I’m just back from a relentlessly snowy Berlin. 10 times the size of Paris with an ever growing and developing creative community. Iconic monuments, grungy clubs and cafes, graffiti on everything, and always reminders of the Cold War.
They may have tried to kill off diversity in the 1930’s but today Berlin is one of most multi-cultural and open cities in Europe. It is also a city that can never afford to forget.
The young artists who make it their home don’t carry the baggage of the past. They eat Lamb Koftas and African Yams on alternate nights. They dance in the snow. They weave their way through the streets without a consciousness of the gaping holes left by the absent wall.
In the 1970s I went through Checkpoint Charlie from west to east, barely understanding it’s significance. Another country another border. The Guard checked under the van with a torch on mirrored wheels. He glared at my passport thinking I might be an imperialist American. Irischen!!! Gut! Smiles and relief all round. We spent a day in East Berlin trying to fritter away the 10 dollars they insisted we exchange. No matter how many beers with sausages and potatoes we tried to consume, it was an impossible task.
Then we were staying in the Western sector near Tiergarten, in the home of exiled Chilean diplomats. Today I stood in that same spot, a winter wonderland and remembered the grim grey streets and confusion of those days. A brown legged man in an orange singlet and little more jogged past me on the snowy path. Running with a cold breeze in his face and the warm sensation of a free man in his heart and I felt like cheering for Berlin, for the Germans and for all of those who lived to tell the tale………some things do change…..