Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Berlin in Pictures: 25 Years Ago, and Now

25 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell.

True story:  On this date, 25 years ago, some time after lunch, I was in my high school library looking for a topic for my Honors English term paper. And while I was sitting at a table trying to think of a thesis, one of my fellow students, Eric S.,  walked up to me and engaged me in conversation.

This was notable because Eric S. and I did not move in the same social circles. In fact, I was a nerd (back before nerds were cool), and he was a popular jock.  But we both had obviously German last names.

So Eric walks up to me and, out of the blue, asks "So, do you think East and West Germany will ever unify?"

I think about this for a moment and I reply "Eventually, sure. It might take a war, or it might take improved relations between us and the Russians, but it could happen. I don't think it will happen within our lifetime, though."

He nodded thoughtfully at this and walked off.

That night -- THAT NIGHT -- I was doing my homework after supper when my parents called me into the living room to see the Berlin Wall come down, live on broadcast news.

After watching for a few minutes in dumbstruck awe, I pulled out the phone book (we still had them in those days), looked up the phone number for Eric S. (I told you his name was distinctive), and when he answered I practically shouted into the phone "WHAT DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WEREN'T TELLING ME???"

He just laughed and said "I didn't know anything. I'm as surprised as you are."

25 years later, Germany is still unified. For an interesting retrospective, go look at this interactive photo essay at the Frankfurter Allgemeine, where you can compare photos taken that night with new ones taken recently.

And if you haven't already, I encourage you to read my Berlin Trilogy posts.  It was an interesting place to visit, and it's rather odd knowing that I once visited a country that no longer exists today.

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