Friday, June 26, 2009

Going Home Again - “Ich bin ein Berliner”

A piece of the Berlin Wall

In July of 1980 I ran away from home for about six months and lived in the beautiful city of West Berlin, Germany. I was there a relatively short amount of time but still managed to have many wonderful memories to take back home with me. To say that Germans have short street names would be a wild exaggeration, they seem to smooch together two or three names all into one. At times I found this a bit difficult when attempting to navigate about the city, trying to read street names and drive at the same time. At first I was very worried about getting lost or wandering into East Berlin by mistake and getting shot. My neighbor told me not to worry; sooner or later I would bump into 'the wall' and be turned back.

Many afternoons were spent sitting by a small lake reading Herman Wouk's Winds of War, when I finished the book I wrote to the author to thank him for providing me my first friends in Berlin. To my surprise I received a nice note back from the author thanking me for writing to him.

I joined the German-American Women's Club and was able to attend a few of their meetings. It was interesting to listen to the older women talk about Berlin when it was a capital city of Europe, long before the war, filled with all the glitz and glamour one could imagine. Even when I was there it was amazing how much could be packed into one city. Since West Berlin was literally an island within East Germany, every attempt was made to assure that the citizens of West Berlin would want for nothing. A stroll down the famous Ku'damm (Kurfurstendamm Avenue) was like Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive magnified.

While I was doing volunteer work for the Red Cross, I received an invitation to attend the Christmas Eve service at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the famous structure that was bombed during the war and stands in the center of the city. It was a very moving event with musical numbers performed by the Allied Forces choral group. As I left the church to walk to the bus stop for my trip home a gentle snowfall began, it was the perfect ending to a wonderful evening.

In 1989 when the Berlin Wall was torn down, my Berlin neighbor collected the wall remnant that is pictured here and sent it to me as a memento. It's nice to have a little bit of history displayed on my bookcase and a reminder of my short term residence in that wonderful city.

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