Friend of Informed Explorer, Aimee Stanton, gives us an interesting look into recent protests surrounding controversial plans to knock down remaining parts of the Berlin wall and offers an interesting look into life as a Berliner.
“Did you hear about the Berlin Wall?” I quiz my German friend after picking him up at Hauptbanhof. “Yes I did, and I honestly don’t care,” he defiantly replies. A deafening silence halts our group. “But you’re German, how can you not care about the wall being knocked down?” I demanded more of a response from him. “Well, it doesn’t affect me. I’m from the West and we just don’t care as much,” he justifies arrogantly. We’re arguing because on Friday (March 1st) a slice of the Berlin Wall (East Side Gallery) was removed to accommodate a swanky apartment complex which would overlook the Spree and the former Death Strip behind the German Democratic Republic’s (GDR) retired Iron Curtain.
Thankfully, its surgery was not completely life threatening. There’s still time to save this infamous piece of Berlin’s history; even if the blank space where the wall once stood is hidden behind a polizei van – there’s a freeze in the construction of the building until March 18th. The city runs high with despair and anger, every Berliner holds a piece of the wall in their heart and they are not willing to give it up easily. The division of east and west Berlin ended in 1989, and along with it fell the communist state of the GDR. But a 1.3 km historical witness still runs along the Spree. Give a Berliner some blank space and they will write on it. The wall is tattooed all over with graffiti, and paintings by a global collection of artists have transformed it from a symbol of segregation to the largest, permanent outdoor exhibition in the world. But this has not secured its fate.
Move on a couple of days and March 3rd saw reignited feelings return to the Spree. It was one of those days that you had to be there for. Attendance was immense: enter 6000 hippies, hipsters and hobos in front of a stage delivering speeches and loud music. Thousands cheered and partied to the guitar solos and tight drum beats with a beer in hand and a cigarette in the other. Moshing grannies, kids in trilbies and adults swinging from trees – protestors in Berlin know how to do it in style. It was comparable to being at a festival: one, two, and three…ninety nine bottles of Sternburg beer litter the streets. It’s the 70 cent beer we all hate to love but it wouldn’t be a Berlin protest without it. Banners and posters bob up and down over the heads of attendees. ‘Gentrify your mother’ one sign declares and another, an open umbrella, states, ‘Wir bleiben hier’, even though there isn’t a cloud in the sky.
It’s almost dusk and the music comes to an end. If there’s something you should learn about Berlin lifestyle, it is that the party, and when necessary the protest, never really end. “Can you help me with this?” a man with a long, shaggy beard and heavy sunglasses asks as he holds a fat cigarette. Silly question, yes we can, so we stood smoked his cigarette and spoke about the future of our treasured landmark. And so we say this, Mr Klaus Wowereit, die Mauer muss bleiben! The building freeze lasts until March 18th, so you’ve still got time to sign the petition at Change.org, and help to save the gallery which really is an intrinsic part of Berlin’s history.
Photos courtesy and copyright of Danilo Sierra – danilosierra.com.