June 6 2010
As I pack this morning to head to Berlin for this week's Deutsche Notes Users Group, I find myself thinking back to my first trip to Berlin, which was my first-ever visit to Germany, in 1998. I don't often cross-post here from my Chicago Tribune TribLocal Highland Park column. Today, though, I'm rereading what I wrote in December, 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall:
This all changed for me in 1998, when I began traveling to the now-reunited Germany for business. Less than nine years after reunification, my first visit to Germany brought me to Berlin. Immediately, I was fascinated with the culture, architecture, and history of the formerly-divided city. I was amazed to learn that the U-Bahn subway, now running throughout the city, had the same physical separation between West and East as existed above-ground. Trains simply had to stop and turn around at the underground equivalent of "Checkpoint Charlie". I visited neighborhoods such as Potsdamer Platz, now the hip and trendy home of clubs and hotels, which was at the time desolate remnant of the no-man's land between two ideologies. I saw the restored Reichstag, again the home of the German government. Of course, I visited the Mauer Museum, which documented the way the two parts of Berlin were separated, how the Communist East Germany operated, and the sometimes-incredible ways that people tried to escape to the West.Link: Brilliant Flashes: I am a Berliner >
Along the way, I discovered that Berlin -- and the whole of Germany -- were fundamentally different than I expected.