Monday, 10 November 2014

‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’

With the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Lady Ardour takes a look at the city as it stands today.

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War. The wall had been constructed in 1961 and stretched for 96 miles separating East Berlin from West Berlin. The concrete mass structure divided families and friends from each other, and to the German people was a horrible symbol of Soviet communist rule of GDR (German Democratic Republic). Yesterday, the German people and others around the world had a right to celebrate this proud moment in history.

 After travelling to Berlin this summer, I finally saw remnants of this reality; Berlin is a city shrouded in history. The Tiergarten slap in the centre of the city was once the hunting ground for the king and electors of the Brandenburg Gate in 1527, The Brandenburg Tur itself towers over Unter den Linden, its construction started in 1788, and Marienkirche – St. Mary’s Church – which dates back to the 13th century: all examples of the wealth of history associated with the city. However, the one history that seems to casts its shadow over all, in Berlin, is the horrors of the 20th century.

Berlin was very much a broken city after WWII, the bombing of the town destroyed much of its infrastructure. On one of my first days here I took a boat trip down the River Spree; well over half a century later and reconstruction is still taking place. Museum Island, visible from the river, is still having some of its beautiful architecture rebuilt, namely because the GDR chose not to do so. They did, however, construct ‘shoebox’ apartments for the people of the east, in-keeping with their Socialist/Marxist doctrine.

Wander too far from Alexander Platz and you come upon the Fernsehturm, an ugly looking ball on a stick which can actually be seen from pretty much anywhere in the city and was built by the GDR as a symbol of Soviet dominance. Around this area there is virtually no sign of old Berlin, everything was bombed during the war and new plain buildings took their place, again constructed by the GDR, holding no aesthetic quality. Yes, proof of the GDRs existence is very much evident still in Germany today and tourists flock into the city to see the remnants of the wall itself and the aftermath of the Holocaust and the Nazi regime (a story for another day).

While in Berlin, I got the feeling that the city was literally a baby still trying to find its feet. After reading an article in the National Geographic in 2013, I had put Berlin on my wish list. This article had portrayed the city as one that harnessed a creative environment. With spaces to rent easily to set up art galleries and studios, the article stated that it attracted a more youthful crowd; this was teemed with the fact that Berlin has lots of ‘cool’ pubs, beer gardens and a ‘wicked nightlife’ - I am pretty sure I was not the only young twenty year old attracted to the city by this article. After my week spent exploring the different areas I would find it hard to dispute Berlin as ‘cool’, however, there is certainly a different vibe here, then let’s say London’s east end. The atmosphere is calm, the people are friendly, the air is 'greener' than other cities I’ve visited, yet, it seems like Berlin is still trying to prove its worth. Maybe Germany can move on from the reality of its past now that it has reached a quarter of a century since the fall of the wall.

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