In a few days, Germany will celebrate the Re-Unification of Germany, otherwise known as, the Day of German Unity, Unity Day or Der Tag der Deutschen Einheit!
But what is this day really all about?
WHERE have you been?
Yes, the city of Berlin is celebrating this historical moment with three most important words:
This crucial day of celebration will take place on October the 3rd.
October 3rd is a public holiday given to the German people to honour the Re-Unification of the two German States previously called the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or DDR (Deutsche Democratic Republic) otherwise known as East Germany, and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) or Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD), otherwise known as West Germany!
I cannot under-estimate how much I love this city.
I mean, I shout about it loud enough and it was just six (6) years ago that I introduced myself to you on this blog, when I wondered what the heck Berlin was all about anyway!
Oh yeah, and then I wrote a cheeky article which most people didn’t seem to get.
And the title? Germany is Boring.
I mean, what is the big deal?
I’ll tell you what the big deal is my good man.
It’s the fact that the city of Berlin.
THIS city of Berlin.
Has been together in peace and harmony for 30 years.
It’s a little complicated but after WWII, Germany was split and divided by the allies as punishment for Nazi Germany. And you only had to look at the city of Berlin to see who the Allies were namely; Great Britain, France, USSR, and the United States.
It was not long before arguments and squabbling took place in the international political arena and simply put, the Eastern and Western Bloc decided to go their separate ways, and an Iron Curtain ensued.
East Germany went one step further and built a wall in Berlin, cutting a line through the entire centre of the city!
This wall was supposed to prevent East Berliners and citizens of East Germany from fleeing to the West, but the Wall was unable to stop the mass of people from escaping.
As a result, in 1961, the ruling Communist Party in East Germany began adding more border fortifications to the Wall, creating a broad, many-layered system of barriers.
In the West, people referred to the border strip as the Death Strip because so many people were killed while trying to flee.
I have seen this death wall myself as I live in East Berlin and not 10 minutes away, is the main local park called Mauer Park.
Mauer Park is in the suburb of Prenzlauerberg which is enormously trendy, organic, artistic and gentrified.
In short, everyone wants to live here.
However, let it be noted that “Mauer” in German, means “Wall!”
With the downfall of East Germany in 1989, the Berlin Wall that the Socialist Party tried to use to maintain its power, also fell.
The Fall of the Wall marked the definitive end of its dictatorship.
The Berlin Wall enclosed West Berlin from August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about one of my favourite places, and where I first lived in Berlin – Kreuzberg. You can read all about it right here!
In my post, I mentioned that Kreuzberg had the Berlin Wall running right through the middle of it and that during the happy confusion, when the Wall actually fell, young people were leaving the East to go West, or leaving the West to go East!
In fact, I liked Kreuzberg so much that when I first made a documentary about being a British person in Berlin, we did the filming there!
In Prenzlauer Berg where I live now, we’re about twenty (20) minutes from the original East-West border, and about ten (10) minutes from the first border crossing on the bridge of Bornholmer Straße.
If you’ve ever seen videos where East Berliners were running through the border with everyone clapping, and cheering, and giving out free beer, it was that one!
I always take my friends to where the original wall used to be!
And let me tell you.
I weep tears of joy because even though I wasn’t in Berlin when the Berlin Wall actually fell, living in Berlin means that I’m able to touch, see and sometimes smell, what it was like to live here pre-1989!
In fact, I can still remember when Potsdamer Platz was nothing more than wasteland and a piece of the border strip known as No Man’s Land.
And looked like it too!
Not far off from Prenzlauer Berg, is a street called Bernauer Strasse, also known as Bernauer Straße!
As you can see, the Berlin Wall used to go right through it!
In fact, it was pretty horrid for all concerned, as you could actually see the other side of the Berlin Wall from your kitchen window, but you couldn’t go to the Western side without being shot!
Imagine the frustration, pain, and horror.
Many people tried to escape from freedom and found ways to be creative by jumping through windows, sailing across in a hot air balloon, digging tunnels underground, pretending to have a funeral and lowering the “dead” person into a pit, hiding inside the seated lining of a Volkswagen car, etc.
All for a life of freedom.
Not much of the Wall is left today, which was chipped off and destroyed almost in its entirety. However, three (3) long sections still stand:
And obviously, after WWII, the original building was razed to the ground.
A longer section of the second (easternmost) wall along the River Spree, near the Oberbaumbrücke in Kreuzberg / Friedrichshain, which you can see throughout the 1998 cult film Run Lola Run, starring Franke Potente (The Bourne Identity), and otherwise known as, East Side Gallery!
The film and soundtrack were just so exhilarating.
Even now, 21 years later!
A third section that is partly reconstructed, in the north at Bernauer Straße, was turned into a memorial in 1999.
And of course, isolated fragments, lampposts, a few watchtowers, and other elements, also remain throughout various parts of the city!
It’s easy to forget that this situation was only 28 years ago. Most of you reading this blog, are probably older!
Let’s get some history!
Hungary begins dismantling the fortifications on the border to Austria. People demonstrate against the election rigging in front of the Sophienkirche (church).
Local elections in the GDR. Opposition groups prove that the results were faked. People demonstrate against the election rigging in East Berlin on the seventh day of every subsequent month.
First Monday Demonstration in Leipzig. 1,200 people gather outside St. Nicholas’ Church. Their demands include freedom of travel and democracy.
New Forum’s initial call-out becomes a signal for change. Further grassroots movements follow.
Hungary officially opens its western border for GDR citizens, risking a breach in its diplomatic relations with East Berlin.
West Germany’s foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher informs the East German refugees in the Prague embassy, that they will be allowed to leave the GDR.
The GDR government bans travel to Czechoslovakia without passports and visas, to stem the mass exodus. Special trains transport people from the Prague and Warsaw embassies to the West, through the GDR. There are violent clashes with police along the railway line, as well as in Dresden.
On the 40th anniversary of the GDR, several thousand people demonstrate in Berlin outside the Palace of the Republic. In numerous East German towns and cities, similar protests are broken up by force.
Despite fear of military repression of the Monday Demonstration, 70,000 people take to the streets in Leipzig. The police, military and civilian forces do not intervene.
The single ruling political party calls for people to stay in the GDR, offering a “dialogue” concerning the country’s further development.
The number of people at the Monday Demonstration in Leipzig doubles. The security forces do not intervene.
Erich Honecker is forced to resign after 18 years in office. Egon Krenz is made the new secretary-general of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).
Krenz is also elected chairman of the State Council and the National Defence Council. 12,000 people demonstrate against his appointment in Berlin that evening.
300,000 people take part in the Leipzig Monday Demonstration.
The largest demonstration in the history of the GDR takes place in Berlin.
The government of the GDR, and the Council of Ministers collectively resign.
The Central Committee Politburo, the highest body in the GDR, resigns. West German chancellor Helmut Kohl links economic and financial aid for the GDR to three conditions: the opposition must be legalised, free elections must take place, and the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) must renounce its claim to sole authority.
The Berlin Wall falls, prompted by a vague, but now famous, announcement of new travel regulations at a press conference. Tens of thousands of East Berliners rush to the checkpoints and force the border open.
The Berlin Wall is officially opened at Brandenburg Gate. The first concrete section is removed from its beams at 0.30 a.m.
The offices issuing passes for the GDR in West Berlin close for good. West Germans no longer need a visa, or have to change a certain amount of money, to enter the East.
The Unification Treaty is signed in East Berlin.
Germany celebrates the Day of German Unity, also known as Re-Unification Day or Der Tag der Deutschen Einheit!
It was the people who took to the streets en masse and courageously resisted a dictatorship, enabling both the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Peaceful Revolution.
The 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall is important because Berlin will continue to invite locals, expats, eyewitnesses who were here, and people of the world, to participate in the anniversary celebrations, and to tell personal stories about the Berlin Wall.
More than one million visitors are expected to attend the three-day festival.
There will be a diverse programme of local street music and street food, DJ sets, dance sets, and karaoke at the Bearpit in Mauer Park, and across the festival.
There will also be an orchestra, and musicians from all over the world, on stage at Brandenburg Gate, resulting in the Grand Finale of a huge open-air concert featuring German artists.
Absolutely free of charge of course!
I’ll be there. Will you?
Come join us!
Keep reading my blog. There is more to come!
That’s it for now.
See you soon!
This article is not sponsored and all opinions and the currywurst and bratwurst that I’m sure to be happily chomping away in the next few weeks, are my very own!
If you’re not in Berlin, you’ve lost your marbles!
October & November is going to be smashing.
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Watch this space!
Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.
I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!
So what are you waiting for?
Thanks a million!
See you in Berlin.
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