On the evening of November 9, 1989, the slow fall of the Berlin wall began. Although official German reunification did not occur on paper until October 3, 1990, it was those Mauerspechte (literally, ‘wall woodpeckers’) who began to slowly chip away parts of the wall in November that started the social movement that would bring Germany back together.
I wanted to share a throwback. When I was 17, my friend Marisa and I decided on a whim to grab our sleeping bags, hop on the four-hour train ride from Hamburg to Berlin for the weekend, to visit her cousin, see the wall, der Bundestag (German parliament), the Holocaust Memorial, and Checkpoint Charlie museum.
At the remnants of the wall (a.k.a. The East Side Gallery, a 1.3km long stretch of former wall, where street artists have free reign). I had to leave my mark. I just happened to save some Hello Kitty sticky notes and a sharpie in my backpack.
I remember it was January, and it was really friggin’ cold. I also want to share the fact that her cousin had THE COOLEST KITCHEN. She had some Finnish travellers staying with her, and this is where I learned my first Finnish words (Hyvää iltaa – good evening).
Five Fast Facts about the Berlin Wall & East Germany:
- Die Mauer (lit. ‘the wall’. pronunciation = mao-er). If you’re in Berlin, this is what you want to use while trying to ask for directions. Officially it’s ‘Die Berliner Mauer’, but usually Germans will find it redundant if you try and ask for ‘the Berlin Wall’, when you’re already in Berlin. Just ask for ‘the wall’. They’ll know what you mean.
- The Wall was originally/officially named the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall (anti-fascist protection rampart) by the GDR (German Democratic Republic, a.k.a. East Germany).
- The wall completely encircled West Berlin from 1961-1989. 28 Years.
- My favourite German Mauer movies: Good Bye, Lenin!, Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others).
- When in Berlin, you can tell which section of the city you’re in by looking to see if the streetlights resemble little men with hats. They’re called Ampelmännchen (lit. ‘little traffic light men’), and are only found on the streetlights in former East Germany.
So happy freedom day, everyone. Think about this: less time has passed since the wall fell, than the length of time it originally stood for. Sometimes it’s easy to forget, since it’s been histor-ified and museum-ified, but it really wasn’t all that long ago.
So happy fall of the Berlin Wall Day!