Monday, November 16, 2009

Jubiläum des Mauerfalls pt.1

[ Fall of the Berlin Wall Anniversary pt.1 ]

Monday reminded me that I was in Germany during a very exciting time, and that I was very fortunate to be granted a CBYX scholarship to live and study in Germany during this very historic year.

Just weeks ago I witnessed the national elections take place first hand, and now I also had the opportunity to experience the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

On November 9th Berlin and the entire nation of Germany celebrated the 20th anniversary of this event which, as stated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, "is not only a day of celebration for Germans. It is a day of celebration for the whole of Europe."

Merkel is the first former East German Chancellor to run the unified nation, and she led the memorial events in Berlin side by side with other important European figures including Britain's Gordon Brown, France's Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as well as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Polish ex-president Lech Walesa.

In a large symbolic representation of the fall of the wall, 1000 dominos featuring murals of graffiti and art toppled over each other over the 2 Kilometer line where the Wall once divided the city - thus representing the domino effect of ending communism across Eastern Europe. [ In a matter of months communism regimes fell in Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania]

The events in Berlin were filled with memorials as well as celebrations, including rock acts such as Bon Jovi adding a background soundtrack that would have been blared through the celebratory destruction of the wall 20 years ago.

Being in Germany during this anniversary allowed me to hear stories and hear the news in both German and English and accrue a deeper understanding of this landmark day. I began to surf the internet and find many fascinating video clips, many old news stories from '89 and '90 that documented the great change that took place in Germany.

Richard Blystone, a former CNN correspondent in America, documented some of his greatest life's work while observing the great evolution of the unification of Germany, and noted a vivid image of what the scene of the fall looked like as East and West merged together:

"On the west side, there was all this graffiti and dirty words, and names of rock groups and 'down with that' -- all the chaos of a pluralistic society," he said. "On the eastern side, it was clean and white, just so sterile."

The Berlin wall and its images of beautiful graffiti are known internationally, but truly understanding just what the Wall's fall meant and the struggles that still ensued after in the great project of unifying Germany are hard to comprehend in our modern world two decades later. After all, with the wall falling only months before I was born, during my lifetime Germany has always been a unified nation - a completely different perspective to the two generations that lived through the times of East and West Germany and the mystery that each side had from the other, many of whom are quoted as saying, "I never thought I would see this in my lifetime."

Talking with my host parents as well as other Germans throughout the day, I was able to garner many great views and recollections of the historical events. Naturally the crumbling of the wall, hammer blow by blow, symbolized the beating of a repressive, tyrannical government off the European continent, but this event was only the beginning of huge changes for Germany.

As stated, two generations lived during a time of German divide only with thoughts of what took place on the other side. When the wall fell - a series of events that began with leniency for border crossing for refugees and protesters, evolving into a complete overflow and border collapse - there was almost an immediate period of time that Germany needed to experience culture shock within its own nation with its own people. Amongst the awe of Ossi's [Easterners] exploring the modernized western Germany, the Wessi's [Westerners] were able to observe, and also swoop in and make bountiful purchases with their strong Marks in the East.

[ artist representation of a Trabbi smashing through the Berlin Wall ]

I can only imagine how extraordinary this must have looked, since I heard stories of the autobahns lined in traffic, the extravagant BMW's and Mercedes driving eastward, and the laughable 'Trabbis' in comparison cruising Westward for a glance at this 'other world' beyond the border.

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