Well, actually no I’m not from Berlin. But I am going there, again. This will be my third time there. Vacation is booked for April. Yes, prepare yourselves for future touristy photos!
It will be my son’s 18th birthday, so we’re going on a mother/son trip. He’s never been to Germany, so I get to play tour guide. I’m so excited!! Flights, hotel and even the local transit cards are booked.
The last time I was in Berlin was in 1990. It was also the year the wall came down. I had been working in Flensburg that summer, visiting family on weekends. When the work contract was done my aunt and uncle asked me where I would like to go. There were only two places were on my list, Lübeck (home of Niederegger marzipan, which is AMAZING!), and Berlin. I wanted to see the difference from when I was there three years before.
We went for a walkabout, and I still remember my uncle saying, “stop, stop!” and how much it confused me. “Look down,” he said. I happened to be standing exactly where the wall had once been. Goosebumps!
After the wall came down there were, of course, the usual complaints about how the governments of both halves of the country managed the reintegration of citizens. Families were reunited after decades of separation.
I didn’t find out until years later that our family roots (on my mother’s side) were from an area that became East Germany.
Berlin is a city that is absolutely rich in history. Founded in 1237, it became the capital of Prussia in 1701, the German Empire in 1871, then the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. The city was divided by the Allies (USA, UK and France) and the Soviet Union under the London Protocol of 1944. East Berlin belonged entirely to the Soviets. It was too difficult to maintain West Berlin as the capital under a rotating Allied government and surrounded by Soviet territory, so West Germany’s capital was moved to Bonn in 1949. The nation’s capital unified again in Berlin in 1990.
In 1963 Kennedy gave a speech on a platform in front of 450,000 people:
“Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!”… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”
I want to give that sense of deep culture to my son. He’s been to Montreal and parts of the U.K. Now it’s time for Germany.
Maybe he’ll become a Berliner too.