First We take Berlin

I’ve never been one to get things the right way round.

So, following Berlin’s incessant stalking, I finally made it to the city to find out what it wanted. This was its first message:

Fair point!

Fair point!

I don’t speak German but Ian does. This meant that I spent the whole trip being the Teller to his most eloquent Penn, which is a little ironic because if you know us then you’d probably cast us in the opposite roles on looks alone.

It’s more than a little annoying being the one who can’t communicate, particularly in a place like Berlin where if you’re not accidentally stepping on history, you’re finding yourself sharing a currywurst table with a woman who was smuggled across the Berlin wall by a complete stranger as a child. I was very glad that Ian was there to translate. He said, ‘Have you seen the film the Lives of Others?’ and she laughed and said, ‘No. I don’t watch those films. I lived it.’

I don’t have much more to share than this; the thing that I found myself thinking, over and over, as we walked around, was that in Berlin you don’t go looking for stories, they seek you out. And the amazing thing about this is, that while you are walking into people’s stories at every turn you learn that every single one of those stories was a voice that someone once tried to silence. The oppressors, the Nazis, the Stasi, those who attempted to shut people up and dehumanise them, succeeded only in making themselves less than human. Those voices which attempted to make sure that no other voices ever spoke again are now drowned out in the ubiquitous stories of places like Berlin, where even the quiet blocks of concrete speak for those who could not do so in their lifetime.

Impossible to capture the scale of this maze of concrete, or what it feels like to be in it. I expect that's partly the point.

The holocaust memorial. Impossible to capture the scale of this maze of concrete, or what it feels like to be in it. I expect that’s partly the point.

This is the memorial in the Tiergarten to those people who the Nazis killed because they were queer.

This is the memorial in the Tiergarten to those people who the Nazis killed because they were queer.

Inside the Gedächtniskirche- a church badly damaged during the war.

Inside the Gedächtniskirche- a church badly damaged during the war.

People write and draw everywhere in Berlin. So much colour, everywhere.

People write and draw everywhere in Berlin. So much colour, everywhere.

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2 comments

  1. I was in Berlin in 1967. I entered the City from the south, so drove through East Germany. As we left East Germany we were searched. We then went into the Russian Zone (where we were searched once again). At the East German/Berlin border there were two lines – one for German Nationals, and one for foreigners. I was the only one in the line for foreigners. Everywhere I looked were security lights, and look out towers. Guards with sub machine guns. All quite menacing and a little worrying. The wall of course was there. Along the wall (on the West side) were observation posts. On the east side there was a cleared area stretching about 100 metres from the wall. Every so often would be a large hoarding with a message “Come on over it’s great in the East”. A fascinating city nonetheless. i would love to go back and see it unified.

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