If you’re traveling to Berlin, chances are you will probably be paying a visit to the Berlin Wall. My visit was in the summer of 2014, just before the 25-year anniversary of its fall.
A Brief History
At the end of WWII, the Yalta and Potsdam conferences divided Germany and the city of Berlin into East (Soviet) and West (Allies). What followed was over ten years of refugees leaving the East and heading west through Berlin. In 1961 alone, tens of thousands had fled the East. This didn’t fly too well with the Soviets so they built and manned a wall that would only allow passage through screening checkpoints. The wall greatly obstructed the flow of people into West Berlin and would go on to become a symbol of the Cold War.
For nearly 30 years, the wall stood and separated East and West. In those years, only around 5,000 managed to make it to the West, and nearly 200 were killed in their attempts. In time, Cold War tensions did ease and on November 9th, 1989, the wall was finally opened and Germany was reunited.
Back to 2014… At the grassy little park we had peddled into, there was only one other person admiring the graffiti-covered wall. He was a German man who looked to be in his late-50s. We ended up talking and he told us that for the 25th Anniversary (on November 9th, 2014), roughly 8,000 huge white balloon lights were to be set up every 2.5 meters along the length of the wall. At night they would light up the sky in celebration of Germany’s reunification. It sounded pretty beautiful to me but I imagined it would be something much more significant for him.
Considering all the oppression and anguish that surrounded the Berlin Wall, it is definitely an experience to stand in front of it today. There is a colossal history and perseverance that you can see and almost feel just by being in its presence. The ground that you stand on has a story to tell; not simply in political history but in the lives of countless individuals. Though whether it be right next to the Berlin Wall or a gum wall, every place has a story, as long as one has an ear to listen.