Tuesday 10 November 2009

It was twenty years ago today...

I had a ranty post all written up and shiny-new ready for today, featuring in no particular order; PMT, shouty walks with pre-schoolers, unwashed cereal bowls, PMT, sneaky donuts, PMT, and gloves that look like fishes. But I'm afraid you'll have to wait to read that little belter as I realised this morning that today it is 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell.

This resulted in two thoughts; firstly, god, am I really that old..? And secondly; what would my life be like if it were still standing?

You might think it would be pretty much the same (with the exception perhaps of the fact that I would be unlikely to be moving to Moscow in the next 2 months). But I think this is a perfect example of the butterfly effect. Although admittedly, given the impact this event has had world-wide on not just the people of Germany but of the whole previously Soviet Bloc and ultimately, the world, the butterfly in this instance would be more like a planet sized insect than a fluttery tortoise-shell (now there's an image to give you nightmares)

I remember exactly where I was when the Wall started to come down. An ex-boyfriend and I were in the middle of a very badly-planned hitch-hiking trip to northern France (Hitch-Hiking? In Normandy in November? For Pete's sake, why???), and I was sporting a very fetching black eye from having tripped over in the dark as we arrived on the night ferry to Cherbourg. (Poor Ex-Boyfriend - previously referred to in this post as Sporty Boy - spent the next 4 days being given very suspicious looks by everyone we encountered. At the time I thought that was in part deserved for having convinced me a trip hitch-hiking in Northern Europe in late Autumn was a good idea). Obviously the hitch-hiking thing didn't really work out - no shxt, Sherlock - so we found ourselves on a train to Mont St Michel where we chatted to a perky American girl, travelling solo, who was hoping to head East to watch 'the show' as she so fetchingly called it.

Now, I don't really buy into the whole fame / infamy by association thing. It's not important to me to rush to be in Trafalgar Square when London is awarded the 2012 Olympics, or stand outside the Big Brother house cheering or booing the latest unfortunate to arrive or be booted out. But I can't help feeling that not travelling to Berlin when this incredible event - that would ultimately result in the fall of the Soviet Communist state - was taking place was particuarly short-sighted of me. I should have just stayed on that train with Perky American Chick and gone as far as I could go in that direction. It's a sign of how much my horizons have broadened that I realise now that getting there would have been achievable with actually not very much effort. It's one of the few regrets I have in life that I didn't do it.

As for how the Berlin Wall's demise has impacted directly on my life, well that's easy. I would never have met a tall skinny Dutch guy temporarily working in London in transit to a job in Moscow, for a start. Everything from that point on - for me - would have been different. Not necessarily better or worse, but certainly different.

And, most probably, a great deal more boring.

How about you? Did it affect your life?


  1. I would not have traveled from Sweden to former East Germany by ferry and driven to Berlin and seen the wall in pieces and driven through the Brandenburg gate and seen all those funny little cars in East Berlin. Yes, Trabants they were called and they were all over the place. There were also people selling everything that was Soviet made as souvenirs to the hungry tourists and I am sorry that I didn't buy anything, fool that I am. I liked their commercialism.

  2. Hi - also commented at BMB... I can't think of many immediately personal ways in which this affected me beyond the general change it made to the fabric of modern life overall however you have prompted me to talk to my German friends about this and ask them what it was like for them - something I've never thought about doing. Gods, I didn't realise I was so narrow...

  3. yes it made me feel old too. I hadn't fully realised though until reading about it a few days ago that it was a mistake & miscommunication that caused the border to be opened. Fascinating how history/life etc so often pivots in a signifiicant way on a mistake/chance occurrence etc.
    I have a similar thing but with teh 2nd world war (no I don't remember that!!) my father-in-law escaped with his mother & sister from Burma (where HIS father had been killed in action)& the British boat ahead & behind them got bombed by German U-boats & both sank killing everyone. Theirs made safe passage, so my father-in-law survived, grew up, married & had his first son, my husband.

  4. The Doctor and I were just talking about this watching the news last night. We both remember it happening, but not thinking 'Wow, this is a really historic moment.' It just seemed like the natural order of things, given all that had happened with perestroika etc, and the Fall of Communism seemed inevtiable. But looking back on it now, it had such huge symbolism and significance.

  5. I have been setting a quiz with a friend, and was ashamed to reveal that I hadn't remembered the date. Twenty years. So much has happened. I remember watching it on TV, and thinking this is a memorable, amazing, historic event.

    I also remember driving to France with an ex boyfriend. We were trying to get to the South of France, but suddenly realized we didn't have time, and ended up on the battle fields of North Eastern France amongs the mass graves. Very sobering and not exactly what we had in mind!

  6. I am too busy pondering the idea of gloves that look like fishes to share any Berlin Wall memories with you...

    I was working in the Civil Service at the time, and had just started going out with a guy who worked in the Foreign Office, so it was all pretty exciting, I seem to remember. I had to pretend I knew far more about European history than I really did, because everyone else seemed so knowledgeable.

  7. So Irene, are you saying you were there? How exciting if yes...

    Sparx, you and me both. And I think the world was much more local-minded then in any case; what went outside our town, let alone our country was often not reported much...

    Paradise, incredible isn't it how such small things - catching one boat rather than another, for example - can impact so hugely.

    NVG, yes, bearing in mind I didn't bother to go I would be with you on that.

    Kate, those battlefields and graveyards are awe-insipiring (in the most serious way) aren't they?

    Iota, fishes or parrots. I may have to let the blogging world decide with a picture...

  8. I also couldn't believe it is 20 years ago. Can't remember what I was doing at the time which means it was either a particularly dull phase in my life, or a an exceptionally excellent one!! Amazing to see that in our lifetime though.

  9. I can actually vaguely remember the wretched thing going up! The coming down was watched with great joy in our house.

    The fall meant that friends my husband met behind the Iron Curtain during his student days were finally able to leave their home countries and visit us in the UK. It was momentous to say the least as people who had only existed on paper or in photos for me turned up on our doorstep. We were so glad he had maintained contact over the years.

  10. HCM, I know, it's amazing to think it was 20 years ago when my psyche tells me that I was only just out of nappies then. Clearly not true...

    Sharon, I only realised last night that it didn't go up until the early 60's; for some reason I was convinced it had been there since at least the early '50's. Incredible to think that at a time when the rest of Europe was enjoying so much more freedom, the Soviet Bloc was cutting it back.


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