Postcard from Europe #4: Where did the Wall go?

Another of my posts about the time I was running all over Europe on weekends...

But first, the background. It was a fall day in 1989 in Iowa City, home to my alma mater, The University of Iowa. I hadn't had time to read any news in about a week so after dinner, I went to the TV Room to see what was happening. I remember switching on the TV and Garrick Utley's face appeared, saying "... believe it or not, ... the Berlin Wall is coming down."

What? Surely this must be a joke! Berlin Wall was right up there with the Great Wall of China and Eiffel Tower! One does not go about in daily life knocking down one of the global constants!

Anyways, a few years later I was working in Frankfurt and one weekend I decided to go to Schwerin, the capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the state that encompasses the entire northern tier of the ex-East Germany. It is a picturesque city surrounded by a state that feels like Minnesota - lots of lakes, rivers, stiff wind blowing from the north and very sparsely populated.

When I got there, I found that the people of Schwerin were busy trying to undo 40+ years of neglect under Communist rule. They were busy fixing roads, sidewalks, train stations and the like. If you did not keep an eye firmly fixed to the ground, there was a good chance you would run into a protective barrier (this is Germany after all).

That evening I had an even bigger surprise in store. At the youth hostel, I met a couple from ex-East Germany. We ended up playing Trivial Pursuit - German language edition. One of the questions was "In Berlin, U1 [subway] line runs between which two stations?"*

You would expect that this question would be straightforward to answer. However, this question took the most time during the entire evening! First the guy wanted to know when the game was printed. That is when I came to know that U1 line existed before the division of Berlin and each side had their own version of U1 line and a unification of the Berlin subway system was underway. There was quite a bit of arguing around which stations were on U1. Here was a couple who had lived in Berlin as students and had used the subway system to go everywhere and they got really busy recounting all the stations they had used and which ones had tricky exits and they recounted the stores that they had patronized that no longer existed.

That is when I realized how completely the Wall had fallen. In a little over 3 years, this young couple had started to forget their own daily lives to the point that they were forgetting the brands of various daily staples!

Many years later, I saw Good Bye Lenin! As I laughed with the movie, I deeply wished that I had that couple sitting next to me. They would have laughed with me but I feel that they would have had a good cry too...

* I am writing this from memories almost 2 decades old. I am quite confident that there are some errors in my memories...

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