In 1981, I visited Berlin twice. My first bus trip occurred in January to West Berlin during the Grüne Woche. Anybody who has ever driven on one of the three corridors will remember the sight of the Iron Curtain, the tense moments when the soldiers walked through our bus checking our passports, and the eerily quiet highways. Two months later I traveled to East Germany on a group bus tour. We spent a couple of days in Dresden before continuing to East Berlin, from where we also made a day tour to Potsdam. The latter necessitated that we drove all around West Berlin to get to our destination. We were surrounded by history everywhere – from the rubble of the Frauenkirche in Dresden to the site of the Potsdam Conference. During our stay in East Berlin, three fellow travelers and I walked along Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate. It was better secured than a fortress and soldiers stood guard. I thought, “Here is a gate that will never be open again.” Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that this hermetically closed gate would open less than nine years later.
As I look back on the events of the autumn of 1989, I realize that I didn’t pay as much attention to the turmoil of those days as I might have during a quieter time of my life. The reason is simple: I got married just weeks before the fall of the wall. Not only did I have to take care of lots of paperwork, but I was also clearing out my bachelor apartment by the end of November (more paperwork) while searching for a bigger apartment.
Sadly, I never returned to Berlin and Dresden after reunification. I doubt that I would recognize either city after such a long time.
Photo courtesy of: SSgt F. Lee Corkran, DoD