On this day in 1989, the Berlin Wall
came down. What I thought would never happen in my lifetime, did. This was such an amazing day for me for two reasons. My mother still had family behind that wall and this would make her very happy. The second reason was that my mother was in fact in the hospital on the road to recovery from Pancreatitis. She'd been there 8 weeks by this time and they were just getting ready to take her gallbladder out. I was able to tell her the news before she went into the operating room but I'm not sure she really understood. Later of course, after the anesthetic had worn off she understood and was incredibly happy.
That was the day she said we'd make the trip back together. That never happened and I went alone.
Remnants of the wall seen from the River Spree. Many people died trying to cross the wall and swim across the river to the west. Some made it...
The reunification has not been easy for both sides and the resentment still lingers today. West Germany accumulated billions in debt in the process. The east expected more and the west didn't think it would cost so much. I think that will take a few more years before that works itself out.
My cousin tells me that after "die wende"
which is how reunification is currently referred to and loosely translated means "the turning point", the Russians took everything of value and left. Every factory was emptied down to the last screw and taken away leaving nothing for the residents for a new beginning. Those buildings and factories are a depressing sight.
A Residence For Russian Soldiers
It is still a very depressed area of Germany with no industry to speak of. Farmland lies fallow because nobody knows who owns it and with EU rules on output, well what's the point of growing stuff. The unemployment rate stands close to 20 percent in this part of Germany.
It is a beautiful part of Germany with the Baltic sea and there is some tourism but not enough. While I was there I saw no tourists other than a few Germans from the south. Things are a lot less expensive than in other parts of Germany and the Euro goes a lot further there.
The people here are very friendly and polite. They are also very resigned and cynical especially towards politicians. They have been promised much twice, once by the Russians and the second time by west German politicians and both times have been left to fend for themselves. The people I spoke with said that things were better before reunification. They all had a job, they had a place to live and food on the table. They didn't have the luxuries that we in the west have but now with so few jobs most still don't have them. They were all in the same boat.
Some things are better of course, you no longer have to worry about being spied upon by a neighbour or even a relative in some cases, and reported to the authorities. Now you can live and travel in freedom. I was told that prior to "die wende" every apartment building had a superintendent whose job it was to record all visitors in the building. So if you had a party for example, you had to register every guest. He had a book to write the names in and I suspect that he probably turned that in to the authorities for inspection from time to time. If you had a visitor that was known to speak against the state would you receive a visit from the Stasi?
Can any one of us in the west imagine living like that?
The streets around the towns and villages are so clean, something the rest of the world could emulate. There is no litter on the streets, not even cigarette butts.
Even the horses aren't allowed to litter...
Not even one tiny piece of litter to be found anywhere, I think that's pretty cool, don't you?
Labels: German Trip, travel 2008