would have a hard time to explain this phenomenon.

Even though I grew up in the former Eastern part of Germany I have problems to imagine that a lot of people paid with their lifes trying to cross this line that I cross several times a day on my way to work or on my way to see a friend. I have had the strong desire to write this post for a while now because I witness the same thing every single weekend: The park a block from my house is called the “Mauerpark” – the “wall park.” It used to be a part of the so-called death strip behind the wall. Instead of soldiers with machine guns, barbed wire, mines, and observation platforms you can watch parents smiling along with their kids, people playing soccer and music – today there even was a guy with a drum set – friends grilling sausages and drinking beer, dogs all over, people reading and talking in all kinds of languages, and lovers enjoying the sun.

When it gets dark all these people go home crossing the cobblestone-snake that runs through the park, in one or the other direction just to come back the next weekend. How bizarre must all this be for people who stood infront of the wall 20 years ago dreaming to get across it in the hope for a better life…I really hope people will learn.


Blogger christa t said...

Please do more posts about Berlin, Knasselhoff. 4KS currently lacks all jetsetting glamor due to your infrequent europosts.

Can your next post please be about Mauerpark Handstand Guy?

9/11/2006 8:17 PM  
Blogger Huevos McGringo said...

money post, khoff.

9/12/2006 11:19 AM  

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