Monitored by East German police, a mason builds a concrete wall at the sector border, mid-August 1961. East Berliner pleads with members of the East German People’s Police as he tried to cross the closed border between East and West Berlin, 8-14-1961\
Recently I read about time travel from a writer’s perspective. I asked Hubby what he might tell his younger self, if he could travel back in time. “April! When have I ever listened to anybody,” he said. He is correct. We both had plenty of people telling us what the dangers would be, what difficulties we would face, the price we would pay, and neither of us listened to a word anyone said. Okay. I admit it was a silly idea.
I have had a time jump experience, and got a glimpse of a world before the Berlin Wall was erected.
During the transition from one day to the next, Russian solders erected a barrier dividing the East Berlin from the west. The city was divided in two. On August 13, 1961, Berliners awoke to the block wall being built, and solders standing guard allowing no one to pass in either direction. The subway routes connecting the two halves of the city were also shut down. Families were divided. The wall remained in place for nearly 30 years.
Hubby went on a business trip to Berlin, Germany the year after the wall came down. I got to go along. It was amazing. There was not a single sign of the wall, except for a memorial at Check Point Charlie, commemorating those lost, and celebrating the successes of those trying to get across the wall to the west. People built themselves into cars, saved scrapes of material over years and created hot air balloons, walked a tight rope, and used a zip line, among other ways of crossing the wall. Many were killed trying to cross.
West Berlin was full of beautiful recreated buildings, while East Berlin was full of economical tenement building, blocky, austere, and utilitarian. The city sang with the sounds of construction as the “ugly” reminders were replaced with buildings based upon the original blue prints of buildings long gone.
It wasn’t the recreated old building of Berlin that made me feel like I’d undertaken a time jump. It was the newly reopened subway connecting the two halves of the city, covered in a layer of dust 30 years old. Advertisements hanging from the wall that were 30 years old. Newspapers still in the newspaper box dated August 12, 1961, sold for coin that was never collected. Time had stopped in that place, while the world around it moved on.
There were deeper differences between the eastern and western parts of the city. On the western side of Berlin was the hustle and bustle of every modern city. On the eastern side of Berlin, people walked very quietly, looking around before they spoke in whispered conversations. Russian solders were stiffly proud in uniform around their embassy.
I was nine years old when the wall went up. I was so glad I got to see Berlin go through some of these initial steps to unification. Someday, I hope to return to see the beauty of the city and a fully unified Berlin, where everyone feels comfortable to talk freely.