Last week we had the pleasure of visiting a city that always seems to be up there on the list of 'coolest', 'trendiest' or 'hippest' city. Berlin seems to carry this weight of expectation that it fulfils on time and time again. It has enough cool bars and restaurants to make every skinny jeaned person satisfied, whilst the art and museums will keep the culture vultures happy. However, we were there for a very special event. The phrase 'once in a lifetime opportunity' gets thrown around too much for our liking, but this event did justify it. We were there for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The wall (Berliner Mauer) is something that we can scarcely imagine now in Europe. Can you imagine a 3.6m high wall cutting off half of your house with you on one side and your parents on the other? This is effectively what happened! A 155km concrete and guarded wall went up on 13th August 1961 and it remained there until 9th November 1989 - the day the world changed - and all due to a mistake of dates by Günter Schabowski on live TV. Never before have the words "as far as I am aware, immediately" had such drastic consequences!
For those 25 years, apart from the lucky few that escaped, no-one saw anyone from the the other side. There were instances of children having sleepovers on other sides of the city who the next day were not allowed back onto the other side to where their whole family were living...it's almost too hard to comprehend.
In recognition of the wall coming down, there were balloons lining the old wall route with messages of peace attached to them. There was a big concert with dignitaries including Mikhail Gorbachev - the man who opened up Soviet communication with the West and helped bring down the wall - and current political leaders including the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. The seminal Berlin Wall song 'Heroes' was sung by...Peter Gabriel (if only Ziggy was there!) and an eclectic light display made the Brandenburg Gate look even more imposing than it naturally does (our picture doesn't do it justice!)
But the highlight of the ceremony was at 7:20pm. The exact time Gunter Schabowski accidentally blurted out by mistake that the wall was going to be open that night in 1989 (it was planned to be a more gradual affair), the balloons were released to create a beautiful, poignant and highly symbolic act.
A genuine once in a lifetime spectacle.
"We have science fiction, and science follows it. We imagine it, and it comes true. Yet we don't have social fiction, so nothing changes. I challenge people to write social fiction. We need to envision the social life we want to have in order to make it happen. Next to the Fall of the Berlin Wall we need to envision many more walls to fall. Let's tear down the wall of poverty. The only place where poverty should be is in museums."
Prof. Muhammad Yunus Nobel Peace Prize Winner
Check out the experiences we offer in Germany here.
Did you visit Berlin for the fall of the wall? What did you think of it?
UPDATE - 1st November 2015
Gunter Schabowski died on the 1st November 2015. Read the announcement in The Guardian here.