Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Wall

This week the world celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which took me back to last year when I was in Berlin, witnessing all its historical associations, street art and distinctive culture. However, what stood out the most was how ugly the city was especially when compared to its European counterparts. Having already visited other historically rich cities like Istanbul, Rome, Florence, Vienna and Prague, I expected Berlin to be in the same league if not better, but as we entered the city centre, navigating our way through the heavy traffic, the numerous under construction patches, not to mention the torrential rain, I found it more like Bombay!

But then, over the next few days, Berlin captivated me in a way that no other city in the world can: the sheer power of no-nonsense history can make an indelible impression on your mind. I mean once you have stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate, felt the ruins of the Berlin Wall or just spent hours reading the placards at Checkpoint Charlie, you are automatically transported back in time as the famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech of John F Kennedy echoes in your ears or the Russian soldier just across Checkpoint Charlie stares into your eyes: cold, unflinching and steady. While the famous but uncharacteristically plain government building or Reichstag reminds you of the role it played in WWII and the “death strip” parallel to the Berlin Wall sends a chill down your spine, some of the other places like Hitler’s bunker, the Jewish cemetery or the Babelplatz which is infamous for the book burning by Nazis, repeatedly take you back to the dark days. Of course, there are other places like the Alexanderplatz, the City Hall, the Postdamer Platz or numerous museums, cathedrals and universities, but as beautiful as they are, once you have walked along the non-descript remains of the Berlin Wall, nothing can hold a candle to that.

I have no recollection of the Berlin Wall coming down, but once you have a taste of its significance even it’s only through books and documentaries, you can’t but help staring at it for hours, even as the busy pedestrians behind you impatiently push you down the street.

As far as walls are concerned, it’s safe to say the Berlin Wall is definitely not a imposing brick and mortar wonder.

Rather, it’s almost an anticlimax, but one which is loaded in history…

4 comments:

anusia said...

Nice post. Very deep.

Nefertiti said...

@anusia
thanks for dropping by. hope you enjoy the read.

Ankur mehrotra said...

I feel Berlin is a city which has to be felt, for its sorrow, for both major wars and the division which came later.

But Berlin is also a symbol of how walls cannot divide us forever, and (lending from Willy Brandt) what belongs together can grow together

Nefertiti said...

@ankur
yes, and Berlin is so much more...