Monday, 9 November 2009

The Berlin Wall

One rarely happens to be where world news, and sometimes history, is made. Yet, in such a situation I found myself twenty years ago, when the Berlin Wall came down. I was sitting with a friend in a pizzeria when our waiter, an Italian, all of a sudden and totally excited, shouted: "Mauer auf, Mauer auf" — "Wall open, wall open." Being Swiss, and therefore not given to a spontaneous overflow of feelings, I calmly explained to my German friend that such a thing was not possible and that we should better stay and finish our meal. Only later, when the place was deserted and we were the only ones left, did my friend and I decide that maybe the waiter, despite being Italian and thus, most likely, given to wild exaggerations, might have been right and the wall had indeed been opened.

When we eventually arrived at one of the border crossings, it was four o'clock in the morning and, except for an occasional Easterner heading across, not much was going on anymore. In the nearby bars, however, emotions were running high — I remember men trembling and shaking, and with tears in their eyes. Impossible, not to be moved. The next day, the Easterners queued to get their 100 German mark "welcome money," they queued for bananas — quite obviously a rarity in the East — and the queued to get into the sex shops.

Such was, roughly, my experience of the wall coming down. I did, however, see one more wall coming down: this time on television. It was recorded live and, therefore, difficult to control — a young man from East-Berlin, strolling down the Kurfürstendamm in the Western part of town, was asked how he liked being in the free world? "It's the same as in the East," he replied, "West-German marks will buy you everything." Watching it happen on television, I had a feeling of excitement and fun, like being at a really good party. It certainly was very different from what I had felt the night before — then it had seemed somewhat incomprehensibly unreal whereas now, on television, I had the strange sensation that this was more real than what I myself had experienced.


Unknown said...

Hi Hans,

The point is on TV you always see the short version, so the boring parts were cut :D.

Sorry, but it is not clear to me. You were in the west side that night?


Marcos Ripplinger

Hans Durrer said...

Yes, Marcos, the west side.