This was how it looked when I lived in Berlin in the mid-80s. It’s just a couple of hundred metres along from Checkpoint Charlie (as was). Now that it’s all gone, it’s hard to explain what it was like, or to understand how something so bizarre could even be. A street, divided down the middle, with different worlds on either side.
Below is how it looks now. Tony & I took a stroll along there last week; and it seemed – to me – equally bizarre … or whatever the right word is for ‘catch-in-the-throat’ … because, although I’m elated that the Wall has been (almost) erased (and yes: I was one of those jubilant, weeping Berliners atop the Wall in 1989 when they broke through at the Brandenburg Gate), it’s oddly disconcerting to have such a vivid part of my own personal history rubbed out in the process.
Tons of memories of East- and West-Berlin, now dislocated. Running for my life (or so it felt) through the East’s deserted streets just before midnight, trying to get to the Friedrichstraße checkpoint before my day-visa expired (I’d been visiting friends in Rostock; their Trabi broke down on the way to the train station; the last train was late). A man on a bench, waiting for a bus, with a bunch of out-of-season bananas set proudly beside him (you couldn’t get them in the East). Punschschnitten in the bakeries; and Zigeunersauce with everything. And the smell of that cleaning fluid they used in public buildings (cleverly re-used in the Wall exhibit in the Museum of German History in Bonn, where it made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end …).
I used to take slides in those days, rather than photos; and Tony’s just sent them away to be scanned into digital format. I can’t wait, because (of course …) I haven’t looked at them for years. Expect more memories. Berlin has a way of bringing them out, as they’re everywhere – viz the stones on this building (below), still pocked with shrapnel and bullet holes from the war; and (further down) this bedraggled-looking remnant of the Wall, overlooking the excavated cellars of what was the Gestapo’s Prinz-Albrecht-Straße HQ.