The Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago and I’m reflecting on how fate brought me to live in there around eight months prior to that historic moment.
I had taken a shine to a German guy who was visiting my college one summer. Having always wanted to immerse myself in another culture and language, I thought I should see if this relationship could work and discover Berlin. During my prior two visits I loved the city’s textures which reminded me of New York’s East Village and was intrigued by Berlin’s history that is on every corner, branded into every building and into each conversation. So two weeks after I graduated, I was on a plane at JFK heading for the Tegel airport to move.
I found out that you couldn’t go a day in Berlin without bumping into the Wall especially as I lived near Kreuzberg, which was on the border to East Berlin. And any time you drove to West Germany you had to go via the East-West German border crossing with a passport; you could never forget the division of the countries.
On November 9, 1989–the start of Die Wende (in English: The Turn? that’s an extact translation, or perhaps The Change)– I was a bit overwhelmed as the city was flooded with people and Trabants, the little cars that have become one of the symbols of East Germany. I don’t remember being on the streets, but in the days to come we all were out and about in a daze. West Germans were speaking the way we now talking about Obama: They never thought the Wall would fall in their lifetimes. They said this with tears in their eyes. It was a thrill to see.