Early 1990 I visited Berlin with my school class: the customary last-class-of-school 4 day excursion. And just a few months beforehand the wall fell, so we saw both the old and the new situation. A weird and strange in-between state. Half-closed and open at the same time.
Open: at the East German border our bus full of kids was given a cursory glance and one quick “you’re all from the Netherlands?” later we could drive on. No hour-long detailed passport checks. Open: checkpoint charlie was closed. Ehrm, closed down. So open. Some of us took the effort of TRYING to get their passports checked (and importantly, stamped) by the East German border police.
Half closed: lots of the old habits and ways of living were still there. We spend a day in, officially, Eastern Germany. Our school class was officially invited by the democratic republic. Our guide still rattled off the old speech she was used to, but already left out certain bits and pieces (trying to laugh a bit about it).
Ye gods… The awful things they managed to do to parts of their infrastructure… My heart (soon to be a civil engineering heart) wept when seeing the utterly deplorable state of the tram tracks in eastern Berlin. The train system seemed OK, but the trams… Everyone that lets tracks deteriorate in such a way ought to be dragged behind such a tram for a kilometer.
The most visible difference between economic power on both sides of the fence for us: overtaking a rattling small Trabant with a huge western touringcar on a country lane.
It was a worthwhile experience. Even better: returning to the wonderful landscape of Eastern Germany after some 15 years for a church excursion to Luther’s home country around Jena, the Wartburg, Erfurt and of course Wittenberg. (I tagged along with this journey for older church members as driver and translator).
My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.
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